The Filmosaur Manifesto

It has come to my attention that anyone discussing art who wishes to be taken seriously must have a pretentious collection of thoughts that they project upon the world as if they are received wisdom from On High, universally applicable to all humanity in perpetuity. In order to correct this egregious oversight on my part, I present you with The Filmosaur Manifesto.

A spectre is haunting the world – the spectre of bad photography. The world is cursed with an ever-increasing tide of photos that should never have been seen, and if nothing is done, we will be overwhelmed, drowned in mediocrity or worse. If the medium is to be preserved, it must be reborn in the eyes of its practitioners. Here, therefore, I present a path to salvation, a means by which photography may once again be shown without endangering the public welfare. In order to properly emphasize the power and force contained in this document, it goes to 11.

  1. Never show boring work. Most photographs are boring, but this doesn’t mean you have to inflict them on unsuspecting viewers. Choose wisely what you show in public – the viewer will think better of your work if it is carefully selected and interesting. Art should never measured by mass or volume. Be your own harshest critic.
  2. A photograph is a photograph. Magritte’s The Treachery of Images is correct. “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – it is not a pipe, but an image of a pipe. Your photograph is not the thing being photographed, nor should you intend it to be. You are creating a photograph, a thing in and of itself – do not seek to reproduce what you see, but to produce something that will be seen for its own sake.
  3. Perception is reality. What a viewer sees when they look at a photograph is their reality, which may be completely detached from the reality you saw when you made the photo. The reality you saw is irrelevant. What matters is the photograph and how it is seen – this is the reality the photographer creates.
  4. Do not photograph in a vacuum. Photography has been practiced for over a century and a half, yet many photographers never look critically at anything but their own work, if even that. If you don’t know what has been done already, how can you possibly meaningfully evaluate your own photographs? A photographer must be both a creator and consumer of photography; creation without reference is self-delusion.
  5. Whenever there is doubt, there is no doubt. If there is any question at all as to whether a photograph you have made is good or not, it isn’t. Good work announces itself when it enters the room; mediocre work sneaks in through the kitchen.
  6. The camera doesn’t matter. No one but you cares what camera you used to produce a photo, just as no one cares what sort of brush Da Vinci used or what sort of chisel Michelangelo used. The end result is what matters. The artist selects their own tools for their own purposes; the viewer could not care less, so do not bore them with technical information that can only detract from the attention given to your work.
  7. Command the machine. In order that art be the product of the artist, the photographer must impose his will upon the camera. Painters compose their own palettes, demanding the pigments provide them the vision they seek. The photographer must make the same demands upon their camera, lens, and film. In the digital realm, it is all the more important, lest your work be merely the banal product of algorithms designed by corporations for maximum public acceptance.
  8. Photographs have no meaning. You may feel a certain way about a photograph, but you cannot and should not attempt to impose this feeling on the viewer. If a photograph evokes a consistent emotional response from its viewers, it is because they are reacting to what they see, not what you told them they are looking at and what it means. If a viewer has no reason to engage with a photograph, they won’t; only through this engagement will a photograph have meaning to them as an individual.
  9. Conformity is the enemy. In a world of ephemeral media trends, far too many succumb to the instinct to join the herd. The result of this failure is that photographs look increasingly alike. Only by ignoring peer pressure and discarding social conformity can a photographer transcend convergence with every other photographer. A photographer’s rules must be their own, and as such they are inviolable.
  10. Imperfection is the path to perfection. A technically perfect photograph is certain to be mind-numbingly dull, as it is clear the photographer was first focused on the technical, rather than the artistic. The viewer of photography is not looking for technical perfection; they are looking for work that creates emotion. Imperfection can evoke far greater and more complex emotions than perfection ever will.
  11. Never accept success. The moment a photographer decides they are fully competent in their work is the moment they die. The very thought that there is an end point to the development of a photographer’s work is the most destructive idea imaginable. Any photographer who believes they have reached the pinnacle of their own abilities will produce nothing but bad work after that moment.

Rise against the oppression of bad photography! You have nothing to lose but your chains!


12 thoughts on “The Filmosaur Manifesto

  1. Despite your tongue-in-cheek introduction, this is a solid post. Man, do I wish I had not started using Flickr as a dumping ground for all my photos so I can share them on the Web. Because what you learn from looking at my Flickr space is that 90% of my work is boring. The 10% that isn’t is buried. After 12 years it feels too late to fix that now.

    1. Thanks, Jim. I didn’t want it to come off as anything more than my own statement, so I felt the introduction was necessary to convey that; if you and perhaps others find it useful, so much the better.

      I keep my Flickr account private, and only post individual photos when and where I choose. While it might be a huge task to go back and edit the existing account (I know it would be in my case), you could always set up another account for public consumption and switch your old one to private.

    2. To add to the comments Jim, it looks like you can do a select all and make private.

      https://www.flickr.com/help/forum/en-us/72157652156065060/

      I know from experience that you can upload a new photo and make it private from the outset, but this still lets you share it in your WP blog and everyone can see it there. I do this all the time for photos I don’t want filling up my WP allowance, but also don’t want in my public photostream on Flickr.

  2. Bonjour de France… Starting to read your post I asked myself the question: are you reading one of famous books David Lodge wrote in a recent past… I mistaken myself because it was not a question of literature but … photograph- (er, y, ies, a.s.o) My english is far too indigent to develop something as a “tribune” here but just to say how much I deeply agree with yours “propos”.. It has been given to me to meet a great photographer in 1996 in Paris at the MEP ! I want to say HATTY van ZAK… She “gave lives” to hundred of pieces of Art (including the controversial ” TWELVE HOTEL ROOMS” ) but This just to pay tribute to HATTY because SHE still is a great PHOTOGRAPHER…. with her fascination for the POLAROID systems… TASCHEN made her some proposals but she refused because hooked at her INDEPENDANCE… Merci pour votre site I deeply enjoy. jean-pierre from Brittany -Morbihan-

    1. Thank you for your comments, Jean-Pierre, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. I haven’t read David Lodge, and I only just now familiarized myself with Hatty van Zak – I can see where her work would certainly be controversial. It’s always interesting and informative to meet accomplished photographers; I’m lucky to have a friend who has been a working photographer for decades, who among other things was the official photographer for a well-known European head of state, and who won a World Press Photo award. Looking at his work certainly helps to inform how I see my own and others.

  3. I love this post. The intro seemed like it was going to be a tongue in cheek, humorous post, but the actual 11 points I wholeheartedly agree with. And they seem to be serious.

    Maybe another I would add, which I ponder often, is ask yourself a) why you share your photographs, and b) why you photograph at all. This is of course an ever evolving question – or rather it has an ever evolving answer.

    1. Satire is a means by which we find truth, and a particularly effective one at that. The form may be humorous, but the message is serious.

      The point you raise is certainly a valid one, though I think the latter part is the more relevant. Once you’ve answered that, the former likely has been revealed.

      1. I think I’ll post my latest thoughts on this as a blog post at some point. One of those topics that is worth revisiting and writing about every few months or so, or maybe even more frequently than that.

        1. It’s certainly a subject that bears frequent consideration. Far too easy to become complacent and fall into easy, thoughtless practices.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.