A Site for Photographers by Photographers

Interesting read.

Travis . , Nov 03, 2002; 11:37 p.m.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/7.htm The Seven Levels of Photographers


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Charles Barcellona , Nov 04, 2002; 12:40 a.m.

its nice to know i'm not alone at the bottom of the list....!

Mark J. , Nov 04, 2002; 01:04 a.m.


This is beyond interesting, it should be required. My wife and I like the style of humor. Thanks for the link.

Paul Hart , Nov 04, 2002; 02:48 a.m.

This is a great site that I have had bookmarked for a while. BTW, he thinks the best camera in the world is an M6 - but not the one with the little red dot on it...and I think he might be right!

Michael Kastner , Nov 04, 2002; 04:30 a.m.

Charles, who told you I was down there too? The whole ideas are (basically) true, but that note about certain guys sometimes dressing funny and tending to stay up late somehow pertains to me, too!

Alex S. , Nov 04, 2002; 07:47 a.m.


I'll assume you have read Ken Rockwell's satire before reading this.

I thought Ken Rockwell's satire was very well written. I also felt that all that had been said before--though not any better. Ken Rockwell is a good writer. He is not just funny. He has wit. I'm thinking of "wit" as the ability to cut someone's head off and still leave it resting on the body. (Dryden said that first, I believe--not I.)

After reading Mr. Rockwell's satire, that certainly made my ears burn (while, fortunately, leaving my head firmly attached to my neck) I went to his photographs.

And here is the problem.

Ken Rockwell is certainly a good photographer. He is disciplined and he is serious. He has shots from everywhere--California, France, Guatamala; you name it. Technically everything he does is exactly right. But it is too right. His photographs are predictable and safe, and, therefore, only mildly interesting at best. The photographs lack "soul"--the thing he values most highly. Somehow he misses the essences of the places he photographs. There are no epiphanies in his technically excellent photographs.

If only this artist could take the chances and leaps of imagination that he displays so brilliantly in his wonderful satire! He would be an absolutely wonderful photographer.

I cannot emphasize enough just how good a writer Ken Rockwell is. I think of myself as a fairly accomplished writer (the O.Henry Award people gave me an honorable mention in 1997) but I know I could never get away with a satire like the one under discussion. Writing good satire is hard. That this is an exceptionally good satire written by someone who is primarily a photographer says a lot about the genius of Ken Rockwell.

The irony is that the ultimate success of Ken Rockwell in completely pulling off his critique of "whores" and "measurebators" (brilliant word play that) depends not simply on his deft use of words but on his photographs. If you are a preacher who every Sunday delivers flaming sermons that send sinners to everlasting perdition you had better be leading a crystal pure life. One glance at a plunging neckline and your credibility plunges. Likewise, any photographer who flilets other photographers had better have either a body of work that is awesome or include a fair amount of self-deprication in the satire.

Satire is like sticking your tongue out at someone--it renders the creator ugly. That being so, the creator puts him/herself in a dangerous position. You need to be well armored to withstand the counter attacks. Ken Rockwell has one big hole in his armor--his not brilliant photography.

All this said, I think the best thing about Ken Rockwell's satire is that it is basically good natured as well as being insightful. It should offend few if any people. His lowest level is populated by "measurebators." The measurebator is rendered as being so idiotic that no one--not even a genuine measurebator--would think of him or herself as one. The worst thing is that it invites ready rebuts--really nasty ones of the sort that regularly put self-righeous preachers in their place.

The truism about glass houses and throwing stones applys in this case.



Alex S. , Nov 04, 2002; 08:14 a.m.

A Footnote:

Having read my missive above I have a feeling that I may well be flamed by the object of my critique. I got that feeling because of two things. I really stuck the needle in deeper than I had really wanted to regarding this fellow's photography (I'm not backing down, however). Also I sense that the writer of the truly sharp satire we've been discussing is lacking in self-humor. You see that when he is touching on his own website.

Since preemptive strikes have recently acheived a certain legislative legitimacy, I'll offer these. One: The clown wears a funny face and costume for a good reason: It is the persona that protects the real artist within. The satirist, especially a photographer-satirist, really needs a sense of self-humor somewhere in his/her toolbox. Two: Painful as my judgement of the satirist's photographs might be I meant to be primarily constructive rather than simply destructive. The genius (a word I do not use lightly) is there. It only needs to chill out.



Dennis Couvillion , Nov 04, 2002; 08:39 a.m.

As a simple man who makes no claim to being either an "artiste" or "pholosopher", I found Ken Rockwell's web site great. Funny. Nice pics. Informative. And, lacking in pretension.

Thanks for steering us there, Travis.


Dennis Couvillion , Nov 04, 2002; 08:42 a.m.

Sorry, I'm not a "PHILOSOPHER" either. (Query: Is proofreading a female thing?)

Good shouting,


Dan Brown , Nov 04, 2002; 07:38 p.m.

I wish we could put smilies in our posts, 'cause I'd put the puking one right here [ ].

Now let me get back to my detailed analysis regarding off-axis MTF performance of various Leica 28mm lenses, I'v e got a critical decision to make someday.

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