Why I Hate Photography: "The Photographer" As Depicted in Contemporary Pop-Culture
Short Essay by Aaron Schuman

September 2017

This essay was originally published in Hotshoe Magazine, Issue #200, Autumn 2017

     Don't get me wrong. I love wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and wild-eyed Dennis Hopper, dripping with Nikons, in Apocalypse Now as much as anyone. But whenever I'm asked, "So, what do you do?" – in an airplane, at a dinner party, by the school gates – I imagine what they'll imagine, and can't help but cringe. "I'm a 'Photographer'", I say. You know the one: the seductively scruffy and conspicuously confident forty-something piece of weathered man-candy (it's usually a man; if it's a woman, she's generally in her twenties, often "damaged" rather than weathered, and "self-obsessed" rather self-confident) who can't commit to anything but his own carefree wanderlust, and condescendingly utters vague, sage-like pseudo-wisdom (usually to women) about the stark realities he's witnessed in the third-world and the beauty of the female form (or more particularly, that of the models he's bedded), all whilst undressing his enraptured companion with his eyes.

    "If I like a moment – I mean me, personally", Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) expounds in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, "…I just want to stay in it. Yeah, right there. Right here." Blech.

    "I found her in a village outside Amravati", Adam Galloway (Ben Daniels) explains to Claire Underwood (Robin Wright – coincidentally, formerly Robin Wright Penn) in House of Cards. "Her name was Tiala. She died three weeks after I took that picture…I love your hair short." Ouch.

    Perhaps it's a symptom of age – of despising at forty what I might have secretly aspired to at fourteen. And I'll admit that, like all stereotypes, this common caricature occasionally rings painfully true – we've all crossed paths with a photo-lothario of this ilk more than once. But the photographers I know – and there are thousands of them – are far more diverse, dynamic, grounded, unique, interesting and intelligent than this pop-culture characterization. So if I'm asked what I hate most about photography, it's never going to be a particular photographer, or even a particular photographic image; rather it's the image of the photographer, and "The Photographer" as an "image".


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