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  • William Hunton

Mediocrity Democracy

The Who’s Roger Daltrey called The Rolling Stones a “mediocre pub band.” The guy must just need some love, which I am certain his comment will evoke. This brings me to my point. Those who follow the leader think it’s not so hard because the road is so well paved.

Let’s talk photography.

I really do not like the political posturing, virtue signaling, AI censoring, situational truth mongering Facebook. We could yammer about that all day, both sides, and never get anywhere. However, I do appreciate the best parts of Facebook; the social connections and interest groups.

I joined a Facebook group, Street Photography Cartier-Bresson Inspired. I belong to several such groups. I learn a lot. Some groups are better than others. This one is administered by Peter Pickering, a professional photographer in Bentley, Western Australia. I like the purpose of his group. It is devoted to the photographic genre of “Street Photography” as inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson. If you are not familiar with Cartier-Bresson’s work, try to find an exhibit somewhere. The internet is fine, but there is nothing that compares to seeing original photographs that the artist printed or directed. Check this link.

Cartier-Bresson was a pioneer, the inspiration to all others who follow his style. Certainly there were other photographers who made historic and socially important photographs; for example Lewis Hine, whose photographs of children working in unsafe conditions in factories, helped bring about our child labor laws. You have Roy Stryker and the Farm Security Administration photographers who went about documenting the Great Depression in the 1930’s. FSA employed photographers from all over America, even Ansel Adams. This was groundbreaking. Nothing like that had ever been done before. There is even a legacy organization you can join if you are interested: Go out and photograph America!

Cartier-Bresson is the same; that is, he is historic, ground breaking, seminal, one of a kind, leader of the pack who defines all who follow. When I began studying photography as an art, and going beyond technique and gear to vision and ideas, I studied the recognized masters, the ones who appeared and gave us something new. Cartier-Bresson is one of those I studied. He defined the term “the decisive moment” and created “candid photography”, as something more than snapshots of events and family. He was one of the founding members of Magnum. You can argue with its politics if you like but you cannot deny its importance. It changed news reporting.

Photographers are an arrogant bunch. Many of the artist ones, at least. Some put on airs. Some become real jerks. I’ve run into a enough of them that I recognize the jerk factor in myself and try not, because, as good a photographer as I am or that I might become, I have not invented a thing except a personal opinion that finds its way into my camera every so often. Others are generous with their time and in sharing their talents. I aspire to that.

What vexes me about social media in general, especially the photography groups, is the mediocrity that gets posted, my own included. Social media is a democracy of the mediocre. There are some who manage to excel, but not so many. Facebook, Instagram and others only make everyone appear to be equal. We can do better, especially if we are being inspired by Bresson, or Adams, or Weston, or Cunningham, or Lange, or Smith or…

Keith Richards. Yeah. Back to Keith. Keith’s famous guitar style is based on playing “open G tuning” on a Fender Telecaster. You can hear it clearly in songs such as Brown Sugar. It’s a classic open-G tuning riff. About 1:50 in the vid you can him play it. Yep easy. Websites, blogs, videos, are devoted to playing like him. It’s a nice paved road, Roger. I’m a mediocre guitarist. I can play riffs like “Keef” but I ain’t him, thankfully. I can post photos that borrow from Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”, but I ain’t him either.

One thing we can do is seriously work toward excellence.

Here’s my offering of “the decisive moment”. Best I can do. I’m not Cartier-Bresson.

Clown in Flight


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