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Tuesday, 20 November 2007


The Site Moderator wishes to aver that he takes no responsibility for pictures of pink flowers appearing on the site. Furthermore, he does not even GET the bit about the feather and the chicken, yet he is certain he DOES NOT wish to have it explained to him.

Mike J.

Ctein you sure do write well. A great article and a wonderful pink flower. Thanks, E

Some of my absolute favorites photos of my own design are seldom perfectly in focus and have blown highlights...its about emotion. In a test just last night I concieved, shot, processed(digital edited) and printed(ink jet) within a strict one hour time limit. Strict. One hour from unpacking the camera to framing the print and repacking the camera. One hour. I failed the night before with a two hour time limit and deliberatly deleted the file. Last nights experiment is one of my favorites. Blown highlights and all. And easily one of my most emotional experiences both because of the subject matter and the process. I can't wait to try again tonight!!!

And also the Bokeh Samurais



I used to enjoy tormenting fetishists of all kinds by taking up the opposing point of view on online forums, and then just sit back and watch the fur fly for a few hours (or sometimes, a few days). After a while it got boring because it was just too easy and too predictable. I've since adopted an Andy Warhol "I just don't care" attitude toward fetishists.

The zone system is a means of knowing the resultant densities on the negative/print. It's not a prescription for subject luminance placement in said zones. Some knowledge of photographic materials and processes (namely the craft of photography) isn't a bad thing IMHO.

Dear Mike,

Actually, a play on words on both the Photo League and the Photo-Secessionists.

pax / tongue-tied Ctein


You don't like classical, nor country, and you're hanging around with perverse chickens?

Well, I thought there might be hope, then I saw your "pink"image. Why, the whole composition is a least 1.5 % skewed. Tsk, tsk!


Oh Ctein, you're just not one of us "pure" photographers. I'd guess my fetish would involve a particular format; 35mm half frame! I just can't hardly put down my Olympus toys to pick up anything else. Don't "preach" it's "rightness" to anyone else though, so I'd guess I'm only a half-baked fetish crazy.

Dear Stephen, Michel, David, & Thiago,

Please reread the first four paragraphs of my column. You have confused "kink" and "fetish." You've all, to some degree or another, missed the whole point of the column.

For it to be a fetish, you must elevate it above all other aspects of photography and/or insist that others bow down before it. To illustrate...

Dye transfer is not a fetish unless you demand it to be the be-all-and-end-all of printmaking. (BTW, the illustration here comes from the file I used for making INKJET prints of that photograph).

Knowing the zone system doesn't make you a fetishist. If you were to insist that anyone who doesn't know/follow the zone system isn't versed in photographic craft, that would be the fetish.

If you believe that everyone should consider boke the supreme determinant of lens quality, that would make you a fetishist. Nobody here has ever suggested that (or even that it is the supreme determinant).

pax / Ctein

There are fetishists?

And what else is new? :-)

Like there weren't (and possibly still are) people with perfect hi-fi systems whose entire collection of records consists of muzak that will show how good their systems can reproduce airy yet well-defined high tones... or whatever?

When people were bashing each other's heads in with rocks there certainly were some who argued that granite was preferable to flint because...

BTW, Ctein, I'm certain you failed the purity test. :-)))

Thought from the title that you may be reviewing Michael Grecco's new book.



Indeed, photography has been a fertile field for fetishism and various forms of obsessive-compulsive disorders for its entire history. I'd like to add just a few comments to Ctein's post and others' comments, in no particular order.

- The confluence of the Internet and the tide change of digital photography created a perfect storm for broadening photo fetishism. First, digital photography recruited a tidal wave of computer technicians into amateur photography. This is a group already predisposed for taking microcosmic obsessive value positions without being fettered by broader and softer issues such as aesthetic qualities or narrative values.

The ongoing growth of Internet photo "forums" gives these folks numerous venues where the can righteously "debate" lenses, cameras, bokeh, etc. ad nauseum. (And, yes, it's usually just plain ad nauseating.) You will rarely see discussions about photography at such venues.

- I've come to believe that photography for many men has become primarily a shopping obsession and typing exercise.

- Fetishism about photographic aspects is not necessarily always bad. Indeed, the distinction between fetishism and mastery can be hard to identify. I make the distinction largely on the basis of the end product. That is, does someone's obsession ultimately enable them to produce better photography or at least a stronger perspective on photography. Overwhelmingly, at least in my experience, the answer is not only "no" but also that the obsession seems to hinder any such progress. But sometimes...just sometimes...an obsession leads someone to a new creative and/or skill plateau. The example that comes first to my mind are folks who obsess about particular printing techniques.

BTW, I certainly do not hold myself above this fray. I am as susceptible to obsessions as the next guy. But, like an epileptic, I've learned to spot the onset of such episodes. The antidote for me is (a) stay far away from all Internet photo forums, and (b) get back to working on photographic projects, and (c) spending my down time looking at photography, reading books on/by other photographers, interacting with fellow photographers and artists, etc.

Don't forget the composition fetishists, either, or the straightening fetishists (I deliberately take photos at an angle at times just to annoy them) or the 'you must photoshop your images to "perfection"' fetishists.

Or, for that matter, the anti digital noise freaks, to whom nothing matters but the photo being completely noise free; and just in general those for whom the only way to appreciate a photo is to look at it at 100% or greater and examine it pixel by pixel for any hated flaw.

"I make the distinction largely on the basis of the end product."

One of my teachers at the Corcoran was Frank DiPerna. One thing Frank said to me early on was "It all comes down to the prints on the wall." He said if he's never seen someone's prints he didn't pay much attention to what they said, because a lot of guys can talk a good game without necessarily having any game. It still comes down to the pictures, to "can you produce or can't you."

Of course, you can still have a lot of fun with the hobby without having any game.

Mike J.

Actually, I was just pulling Mike's Leg.

You want to see bokeh fetishism? Spend some time at the Pentax SLR forum at DPreview.

Isn't photography itself sort of a voyeuristic fetish? So you have "sub-fetishes" within the fetish called photography.

"Photography has always had fetishists."

Indeed, sort of like saying that literature always has words. ;)

Oh yeah, thanks for being so frank ... Its all in the feeling: To like pink or not to like pink. I don't like pink! But I like black and white - in all ways. I guess thats a fetish by now as well :)

Amen, brother, amen.

Maybe it's a generational thing, but I would suggest that the compositionists mentioned above outnumber all the other fetishists combined. The first reaction to your flower at any camera club would be "it's a static composition! Divide the frame in thirds, yadda, yadda, yadda."

At least there are no distracting bright spots in the background (backgroundists?). After all, the background is more important than the subject. . . . . :-)

I consider myself to be a staunch supporter of the anti-cliche league. I've seen pink flowers before. "OUT!"

So is it ok for me to like a photo of my cat or not?

That pink flower picture would have been better had the camera been a Leica and you made the print on Azo.

Why? Because, that's why.

Ctein: it is a great thing to laugh hard. Happy Thanksgiving to all in the US.

Ben Marks (cousin of China Marks)

Great read Ctein,

I'm gonna start an art rock band named "The Flummox Coefficient"

My first record cover will be nothing but Bokeh of pink flower pictures (digitally achieved) from pictures shot F22 at 8mm (35mm equiv.)

It will be titled "Put Up Or Shut Up"

The back image will feature a Cat walking through and knocking over a line of batteries and a yardstick set up by a 50 year old Mechanical Engineer in order to prove (and further) an argument about 4/3 sensors on DPReview.

You can go to the MySpace page right now and download our first single "Diffraction Junction"

Comes with a bumper sticker that reads. "If your glass ain't fast it's worthless"

Happy Holiday. (And please DON'T post any pictures of a half eatin plate of turkey just to show me how close your new lens focuses)


Yes, yes, yes, yes, YES! YES!

I don't know what is worse, the people telling you that unless you have the latest NikCan and all the latest lenses and accessories, you're not a proper photographer, or the people seizing on one tiny, tiny, aspect of performance and bashing everything that doesn't conform to their Chicken thing (it just must be a Rhode Island Red...)

Why don't people just concentrate on the images - that's what it's actually all about, isn't it?

Please guys and galls don’t mistake what might appear as a fetish to some when in fact it is part of the natural order and laws of things.

Who in their right mind would take a photo without the standard S curve in it.
That is why some say that diagonals or other straight lines are important, only because the can’t find the darn S curve

Bokeh is only an excuse for those who do not great lens that can capture detail at the proper and only valid f-stop of 64. Who in the right mind would want to waste good detail with blur.


Niels Henriksen

The Photo League was more an organization led by so-called "fellow travelers" than a quasi-communist organization. In reality, it was in fact just a really good, socially oriented camera club with ordinary citizen-members.
In those awful McCarthy-era years even FDR's "New Deal" was considered communist by the Radical Right Republicans who wanted us to go back to a pre-Hoover society. (Sort of like today's "Neo-Cons.")

I am discerning.
You are fussy.
He is obsessive.
They have Aspergers Syndrome.

Here's a vote for the Internet's fetishists. By doing all the legwork they save me having to find out stuff for myself :-)

For photography, I much prefer the term "measurbator" to "fetishist."

Whatever you call them, they are the scourge of photography.

The shadow detail, sharpening, tonal range, mid tone, rule of thirds, horizon placement, workflow, metaphorical naming of photographs (stab me) fetishists. My fetish? I like to be tied to a chair and have frozen waffles frisbeed at me by a fat girl dressed as Oddjob's Aunt. What of it? Whatever, diminished, make of it what you like, it's better than a 6 page discussion on a photo forum on the subject of "which is better...". I'll take the slit throat from a frozen waffle, any day.

Mike -

I think Frank Diperna's attitude is fundamentally flawed. You do not have to be able to produce prints in order to make very valid comments about photography , art, or even technique. You, for example, are a music lover and I suspect a music critic and commentator, but you do not make records or play in a symphony. How would you feel if every time you had an opinion or comment about music some one said, "Until I hear your recordings, I am not interested in what you have to say."

Art critics and photography editors choose what photographs to publish and are often (not always) very skilled critics with valid points of view, but they may not even know how to focus a camera.

To summarize, Movie critics do not make movies, football coaches do not play football, art critics are not great painters, and all this is a good thing.

Photography, as is art, is not necessarily for an exclusive group, but more for the masses. The masses decide what is good and what is not.

We all have game even if the only thing we care about is sharpness, bokeh, or God forbid, subject matter.

One thing that could help, especially for bokeh is an objective standard.

In Ken Rockwell's comentary today he mentions that Ratatouille has the best Bokeh he has seen:

.....and then there are the Nudists, who are only satisfied by shooting in the RAW......

For me, it comes down to the "one right way" to do photography; on the whole, or any part of it.
Put another way: If you think there is "one right way" to do ANYTHING in photography, then you are probably a fetishist, or at least have that tendency.
Even REALLY BAD bokeh like in "The Horror-The Horror" post potentially has its uses.

Dear Folks,

While I couldn't possibly list all the fetishes I know of in a short column, I'm amazed I neglected to mention the compositional and anti-noise fetishists. The latter were, in fact, what got DD-B and I discussing this.

I have some real sympathy for the Rectilinear folk, as it's one of my favored chickens. Clearly it's a kink of mine, but I'd never impose it on others or use it as a primary to evaluate their work. I think there was a column of Mike's several months back where this came up.

As for pink flowers, a dozen years back I was apologizing for one of my photos that I felt was something of a cliche and a Very Wise Man said to me, "We cannot be so insecure as to avoid cliches at every pass."

You get three guesses who said that-- the first two don't count.

pax / Ctein

I am not sure I understand this discussion


D70s, 18-70mm AF-S,
50mm f1.8 AF D,
50mm f2.0 AI, 24mm f2.8 AI-s.

F90x, 28-105mm macro, 50mm f1.4 AI-s, Tokina 35-200mm f4 AI-s.

I'll guess Ansel Adams.

This thread has had me laughing out loud all afternoon - thank you thank you thank you!!

Here are a few more archetypes to consider:

The Color Space Collective - devotees to future technologies and ever wider gamut capabilities that titillate the mind but are well beyond the reach of the majority of equipment and photographers actually working today.

The ProPhoto Nation – Extreme antinormalists, militant in the belief that the quality of the photo is set before the shutter is pressed and defined ultimately by what colorspace has been selected. Work is only valid if it is in 16-bit ProPhoto RGB. Ever.

LAB Colortyes – It has to be difficult and time consuming to be worthwhile.

RAW Supremacists– Only industrial strength production techniques are valid and they fervently believe RAW is the one pure format. Clearly only drooling, disheveled, soon to be divorced godless sports shooters and soccer moms work with jpegs.

Metadata Masochists – Often speaking in short staccato bursts of acronyms; IPTC, EXIF, XMP, JBOD, DNG. The M&M’s believe the ability to create a photo anyone is actually interested in looking at is less important than the ability to comprehensively describe the image in every conceivable manner including attributes that are far reaching, make believe and farcical. These folks can be found openly pastering their images with loose fitting metadata on Flickr.


Joe made me smile.

Dear Andrea,

Ohmigawd, that's me. Not only do I expose everything in RAW (no great sin), but I find myself too often telling just about everyone who asks me to look at their photos that they should be using RAW.I gotta stifle that.

We have met the enemy and he is us.

pax / NUDEist Ctein

"Not only do I expose everything in RAW (no great sin), but I find myself too often telling just about everyone who asks me to look at their photos that they should be using RAW.I gotta stifle that."

No, you don't. In the words of the old Rockpile song (or was it Nick Lowe?), "sometimes bad is bad." And the corollary, sometimes good is good. RAW really is better.

Mike J.

As someone with mild Aspergers, Tony Collins' comment made me smile.

Just not very much.

People with Aspergers and other forms of neurodiversity have contributed a huge amount of creativity to both art and science. Our ability to focus intensely on something that really interests us without the distractions that neurotypicals have to suffer can be a massive advantage to ourselves and to society.

Anyway, beyond the politically-correct-sense-of-humour-bypass bit: I think the great Pratchett would enjoy this conversation, although the Patrician would probably have imprisoned us all and I dare not think what Esme Weatherwax would have said. Something disparaging about would-be wizards, I suspect.

But entertainment value aside, I can't quite see how measurbators, bokeh samurai, LAB colortypes (my personal perversion of choice when there isn't a chicken to be had) etc etc have stopped any of the rest of us(you) making and communicating a photograph that we(you) wanted to. Ever. It's pretty harmless, and probably not worth the energy being expended on mocking it.

For what it's worth, I think Ken Tanaka's penultimate paragraph pretty much nails it because he's taken a systems view of the "problem" and so opened up a much more fruitful way of thinking about it, for me anyway.

My least favorite fetish -- though it may be a phony fetish, used as a cover-up by bad photographers -- is the "test." These folks never take photographs; they only make tests. "I was out the other day with my friend and we decided to do a few tests comparing my Canon EFS-18-55 f/3.5-5.6 Is to his AF Nikkor 20mm F/2.8D..."

Then you get a picture of a tree, followed by 200% enlargements of bark. This exercise is followed by 82 comments, most of which start out, "You're either incredibly naive or a complete fool to think that there's any conceivable scientific way to compare a Canon 18-55 to Nikon 20..."

Blah blah blah...
It's enough to give you a nose bleed...


Incidentally, the laws of physics sprang from Aristotelian fetishism.

So Nyah.

Scotty was wrong. And his ashes contributed to global warming.

It's a bit like Pilgrim's Progress, all those annoying little obstacles on the way. Or maybe it's like that Zen story that goes something like: "To the ignorant, the clouds are just look like clouds, the mountains are just mountains, however the student of Zen knows that that clouds aren't just clouds and the mountains aren't just mountains. But to the true master the clouds are just clouds and the mountains are just mountains." Maybe we have to fight our way through these little obsessions as part of our paying our dues. Some people get over it, some don't

"a Very Wise Man said to me, "We cannot be so insecure as to avoid cliches at every pass."
You get three guesses who said that-- the first two don't count."



(Who can be the third...?)

This is why I wish Ctein would collect his articles (here there and everywhere) and make them available in a book or website. They're brain candy.

My first taste of this was reading somewhere about Ansel Adams vs. f64, the latter arguing that proper prints had to have a full tonal range. Or Adams vs. the Pictoralists (I think I have that right), who believed everything should have a dreamlike quality and tack-sharp, clear photos were not Art.

I don't like the stuff produced by the Toy Camera fans, or pinhole photography. But I've seen large-format landscapes where every grain of sand from foreground to background was exquisitely sharp and beautifully rendered, and yet the whole image bored me. But in either case I'm not going to go to the artist and tell him his work is not Right, not Art, or whatever. I'm just not going to hang it on my wall.

All I ask is the same consideration in return. Don't like my product? Fine; you're not obligated to like it.

I could laugh myself sick over this article! Good one, Ctein! I have to admit I have to plead guilty to some of the attitudes listed here, which I sincerely hope I have long forsaken.

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