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Photography...Hobby or Obsession?

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by BigWill, May 22, 2001.

  1. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    We all know the type, the obsessive type that is, the guy or girl who just can’t relax, who has to take everything so seriously, who has to study everything to the nth degree, who always plays by the rulebook! Unfortunately, this type of person also tends to carry that attitude over into what, is supposed to be, their leisure time. They just find it impossible to actually relax for once in their lives and this obsessive pattern of behaviour manifests itself in the way they carry out their leisure pursuits. We would recognise this type of person in the photographic world by labelling them as “a snob” or “an expert” or a photographic “bore”.
    Do we recognise the type? Is it all a bit too close to our personality type for comfort? Photography certainly is an all-enveloping and compulsive hobby. Most people who take it seriously as a leisure pursuit, quickly develop a keen interest in all aspects of the hobby. It is not an activity about which you can be luke-warm. You either love it or take very little interest in it. So when does this love of our hobby tip over the edge into obsession? I think for the Amateur, and I stress the word AMATEUR here (ie one who does not make a living from their hobby) it has to be when they loose sight of why they are taking photographs in the first place. It is because for the amateur it is a LEISURE pursuit! We are supposed to ENJOY the experience! It is supposed to RELAX us!
    How many of us can truthfully say that that little devil called “obsession” has not appeared upon our shoulder at least once!
  2. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member


    Oh and your definition of 'amateur' is all wrong Will, the definition I would adhere to comes from Amateur Photographer (February 25, 1887),

    ". . . that the term 'amateur' referred not to a person deficient in skill or in seriousness but rather (acknowledging the derivation of the term from the Latin word for love) to a cultivated person who was dedicated to artistic photography for the love of the medium.".
  3. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    Hi Will,

    Well that with any luck has taken pulled the rug from under your great clod hopping feet, with any luck.

    Thanks Alan.

  4. linnet9

    linnet9 Well-Known Member

    Did you get out of the bed the wrong side today AlanW?
    Will was merely suggesting, I felt in a conciliatory manner, that we should remember this is a group for non-professionals who love photography. He was not trying to be pedantic. I felt he was hoping to foster camaraderie.
    If you care to reread your words you will see that you connect the word 'amateur' with artistic photography. In the Oxford English Dictionary (and maybe that is the bit sticking in your throat) the first definition of amateur is One who loves or is fond of;one who has a taste for anything: the second is One who cultivates anything as a pastime,as distinguished from one who prosecutes it professionally........
    Sweet dreams, fellow enthusiast if that is what you are. Nothing personal.......
  5. Mick

    Mick Well-Known Member

    What's happened Will. You sound serious. You OK?
    Me I love obsession. I am obsessed with obsession but only beautiful obsession. Don't think it equates with snob though. Bore probably, yes almost certainly. I better stop. Sweet dreams.
  6. Britcat100

    Britcat100 Active Member

    Ah good old obsession eh Will?...We all feel it once in a while, and for me it is strong at times; but it used to be light switches..they had to be facing the same way at the top and the bottom of the stairs...but I moved house..and took up photography...but it's only a matter of time for all of us.
    As a psychiatric nurse I'd suggest getting help if it interferes with your daily life and you don't manage to make any money out it...but don't come to me!
    But I'd agree with your well made point, if the only light in your life comes through the lens of a camera and not from 'the end of the tunnel' give it up for a while and live a little.


    It's a shame that we feel the need to define whether we are Amateur or Professional photographers. Anyone who picks up a camera and uses it is a photographer. I am reluctant to classify myself as a Professional Photographer, yet don't really think I am an Amatuer either, so just plain "Photographer" says it all for me. Is there any other persuit that has to have a qualifying prefix like this? Amateur Physician/Professional Physician! It doesn't seem to apply anywhere else and perhaps a clue to the way this matter is percieved can be found top left of the page you are reading now.......The word amateur has been reduced to a very small prop for Photographer. I seem to recall a move some years ago to change the title of AP, can't remember the exact circumstances, but AP was retained in full.

    BigWill's back!!!!!!
  8. David Stout

    David Stout Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't call it an obsession for me but I try to excel at everything I do so it does mean taking it fairly seriously to succeed.

    I am doing a wedding for a friend this weekend. I am invited as a guest and am told to enjoy myself. It's really tricky trying to do a good job and enjoy myself in the true sense. OK, I enjoy taking photographs but carting around a camera, selection of lenses, flashguns and tripods etc. and trying to pose groups and get the lighting right calls for concentration and isn't quite the same as a 'normal' guest who would be standing around chatting and watching the event. I find that being the photographer makes me more detached from the event - I'm seeing it through a viewfinder and not actually there. I could well be watching the whole event on TV.

    Same on holiday. I seldom take 'snaps' and if I take my SLR, I am looking for shots worthy of competition of exhibition use. Sometimes, I delibrately leave the SLR in the hotel and just go out with sunshades and my Ricoh GR1. Only then do I have the freedom to enjoy myself without lugging a lot of kit around.

    I suppose for me, if a photograph is worth taking then it is worth taking well. Sigh! Call it obsession if you like.

  9. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    have you ever thought of giving 'street photography' a try - one camera, one lens and nothing more, any additional pieces of apparatus just means more to think about, make you look like a photographer (!) and probably give you a sore shoulder. Use the camera as a notebook as you get on with everyday life and most of all don't think 'Competition'.

    Just as an aside: Does anyone else here think (as I do) that club competitions, whilst attempting to get members to take photographs and improve or progress their technique and creativity, can also be counter-productive in that what is actually produced are images similar to those which have been successful in past competitions? Just a thought. I don't enter club competitions full stop.

    Have a nice day.
  10. SCT

    SCT Well-Known Member

    Nice to see Big Will is back . And what a punch he has pulled.

    Good on yer mate.

    Right any hobby can become a bit OTT, be our pastime be of Photography, flying, playing tiddlewinks, etc.

    One must try and balance all things in life, work , play and rest. And I think Big Will was just trying to set the ballance.

    Now to the argument Amateur or Professional. I like the following definition.

    " An Amateur is one who trains to succeed, whereas a Professional is one who trains not to fail"

    And in that perhaps we are professional to a degree.

    In that we try not to fail in the shot we are trying to compose and the story we are tring to tell.

    Steve C Thompson
  11. David Stout

    David Stout Well-Known Member

    I like street photography but am never close enough to interesting streets to photograph...

    Competitions make me look for striking images. I hate doing what has been done before (I don't do IR landscapes!) so I try to develop my own style. Competitions to me are the bread and butter stimulus of club amateur photography and the winners within the clubs are those those don't produce pictures using the same old tried and tested formulae. The cream is getting acceptances in international exhibitions and these only accept and exhibit the most creative and original pictures.

    I get my inspiration from seeing other people's work and considering how I might improve upon them or apply the techniques elsewhere. Too many club photographers see only what their own club produces and the images become somewhat incestuous over time. By not entering club competitions for that reason, you are perpetrating this situation. You are not inspiring others or making them question themselves about their own photography. I could easily just produce images for international competitions and forget the club stuff but that would be somewhat elitist and self-defeating. Other people's images give me food for thought so why should I deny my fellow club members the same by not entering club competitions.

  12. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    I think we employ the same methods but go about it in a completely different way (if that makes sense). I too get inspiration from looking at other peoples work, but it's not work done in the camera clubs or submitted to salons that interests me. I'm a regular visitor to the galleries and exhibitions spaces in Edinburgh and beyond - I enjoy the work of most painters and conceptual artists as well as photographers. In the past year alone I've viewed such diverse (photographic) exhibitions from the likes of Man Ray, Walker Evans, Weegee, Wolfgang Tillmans, Tracey Moffatt, David Bailey, Josef Breitenbach and a lot more whose names escape me at present. I tend to go to as many as possible, even when I have preconcieved ideas that I don't particularly like the photographers work, but in all cases I've found something to admire (including Weegee which surprised me), and at times I'm sure I've completely missed the idea behind the image, but at least I've been exposed to something a bit different and that difference is what may inspire me to 'test the envelope' next time.

    (I'm just thinking as I type so bare with me) possibly the difference between salons and an exhibition dedicated to a photographer or a style is that the salon is made up of too many individual talents and the subjects too diverse while an exhibition is much more structured and sticks to a main theme - just a thought - I could be wrong.

    Not entering competitions has not been a big drawback for me in terms of success, by putting photographs on the web instead I've had enough success to feed my enthusiasm/obsession. The thing about web success is that it comes from some very strange places, my images have been used by : the Canadian Government for a multimedia exhibition, a Brazilian heavy-metal band for the cover of a CD and then followed up by an underground German music magazine who were doing an interview with the band, a language school in Vienna who needed photographs to illustrate a booklet on Europe and at least a dozen other websites who contacted me for permission to use some of my images (given freely for non-commercial use) This is an area that is not exploited fully by the camera clubs IMO, but that's a whole other subject.

    Time for lunch.
  13. linnet9

    linnet9 Well-Known Member

    Please tell me Alan, and this is a serious question.......

    On the unwritten(?) question of the etiquette of "street photography", how would the photographer stand in terms of privacy or whatever the right word is? If this seems like a naive question, pity, I ask it anyway.
    For instance, coming home in the train the other day, having had little success with street pics for it was so cold and wet, I turned my camera on the inside of the train. There were 2 women commuters working away surrounded with the usual papers, pc, etc. I liked the photos but felt I was intruding on the girls and deleted them. I think at my age I am assumed to be harmless and the rotating lens helps so there was nothing to indicate they were conscious of what I was doing.
    This contrasts with pictures I took in the Beverwijk market where the Turkish stall holders all have their eyes firmly fixed on me. I half expected to be ambushed as I left. However we were preoccupied with finding the child my companion had lost. He, the child, had been "rescued" by helpful ladies, so the boy was entertained by the Dutch police whilst we worked on our ulcers.

    Another point I shall make here though it is not necessarily in the right place. When it comes to the members gallery I post pictures that I like, or which amused me or...... I have no shame :) For some people it is an opportunity to display examples of their competence, skill, ingenuity, call it what you will. But I feel sure we could benefit from more people displaying their work innocently and without fear of embarrassment or harsh criticism .
  14. linnet9

    linnet9 Well-Known Member

    OOps, pressed the wrong button or did the PC decide I ought to go out for a walk (taking my camera with me, of course - I have an ambition to catch the rats in the local park on camera and send the pics to the town hall)
  15. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    the etiquette of 'street photography' is a very grey area and I'm no expert on the law. I would say (and please feel free to correct me anyone) that you are free to take photographs in a public place. Problems might arise with the definition of 'public place' - is a train carriage a public place? I don't know, probably not. Then there's the question of subject matter, I think this is a question for ones own conscience and the circumstances at the time. A bunch of girls out on the town may be quite happy if you're open about it and take their photograph whereas a woman on her own may feel threatened. Of course SP doesn't have to include people at all! Then there's 'politically correctness', I remember Gary Winogrand (much revered photographer in SP circles) getting a lot of flak some years ago for his book, "Women are Beautiful" - it was a case of the wrong book at the wrong time.

    SP is a very difficult genre to work in, the situation is liquid, you need to anticipate the photograph, the camera is the only thing you have any control over, there's a lot of film wastage (unless you have a digital camera) and many people just give up when all they seem to get are lots of burred photographs. It can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time.

    SP abroad?Just play dumb and act like a tourist. This strategy might not get you far in France though! If you need more help with SP in France, get in touch with Henri Cartier-Bresson, just don't expect him to let you take his photo:)

    Oh, how did you get on with the rats?
  16. linnet9

    linnet9 Well-Known Member

    Turned left instead of right so it was the road rats instead and I am afraid of them. Judging by the squealing of brakes I do well to be.
    OK. Thanks for the info. I shall put a couple of pics from my travels in the gallery. Taken from a coach round London so it is the subject matter that caught my eye rather than a concern for good photography. Just as well for I had just got the camera and wasn't being very clever with it. Still the same:)
    I don't think I got a single good shot of the temple in Neasden. Incidentally if anyone else goes there, although they say no photography it is worth an ask. I found out too late they had had a bad experience and so now discourage it, but inside it can be arranged, I was told, and it is magnificent.
  17. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    Don't worry Mick, I was out in the sun too long today and was overcome with a sudden burst of seriousness. Fear not, it is only transitory. And as for you Mr.T, big Clod hoppers indeed, I'll have you know I have dainty little ballerina like tootsies! (Albeit in a size 12!)
  18. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    Cultivated person....is that someone who needs a "good diggin" ?
    Big(uncooth oaf)Will
  19. perkeo

    perkeo Well-Known Member

    Mmm...Size 12...you tryin tellus sumthin, Will ?
  20. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    Hate to boast, but it's all in proportion if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink oh er missus look at the plates of meat on him!

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