Photography & Reality

There are things that photograph well but aren’t that impressive in real life.

– Pre-framed/matted Art prints sold at big box stores. I can imagine that some of these actually look like craigslist submissions.

– Creatively displayed but poorly executed art installations. It bothers me that the mere presentation of something can make up for lack of substance and quality. Yet in saying this I point the finger of blame at myself, a graphic designer/marketing geek/art installer. Because what’s fun and interesting to me about my work is that you can control people’s expectations and impressions of things. When you do that, you can influence reality a great deal. One could completely power trip off of it, but when you work with clients in the real world, you must often bend to their will and accommodate their quirks and foibles. Make them look good, but compromise.

– Street fashion. I’m kind of glad last year’s silliness and excess is going away a little bit. It’s still there but it’s being drawn back into practicality. My fashion philosophy is combining function AND expression.

– Outdoor weddings.

– Non-pap shots of celebrities.

– Giant interstate highway mixmasters.

And there are beautiful things in real life that underwhelm when photographed. Maybe most things are like this. Sunsets, people, black clothes and rose bushes come to mind. What are your ideas?


As a child, I adored looking at the impeccably decorated interiors and lush, expansive gardens featured in my mom’s Southern Living and Better Homes & Gardens (this was in the days before Martha Stewart). I’d linger on every photo, picturing myself living in each one: cooking for guests in the (futu)rustic kitchen at my country manse, soaking in a big Roman tub with the sun streaming in through the retractable skylight in my alabaster bathroom, coming home to the white noise of my mid-century modern loft in the heart of a bustling city, sitting on a stone bench contemplating my lotus-covered water garden, walking under my fragrant rose arbor, etc.

Now in addition to lingering on paper, we can also linger on pixels. There’s an ever-growing number of websites, blogs and Flickr groups that enable users to easily share photos of one’s home online. The lighting, the placement of objects, and the lack of personal knick-knacks in some scenes look as though they were styled and shot by professionals. The controlled environment of the photograph is deceptive, yet as we live more and more of our real, public lives on the web, it’s easy to confuse this illusion as reality. One begins to see one’s clothes and home – intimate expressions of self – as a scene in a photograph. How unsettling to be a voyeur in your own life.

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