Pointing Clearly and Powerfully.

In Influences, Quoted, Rants and Sermons by David10 Comments


I’m giving you another well-deserved break from my rants – not all of which, it seems, have been appreciated by others. I was accused, of all things, this week, of exhibiting sour grapes towards the very people for whom I freely labour by writing this blog.

My rant about gear being paramount to vision rubbed some the wrong way. Alas, the internet is a tough place to express an opinion, unless you clarify everything and put italicized caveats on every thought, you’re bound to be read out of the current context by someone. If I’ve been sour to to anyone out there, let me know and I’ll happily apologize. But if you think gear is a substitute for vision or having something to say, we’ll just have to happily disagree.

To be great, art must point at something. To be a good artist, one must have something to point at. The better your craft, the more clearly and powerful your pointing can be. Gear only makes it a little easier, a little faster. The hardest work is creative, getting what’s inside, out.

In an effort to give you all a break from my soapbox, and point you in the direction of another one – here’s an inspiring lecture by David Griffin of National Geographic on the power of the photograph. Follow THIS LINK to the TED page to watch it. Thanks to my friend Wes for pointing it out.


  1. Thanks for the link to TED with David Griffin’s talk and the inspiring photos. Loved the photo of Jane Goodall.

  2. Great video and a great magazine too. If one day i’m ever good enough to get a National Geo assignment … aahh ‘Heaven!’.

    When it comes to something to point at though, here’s my best tip and one I worked out one day when rushing towards a lighthouse to try and get a good picture of it before I lost the light. “The best photo is always behind you!”.

    I only realised when I got there after ten minutes of running, that i’d pretty much missed the most glorious sunset i’d seen in a long while. Since then I’ve always double-checked behind me before I go looking for anything.

  3. Hi David,

    Don’t apoligise. It is great to have someone emphasising the importance of vision, the equipment used is just like a carpenters tools, it is the end result that matters not the tools that were used to create it. Keep fighting the good fight there are many people out there I’m sure who appreciate your honest opinion. All too often people blog about how the new X Camera will transform their photography, what a load of baloney, it only makes the camera manufacturers richer and does little to advance the quality of photography.

    Thanks again


  4. Thought I’d chime in again to echo what David B said… One of the casualties of living within the borders of pop culture is losing sight of what matters. So I think that’s what “vision” means to me, seeing what’s important and ignoring, as best I can, what’s not. While it’s not about the gear, I’d go a step further and say it’s not about the photo either. It’s about emotion, the emotion that led the photographer to capture the photo and the emotion that comes from viewing the photo; it’s about the photographer and the viewer sharing an emotion. The “gear” and the “print” are simply media for sharing emotions.

    [ASIDE to DAVID B — Are by any chance the same DB located in India? ]

  5. To Ron… No I’m David from Dublin Ireland.

    BTW I agree totally. I am struggling to get my photography past the cliche follow the rules to photographing with my heart and forgetting the rules. Its very hard to find anyone writing about the struggle to find your vision and effectively communicate emotion through photography, I suppose its easier to write about gear, selling gadgets to men is an easier sell when you are trying to sell magazines, books etc.

  6. To David B in Dublin… Two books that David duChemin recommend earlier are very helpful: Photography and the Art of Seeing by Freeman Patterson, and The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman. One other I recently read is also good: The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori. Loori is a photographer, though he writes about all the arts. All three books are well reviewed on Amazon if you want to check them out.

  7. Cheers Ron. I’m just reading the first two at the moment. I’ll check out the third one too.

  8. I must be the sour grape. It is possible I took your post out of context, or didn’t post my thoughts clearly. I am just a beginning photographer and blogger, but I do read most of your posts, almost everyday and appreciate them. If it sounded like I valued gear over vision, it wasn’t a very good post. Sorry if I soured your day.

  9. I totally agree with you and even posted a similiar rant on my own blog

  10. David,
    I found you blog just a week ago on a link from Scott Kelby. Thanks for writing and ranting clearly about the value of vision over gear. -or rather, the importance of having both. Without the right gear, it might be harder to express your vision.
    Your rants have inspired me to work more within my gear constraints to express my vision (working on an exhibition about hope in Karamoja, Uganda) and I just want to say thank you for that, and please keep the rants coming.

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