The Risk of Guarantees

The recent issue involving the killing of a beloved lion during a $55,000 African safari “hunt” has all but consumed social media for the past week. For the record, I am not against hunting. I used to be a hunter. I think it fulfills some sort of primal instinct within many of us. However, this was not a hunt, it was shopping. A purchase. A guarantee (nobody pays that much money for a chance). It was done with the expressed intent of coming home with an ego-enhancing trophy to be proudly displayed on the wall with the requisite bragging and bravado.

Sound familiar?

Photography has become about trophy hunts. We want guarantees. All too few seem willing to explore, or to take a chance, or to discover. Instead, we want to be taken by the hand and led to our prey: the Moulton barn against the Tetons, cars in Cuba (enough already), noon time slot canyons, midnight milky way, sunrise arches, and sunset mountains.

Why? For the guarantee of a pretty picture to impress our Internet friends. No other reason.

Those of you who read my blog know that this is a common theme. Mindless photography. My pet peeve. When I am asked how someone can improve their photography, my answer is always the same, avoid clichés. Avoid guarantees. Take chances. Be creative. Be different (not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of not being the same).

I encourage you, I implore you, to let go of the dependence on guarantees and to explore.Take chances. Find your voice. Be free.

But most of all, I encourage you to not be so blind by guarantees that you miss the obvious (like a tracking collar, maybe?).

6 thoughts on “The Risk of Guarantees”

  1. The outrage comes from something lovable being destroyed for no good reason. Photos are not bullets but photography can be aggressive as Susan Sontage described in her essays. I like the fact that as a culture we are realizing that we are not so different from our animal friends.

  2. Yes, this is so true! Photographing a lot in Rocky Mountain NP here over the summer, I ran across the same tour guides and workshop instructors over and over again. The spoon-feeding was not limited to just bringing folks to a specific spot at a specific time, but extended to “place your tripod here,” “wait for the light to fall there,” “focus on this point here and be sure you have that thing over there in your frame,” etc. One of these guides, I suppose in a well-intentioned bid to be helpful, actually began offering me similar suggestions, even though I was in no way a part of his group! Where’s the fun in that?

  3. When I attended the photo symposium in Moab the class went out for a photo shoot. I could not get past the grandeur of the scene and took many tourist shots. You however posted a photo that impressed me with it’s poetry. The photo was a simplified rock arch that was not one recognizable arch but rather something that could stand for all of the arches. The photo you chose to illustrate this post is likewise poetic. The tires are like spots on a leopard or the skin of a snake. The image stands for all animals. I enjoy the poetry you make.

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