A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Good Enough - A Tragedy Of The 21st Century
Friday, January 22, 2010

I have written before here how it came about that I photographed Vancouver Province sports writer Jim Taylor twice within a week back in 1984.

As the 21st century distances itself from my 20th this photograph is one I think about quite often. It has all to do with that other (one of them being, “the best price is free”) mantra of the 21st century which is causing the slow disappearance of a lot of what was excellent. The mantra is “good enough”. More and more and particularly in the profession of photography the combination of a low (or, free) price and a picture that is good enough (it might meet a minimum requirement) is all that is needed for a magazine, a newspaper, a brochure or an ad.

Many have spent lots of money and time studying typography and design and now in this century too good usually means too expensive. So good enough and a low price is dismantling the classic design firms in Canada and around the world. The million-plus fonts and million-plus colours found in a computer make the hiring of a designer superfluous.

Nobody would ever argue that a man with a rifle is a soldier. Most would agree that the man would have to be trained as a soldier to be soldier. But the logic of this does not follow the logic that a person with a camera is not always a photographer and that anybody who can use computer driven design programs is not always a designer of the graphic kind. Nobody would assert that anybody who knows the ins and outs of Microsoft Word is a writer.

In 1984 designer and art director (Vancouver Magazine) Chris Dahl saw my first pictures of Jim Taylor and demanded to know why my pictures either showed him without glasses or, when he had them on, he was not looking at the camera. My explanation that I could not avoid the reflection of my flash on his glasses was not good enough for Dahl. I was dispatched to take them again and to make sure that Taylor was looking at the camera.

I tried to argue with Dahl that my pictures, right, were well exposed and sharp and that, was good enough. Dahl became mildly enraged and said, “Go back and take some pictures that we can both be proud of. And stop making the motions of being a photographer. Be one!”

He was absolutely right. We need more Chris Dahls in this world if we are going to lift ourselves from the mediocrity that is seizing this century.


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Pornography But No More Oldsmobiles

The Medium Suggests The Method

The Age Of Flickr

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