Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let me tell you about journeys

The Professor has been on the move this week, crossing oceans and time zones and continents, and finds himself slightly jet lagged and grumpy. Travel used to be an exciting and invigorating experience, now it's just a pain in the ass. Strangely enough, after all of the journeying of this week the Professor finds himself just a few miles down A-1A from the home of Barry Atkins, author of Photographic Journeys.

It might be my physical location, I find that the Sunshine State sucks me creatively dry. It might be the lassitude that comes with time-zone hopping. Either way I really struggled with what to say about Photographic Journeys. In fact, I wrote an entire review that was fairly tempered and polite. But, I threw it in the trash because I realized that I was doing Barry a disservice. Presumably Barry, like most folks, submitted his site to us to get blunt criticism and to have someone tell him the truth. By mincing words and acting all Paula Abdul, Barry wasn't getting what he paid for.

Well, Barry you wanted the truth and the truth is that your photography is not very good and your writing is just plain bad. Probably not what you wanted to hear but I'm doing you a service. You see, a few years back The Professor took a whack at freelance photography and I'm here to tell you that it's an extremely tough gig. Every Tom, Dick and Barry with an SLR and a bit of spare time fancies himself a photographer. The market is absolutely flooded and you've got to be exceptional to come out on top. I know that you've had a couple of shots taken by stock companies, but that doesn't make your photography exceptional. The headshot of your friend makes her look pretty unattractive and your breakfast in horribly flat lighting does not make a great still life. In general, the photos that you're posting on your blog are technically and artistically poor. You say that you're making money in stock and, if so, that's great. Your most recent post claims that you can show me how to recreate what appears to be a booking shot at the Duval County jail. Thanks for that. You're right about the umbrella and single light source but angle and distance from subject are your problems. From what I see on your site, I would keep your day job.

More troubling to me is your writing. I know that photography is your thing and that the words are just there to flesh out the images a little, but for fuck's sake use the spell checker! Your shocking grammar is a little bit trickier, but most word processing programs have a grammar checker that will pick up the most blatant offenders. as well. It may not catch everything, for example Word may not know what to do with a sentence like "When I first approached this turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), I was moving at it so fast that I got scared and flew away" but that little bit of extra effort will make you revisit your words. In fact, since writing seems to be an afterthought, why not just do a straight photo blog. This one, this one and this one are great examples. That way the photo becomes the reason for post and the words are there just to describe conditions.

There are some nice shots - the night images of the Jacksonville River Walk on your header are great (I suspect that those are the one's making you dosh in stock. I don't think we can really argue about the badness of the writing, but hell, I may be wrong about your photography. Like you, I was self taught with a seminar or class here and there. But I think I have a grasp on the basics of composition, lighting, exposure, subject, and so on. I like to try and keep things constructive, so if you were to make a change to more of a photoblog, here are some practical suggestions to make your site better:

  1. Get rid of those stupid copyright watermarks. I know that you want to protect your images, but those things just bugger up your photographs. If you are that paranoid or legally obligated, put the copyright discreetly in the bottom corner.

  2. Make the photos in your posts bigger - that's what you're trying to show off, so show them off.

  3. Clean up the side bar, there are lots of gaps.

  4. Add an "About" page, if I knew more about you I might be more compelled to read and look at your images.

  5. You must, must, must get rid of that audio pop-up ad on your site. It's just annoying. Don't know what you're trying to sell, but if I weren't stuck here reviewing I would move on as soon as I heard that voice.

The biggest problem that I've got, Barry, is that I just don't feel anything from your site. You've got no introduction of yourself, so I don't know why I should be paying attention to what you have to say. Your photography is not enough to bring me back to your site. You don't tell me funny tales of your photographic antics. You don't tell me about your journeys. As far as journeys, in fact, you only seem to make it a few miles down the coast. My seriously jet-lagged infant can tell you more about journeys. My dog that's locked up in some jail on a different continent waiting for us to come and spring him, he can tell you something about journeys. In the words on The Princess Bride's Montoya "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I'm going to give you one for your writing because bad writing pisses me off. I'm going to give you for your photography because I don't like it, but I'm not an expert. And I'm giving you four flamers for your title because until you drag a family 3/4 of the way around the world in three and a half weeks you don't know shit about journeys .

28 comments:

  1. I've never agreed with a review more. Ever.

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  2. Thanks Matriarch (how do you address a Matriarch?) glad it worked, was a tough one to get right.

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  3. Thank GOD you got this blog to review because I would have been so stuck. I think I just would have given up after the auto-play crap. Well, no, I wouldn't have, but I would have liked to.

    I know dick about photography, though.

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  4. You know what? Fuck this: "I know dick about..."

    Dude, Calamity, you aren't a chef, but you know great food when you taste it, don't you? You aren't an artist, but you know a painting that moves you when you see it. You aren't a hairstylist, but you know good hair when you see it. You aren't a wine steward, but you know a good bottle of wine when you drink it.

    These blogs we're reviewing, fuck this, "I'm an expert on ... and you aren't, so you must like my blog." That's bullshit, and we all know it.

    Would you buy it if they were selling it? If yes, then tell us why. If no, then tell us why. We're consumers. That's all that matters.

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  5. Yay! Maggie is here. Maggie es muy bueno! Maggie es muy caliente! I've now exhausted my spanish and I don't even know why I felt the need to pull it out.

    I like his photography...some of it. I don't like his people photography, but i like his landscape and nature photography. No one in his people photography looks natural.

    However, I like this.

    Barry: A few more well-chosen words would be better than most of the "stories" you've told. Try to be a little less verbose, and make your words paint pictures, rather than just being so flat in your descriptions.

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  6. In fact, here is a challenge for you to polish your brevity. For the next few posts, write only haikus. When I find I am getting way too wordy on my blog, that always seems to work for me. When I can only select 17 syllables, total, to tell an entire story, I have to choose my words far more carefully. It's an exercise I would recommend.

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  7. Or, here is another possibility: Six Word Stories. Take it as a challenge. Write only six words about each photo. Choose wisely.

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  8. Thank you for your review. You are great. I do disagree about your review of the photography. Freelancing has been good to me and good for the photo editors that buy my photos. That breakfast got me a gig shooting healthcare consumables. I think you can let me be the photo guy.

    I'm glad that you didn't use your polite review. That would not help me make my blog better.

    I will go with your suggestions and try to make a more enjoyable blog. So, I guess that means more photos and less writing. Even though you don't like my photography, a lot of other people do.

    Again thanks for the review..

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  9. Oh, keep in mind that I'm an artist and artist are sensitive about their shit.

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  10. I love Barry. I might want to have his love child. Because that's what I like to see: disagreeing with parts of a review, recognizing some of the merits of the review, being confident enough in your talents to take it or leave it, and getting on with your life.

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  11. Be carefull. I got some shooters in the sack. You ca get pregnant just by standing too close.
    I liked the review. I really did. I kinda knew it would be what it was but you know you have to have someone else say it to get you to see it. You know what I mean?

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  12. I love photo blogs, so I feel compelled to add my perspectives on this one.

    The writing adds nothing to the blog. It could, I suspect, if Barry put thought into it, but as it is now, it's just like he sticks a few rambling words there to fill space. They don't really add to the photos, they don't give personality... they are really nothing more than a few technical details.

    The photos... some I like, some I don't. This one tells a story on its own, which in my mind, is the sign of a great photo.

    The breakfast shot? Maybe it got you work... and if so, that's great... but what's the purpose of it on the blog? For that matter, what is the purpose of the blog?

    To have a great blog, you need to decide what you are trying to do with it. And choose your photos AND words accordingly. If you are using it to show your photos to prospective buyers and a breakfast photo gets you work, then go for it. If you are trying to make a training blog to help other photographers, then go ahead and put your technical details of the shoot.

    But if you want to make a blog where photos speak to the general public, choose wisely and select photos that actually speak. And then LET them speak.

    I have a new photo blog find that I really like, Stories without Words. The only words are the titles on each post... the photos have to speak for themselves. Some speak better than others, of course, but I think it's an admirable perspective. To just let the photos speak their 1000 words.

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  13. Barry has huge cajones. I think I love him.

    I think this blog could be really great, B. You just need to think a bit more about what you are doing here.

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  14. Thanks guys. I'm gonna work on it.
    But you have to remember. All art is subjective. Lara, that photo of my son that you like, is technically bad. I heard people say that it's cluttered, the doorknob is distracting, it's oversaturated, did't follow the rule of thirds and, that's just some of the crits I've gotten. Then there are the "awwww he's so sweet" reactions from others. So I know some will see my photos and say yeah I like them and some will say yuk, this guy can't take a "booking shot at Duval County Jail" ( I liked that line, it was so funny)

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  15. Art is subjective, and I totally agree. You have to post the things that you PERSONALLY love, and then, writing the stories will be easier, I think. And, I think then that other people will feel YOUR LOVE.

    Two last things: First, resubmit in a few months. Secondly, loan Laurie Kendrick your balls for a bit. ;)

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  16. Hey Barry,

    Glad you liked my Duval County jail line - I was pretty proud of that one. Clearly "art" is subjective and you've got some commenters that disagree with me on the quality of your stuff. All the more reason to take some of the suggestions that I offered. Especially that fucking ad. Seriously, kill it.

    Way to have the right attitude, too.

    Lara, love your comments and I'm not just saying that because you're hot.

    Barry, Ms. Bites makes some good suggestions as well.

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  17. Oh, and Barry you said: "I think you can let me be the photo guy."

    Actually, I don't think I'm going to be able to do that. I certainly wouldn't hire you to do a wedding.

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  18. Barry, I didn't say that photo was technically great. I noticed the random doorknobs... the light switch... the chair arm in the foreground.

    But I also noticed a moment frozen in time. One that would normally be lost, but you captured it forever.


    That rule of thirds? I say rules were meant to be broken. Art is only art when it speaks to someone. A technically great photo that captures a moment that you don't give a shit about is worth nothing. A not-as-perfect photo that really speaks is WORTH those 1000 words and more.

    And professor? Thanks. ;)

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  19. Somehow, even in this digital age, I still wind up with my finger in the shot.

    Y'all are not speaking my language.

    But this? Is pretty.

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  20. Wow, that photo looks exactly like St. George Island. I'm tempted to buy it and give it to the man just for shits and giggles. Barry, did you do that?

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  21. That ad is gone already. I'm already starting to work on it.
    I would never even try to shoot a wedding. Wedding shooters are a different breed. If you even thought about hireing me to shoot a wedding I would think you were off your rocker. I still think you should let me be the photo guy.
    You are so right lara. I have to say ,by the way, I am not a people photgrapher at all. It's not what I do. I am learning to shoot people because that's what sells.
    You all are cool people. Thanks for sharing.
    *last post*

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  22. That is pretty and a great example for Barry as to what he should be doing. The question is: Are you good enough? I think not but would be delighted to be proven wrong.

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  23. (Sniff) Thanks, Barry. Godspeed.

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  24. Good on you Barry for taking it like a fucking man, it may be the fact you got 'shooters' but I didn't think the pictures were all that bad, it IS a very subjective thing.
    Even I've got some shots I think are gold.

    The writing is, meh, and the site generally is just too much work to look at.
    Luckily that audio seems to have disappeared before I got there or I just would have shut the page immediately.

    Top marks for taking it on the chin Barry.

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  25. Georgeiswrite.com4/16/2008 9:27 PM

    A poll on me? What on earth is that !!!

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  26. Georgeiswrite.com4/16/2008 9:37 PM

    haha...there is no such thing as bad publicity after all...

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Grow a pair.