Category Archives: Humans Being

Reality Distortion Through The Lens Of The Local News Broadcast

In (“Is Street Photography A Violation Of Privacy, Or Ethics?“), I touched on the topic of how local news has immense influence on our perception of security and safety in modern society. Maybe I’m not giving people enough credit, but it seems to me most are suffering from a severe case of reality distortion, a result of seeing the world through the lens of the local news broadcast, or cable news, or any other ratings-driven news outlet.

As the saying goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

It’s not enough to inform people, that’s a quaint idea from a bygone era. News has to grab your attention, then scare the shit out of you. Rinse and repeat. Have you ever really stopped to think about what we label as “news”? When you watch your local news broadcast, especially if you live in or near a major city, the first 10 minutes is almost always awash in stories of shootouts, murders, armed robberies, fires, and car accidents. Meanwhile, the rest of us in the viewing area, in other words, everyone (99.9%+) not affected by these (yes) isolated events, get to “learn” about them because somehow this will teach us something, or help us in some way. Really? I mean, why do we accept that these types of stories are “news”? They are the same violent stories every day, on autorepeat. Is this a public service?

I believe this daily reinforcement of all that is bad in society, without proper context and understanding that these are the exceptions, not the norms, is harmful to our collective mental health. At the very least, it plays into our fears and anxieties, making us believe the world is a more dangerous place than it actually is. And in turn, this impacts the policies we support, the politicians we vote for, and so on.

For anyone who regularly questions societal norms, it is obvious much of what we call “news” in 2014 is nothing more than a spectator sport, and a violent one at that. It’s not that you can’t find real news or journalistic value in your local half-hour news broadcast, but most of the stories reported during the first half of the program are not representative of the city or town the broadcast originates from. Even in the most violent areas of a city, people go about their daily lives, working, providing for their families, and they are not consumed with crime and violence every step of the way. I’m not making light of the crime that does occur in these locations, and the innocent people it effects, I’m simply trying to put things in proper context and perspective. Even in the most dangerous locations, most people are decent, law-abiding human beings, and in any of these neighborhoods, you can find people doing good deeds and making a difference for their community. But that’s not a compelling enough story, and it ain’t gonna pay the bills, so instead, let’s hear about the 100th murder this year, because that’s serving the greater public good, right?

Also posted in Deep Thoughts, TV Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Know-It-All, Blog Commenting, Elitist Photographer

If you spend any time on photography websites and blogs, and especially if you read comment sections, you have probably seen your fair share of “know-it-all” photographers. And let me say, this phenomenon is not unique to the photography world, but it seems there is a higher a-hole ratio within this niche. These comments usually come in the form of simple, to-the-point declarations like, “basic stuff,” or “old news,” or more elaborate and thought-provoking diatribes like, “this post is completely useless, every photographer should already know this.”

But whatever form it comes in, know this: Human beings don’t know things until they do. We aren’t born with the knowledge of our ancestors pre-programmed into our craniums. After exiting the womb, the bowl of noodles between our ears does not automatically assimilate the entire store of human intelligence.

To the “Know-It-All” Photographer, with Love:

See, this is how things work (and I know I need to explain it thanks to your inane blog comment): There was a time long ago when you were born, and like everyone else, you didn’t know anything. Then gradually you learned, and then you learned some more because there were people willing to teach you. This wasn’t always “basic stuff” to you of course, and I’m guessing back when you were learning, you wouldn’t have found it constructive for someone to go around assuming everyone should already know this stuff. Please, tell me if I’m wrong.

Just because you know it, doesn’t mean the job of teaching is over. If the blog you commented on was entirely geared to professionals and know-it-alls like you, then maybe “basic stuff” would be an appropriate comment. Instead, it’s just pretentious and elitist.

So it would seem there are those who get an extra special dopamine rush when they discover they know something that someone else doesn’t, particularly after they proceed to point it out. But this is entirely unimpressive. There are millions and billions of people on this planet learning new things every day, and millions and billions of people who will come along later and learn those things again.

So you know something that someone else doesn’t? Good for you. Bravo. Give yourself a nice long round of applause.


Then get over yourself.

There are those elitists who go around on forums and comment sections, trying to be the internet and topic police, telling people they are “noobs” and to “go read the FAQ,” and “don’t end your sentences with a preposition.” But these people really just clutter things up. It would be easier and better for everyone if they would just answer the question and move on, or better yet (assuming they can’t refrain from smugness), just don’t comment at all.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Curmudgeon Agency

There are people who are ill-tempered for no particularly well-thought-out reason. They simply react poorly to seemingly innocuous circumstances or events. It seems these people are curmudgeons for no other reason than to make it perfectly clear they have agency as a human being. And it’s certainly a good idea to assert yourself and to make it known you have thoughts and feelings too, but overreacting to a benign situation for the sake of expressing your individualism is counter-productive at best.

As this relates to street photography, I’m talking about the person who reacts negatively either verbally or physically to their picture being taken. And certainly that’s their prerogative (at least the verbal part), but people seem to think they have some special right no one else possesses when out in public.

For better or for worse, we live in a surveillance society, and at the same time, nearly everyone has a camera. There is no presumed privacy on the street, or in a park. What is it exactly that people fear about the photograph? These same people do not live in fear that their likeness could be captured by accident with someone’s smart phone camera. They don’t think twice about walking down a city street where the number of security cameras can measure into the dozens. But raise your camera up, and snap a shot, and suddenly you’ve taken away their agency? Most people who react badly in these situations couldn’t begin to tell you why, they just react.

Also posted in Deep Thoughts Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Street Photography Object Lesson: The Good Samaritan

Percolate, Philadelphia Street Photography

Well, it happened today, the dreaded street photography confrontation. It was only a matter of time. Let my experience (which admittedly was mild) be an object lesson for you, the aspiring street photographer.

Let me start by saying you need to beware the “good samaritan” when you hit the streets with your camera. Try to imagine what you look like to someone who is in a place where they are being more observant. See, for most street photography situations, people are busy going about their lives. Even if they notice you, they aren’t likely to say anything because it doesn’t seem worth it, because the whole thing happened so quick anyway. But, there are other situations where people might be more observant of you and your camera. And it is precisely these situations where the “good samaritan” may press into action.

An example of just such a situation is what happened to me today at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. If you are not aware, the park at Rittenhouse Square is an urban park with lots of benches and it is always full of people, especially on nice days like today. When people are lounging about in a park, they can be completely oblivious, but on the other hand, some people can be highly observant. And it was just such an “observant” fellow who confronted me today. I won’t get into the specifics of his accusations, because I don’t care to attach myself to the wild fantasies and claims conjured from the brain of a complete stranger. But after I give you a few details of what led up to this confrontation, you will probably be able to figure out the general context of this fellow’s wonderful imagination.

While I did nothing wrong, in retrospect, two specific actions I took probably caught this guy’s attention. One, I walked down the same area of the park twice, actively shooting with my camera. He likely was sitting on a bench in this same area for both of my strolls through. Two, I happened to be shooting from the hip. For the uninitiated, this is exactly as it sounds, I had the camera at waist level (using the flip screen of my Sony RX100 II). Apparently seeing me stroll through with the camera down low was too much for this guy, and he figured I had to be doing something seedy.

Anyway, so while I did nothing wrong, and was completely within my rights to be taking photos, my takeaway is to be more cognizant of my appearance to others. Not only do I need to be observant of my surroundings, looking for the next great shot, I need to be aware of how others might be perceiving me. And if that means not walking down the same path twice in a short timeframe then that’s fine. There’s always another time and another day.

But there is a happy ending to this story. That photo at the top of this article — it was the very first photo I snapped post-confrontation (just after exiting the park), and I happen to think it’s one of my best street shots so far.

Also posted in Photo Blog, Photography, Street Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Ignore The Pretentious Street Photography Critics

Street photography is a snapshot in time, and it captures the human condition as seen through a small rectangle frame. Because this is an artistic expression, street photography critics need to shed the pretentiousness, and instead embrace the artistic vision.

Because the field of view is artificially limited by the lens, the size of your camera’s sensor, and other factors, we are able to make sense of the chaos of the street. The photograph captured by a street photographer can reduce complexity to simple elements, allowing us to focus on the emotion and beauty of the street.

But not every street photograph needs to tell a story beyond the obvious, and not every street photograph needs to evoke an emotion. Yes, some of the best street images do both, but a good street photograph can simply capture the beauty that is a slice of life on the street, and it can serve as a record of how a city or town looked at the time the photo was taken.

So if you are an aspiring street photographer, don’t let the pretentious critics lead you astray, or deter you from your own artistic vision. Street photography is what you make it, and it is not defined by a rigid set of rules created by the self-important. So hit the streets, and capture the things that grab your eye, and ignore the pretentiousness.

Also posted in Photography, Street Photography Tagged , , , , , , , |