The most frustrating aspect of photography


haiti tsreet photography with dog


[I] love photography. Cliché, so does everybody else, big deal. But there is one aspect of my beloved craft that sometimes clouds everything else and makes me sometimes downright hate it.



Let's start with a bang. Watch the video below, it is important to my point and it wont take you more than a minute to watch:




I would not kid you that the video above is the funniest thing I have EVER seen. When I first saw it I had nowhere to crack up, my belly was hurting and I had no air to breathe, that's how much it was funny. See that's the problem, it WAS funny, having showed this to many people, it's not funny anymore to me. Therein the whole problem.


Here's what I hate about photography: You loose your photographs the more you look at them. You know when you take the frikkin' best picture ever in the face or the earth, and then you look at it a couple of times later and you don't even know if it looks good or not? I hate this. The best picture is the one you are going to take tomorrow indeed but you know what that means? You will always think that what you have now is crap. It's not, but it feels like it and it's frustrating.


Take this photograph I posted a while back:


street photography in haiti with ricoh grd iv


When I took it, I was Olivier Eugene Smith Bresson Winogrand Duong. Warm fuzzies, you did good buddy, you took this photograph, what an awesome catch I told myself. Now? This looks like a snapshot to me. I just looked at my Lightroom catalog, I don't see one good photograph. I hate feeling like this. I am so used to my stuff I cannot judge it objectively, is it good or not? I will call this the Eugene Smith syndrome. He could not edit his superb Pittsburb project because he could not be objective enough from his work.


The answer to this would simply let someone else look at my work and critique, that's fine but cold. I will never get that original awe of capturing the great photograph, somebody else might think it's great but it won't help me a bit. I've always heard that once you've tried Cocaine, you will spend the rest of you life (and health) seeking that original high. It's the same thing for us photographers (and artist in general) when we get great photographs, we have this awe, this artist's high that will only decrease over time. As of now I have spent too much time looking at my stuff, I have nothing in my catalog that I like, I feel like a zombie photographer editing images.


So what to do? What to do when you are disenchanted with your work? Seek the next keeper like a junkie? I don't think so, if so you would be after a feeling and not art. Here's something I have learned, it is the kind of lesson you learn on your own and not in art school: Frustration, disillusionment, disenchantment are an integral part of the art making process and you simply have to keep at it. Online you only see the rockstar aspect of photography, not the frustrating part, and many come into the world of art thinking it's always smelling roses. Sometimes it sucks to be a photographer, it's not always fun, especially if you are after art.


If you are serious about making art, it's though road ahead, heck it's a war. But the journey is important, there will be hurdles ahead and many troubles, but only those on the other side of the road can tell you how much it's worth it. Let's not let how we feel determine what we want to do, let's keep shooting, shall we?



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3 thoughts on “The most frustrating aspect of photography”

  1. Olivier,
    This is a common issue and unfortunately, I can’t relate to it exactly. Yo see I draw inspiration from my own work. I always look at my history and get excited to see where it has lead me and where I am now looking back.

    I have many friends on Flickr and forums. Many of these shooters tell me I inspire them. It makes me feel good but I have to admit, many of them inspire me also.

    I wish I could say the same about cameras. No way……..

    1. – Looking back on how much you improved
      – People telling you you inspire them

      Good points Don! I don’t know if I inspire anybody but looking back really gives you perspective!

  2. i always look back at stuff i loved, and once i start not being amazed… i totally redo the processing another way
    but i may be more of a processing addict than a photography addict

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