Hostile environments


This week I was reminded how intolerant and petty the Finnish photography community can be. It all begun when the winners of the annual Finnish Nature Photography Contest were announced. The main prize went to Matti Pukki, who had shot a beautiful and creative long exposure image of three gulls. You can see the image here.

As soon as I saw the shot, I immediately knew that the Finnish photography community was going to go ape-shit. And it didn’t take long before there were headlines in the newspapers how the winning image had gathered critique and hatred from Finnish photographers. “The focus is all wrong.” “Too artsy.” “This has nothing to do with nature photography.” etc. And this is not an uncommon phenomenon over here. Go to an international photography forum on the internet and you will find helpful, supportive and open-minded people who love photography. Go to a Finnish photography forum and you will find a bunch of petty people bitching and moaning about every damn thing. Whether the topic is about gear, technique, composition or whatever, the threads and conversations usually turn into childish bickering in no time.

Now, there is such a thing as constructive criticism, but we are not talking about criticism here. We are talking about open hostility, rampant elitism and pure idiocy. Some commentary I’ve encountered on Finnish photography forums include such jewels as: “macro photography is not proper photography”, “you’ve never taken a photograph, if you only have a digital camera”, “HDR should be made illegal”, “if you have to process your shots, you’re not a real photographer”, “only pros should have full-frame cameras” etc.

I’ve always found this phenomenon completely baffling. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people? We all have the same hobby/job here – we all should love photography here. So why is everything new and different like a red flag to a bull to us? Why is any sort of creativity or technical advancement immediately shunned and frowned upon?

In my opinion photography has always been about pushing the limits, about doing something new: photography has always been about technical advancement and artistic freedom. After all, we remember great photographers like Stieglitz, Nadar and Eggleston because they pushed the boundaries of photography, while no one remembers the people who thought that color film would mean “the end of photography”.

On a personal level, I’ve found that every time I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and tried a new genre of photography, I’ve grown a lot as a photographer. I guess that is why I love most genres of photography – and even with genres that don’t tickle my fancy I can still appreciate the craftsmanship, skill and patience that goes into it. And I pity the people who consider photography as a “my way or the highway” -type art form.

I’d like to close this rant with the words of Bill Brandt, that have always rung true to me: “Photography has no rules, it is not a sport. It is the result which counts, no matter how it is achieved.”


One Comment on “Hostile environments

  1. Well said Samuli. Every photographer has the right to their own artistic vision and would be nice if the elitists would stop trying to push people in the little boxes of their own limited vision. I guess it’s good that I don’t read Finnish. 🙂

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