Musings on Photography

Barrage Balloons

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul Butzi on May 18, 2007


Julie O’Donnell asked

Do you think, also, that if you don’t go out of your way to look at a particular kind of work then there’s a danger of being subconsciously influenced by the barrage of commercial images that surround you every day?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: I live in the middle of a forest.  I don’t read magazines.  When I watch things on TV, the program is recorded in advance (on a Tivo) and when I watch it, I skip the commercials.  I don’t subscribe to magazines.  So, for the most part, I’ve got a lifestyle where I’m never exposed to the relentless onslaught of commercial images that some people are exposed to as part of daily life in an urban area.  That’s not happenstance – my life is arranged that way very deliberately and intentionally.

When I do go to the city, or watch a TV commericial, or look in a popular magazine and run up against that stuff, my thoughts can be most succinctly summed up as “What fresh hell is this?”

All that stuff is done by a vast swath of people who are employed primarily to get you to look at the world in the way they want to present it, and their presentation depends entirely on THEIR agenda.  The Big Secret it’s possible to experience the world directly, without the intermediary of modern media. 

If all that stuff is messing with your head, or even if it’s simply not improving your life – turn it off.  Don’t look.  People can (and should) take responsibility for what they let into their head.  That goes double for people who are trying to make art.

6 Responses

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  1. Robert said, on May 18, 2007 at 7:15 pm


  2. Mike said, on May 18, 2007 at 11:23 pm

    I love looking at photographs. That’s one reason why I make them. Looking at others’ stuff is also a treat. Why, tho, should I fear undo influence? It’s all been done before. I think only the venue, face, subject, light, season, changes when each of us goes and takes a picture. Shouldn’t worry too much about all that. Just keep your head on straight and enjoy.

  3. seeingthedetail said, on May 19, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Paul, you certainly have a point there! Living in a city though, there’s only a limited amount that you can switch off, turn over, look away from. I suppose just being conscious of it though, is more positive than being unaware.

    I can’t help but feel that sometimes photographers/artists are penalised for making that free, innocent kind of work that Ted Orland wrote of, because by not being aware of what’s out there and consciously trying to either follow certain style, or fashion, or actually produce something different from what’s out there, they will possibly end up going through the same motions that thousands have done before them, before finding their own real path.

    This resonates, to me, with something I read yesterday in an article by Bill Jay:

    “Young photographers are often pressured into an
    emphasis on individual style, a search for distinction, a quest for newness and
    differentness. Yet the truth of the matter is that a unique style is a byproduct of
    visual exploration, not its goal. Personal vision only comes from not aiming for
    it. In dim light, objects emerge from the gloom when not looking at them. It is
    the same with style; paradoxically, it is a natural, inevitable result of emphasizing
    subject, not self.”

    It’s given me more clarity on the whole thing than weeks of hard thinking – I think you might enjoy it too.

  4. paul said, on May 20, 2007 at 5:51 am

    Paul, I couldn’t agree more about the rancid input that we receive daily. I no longer subscribe to magazines, don’t watch TV, like to read books and, of course, to photograph.

    The main goal of most advertisers is to make you feel that you are missing something in your life and that their problem will solve it. No thanks. I’m happy with who I am and prefer to live in my own world. The world as seen by Paul! 🙂

    I don’t feel overly influenced because I don’t let that influence bother me. Also, I don’t look at other people’s work very much, as I believe it does influence my direction, sometimes. I prefer, instead, to read other’s thoughts. Good post!

  5. Bryan Willman said, on May 21, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Actually, it is very clear to the marketing folks in the world that people more and more either do what Paul does, or simply ignore them. Hence their burning desire to advertise in places where people at least cannot shield themselves from “the message” – this is why signs on buses and billboards continue to be important in the electronic media era.

    But again, so what? It would be inane to say that my work is not influenced by my culture, lifestyle, and in general the world I live in. Why should commercial materials *necessarily* be excluded from this? I am already greatly influenced by things like electric lights and cars, can advertising have that much more effect?

  6. Gee’s Bend « Musings on Photography said, on December 9, 2007 at 9:28 am

    […] in our media saturated culture? That would seem to be food for thought for those who encouraged me to not isolate myself. Posted in Uncategorized […]

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