The Phoblographer Fails To Heed Its Own Advice
By Michael Ernest Sweet
Dan Ginn recently wrote a blog post for The Phoblographer all about the haters in street photography. The essence of the post was the following: There is a lot wrong with street photography but there is also a lot right with it too. Fair enough. I largely agree. However, I do feel that this is nothing unique to the street photography genre. As a professional writer and an amateur painter, I’ve been exposed to other creative communities and I find them quite comparable. The fact of the matter is that there are nasty people involved in everything. That’s a fact of life. The unregulated anonymity and exposure that the internet and social media platforms give to these people have simply brought them out of the shadows. For example, in past eras one would write a letter to an editor to express their thoughts, opinions, gripes, and complaints. If that person was too aggressive, rude, nasty, hateful, or just plain stupid, their letter was trashed. End of story. Today we live in an era where those gatekeepers of civility are out-of-work. So, while I largely agreed with the post, I also had a couple of points to make about what I felt was an overly-simplistic view of the street photography community at large. With this in mind, I wrote a comment at the end of the post. No need to write a response article I thought, just a simple comment – civil, reasoned, and largely positive and supportive.
The Phoblographer decided to “moderate out” my comment. That’s right, they declined to publish my submission to the thread, which is highly ironic given the subject of the original post. You can read a transcript of my proposed comment at the end of this article. It seems The Phoblographer decided to post short, highly positive, and trite comments. More elaborate criticisms, such as my own comment, seem to be suspiciously missing. I say suspiciously not only because I know, for a fact, that my own comment was not published, but also because I find it hard to believe that such a post as this one would go without some harsh reader feedback. Indeed, if haters are so prevalent in the genre, as the author suggests, why are they absent from this article’s comment section? Did this post somehow quell the hateful inhibitions of all the world’s street photography trolls? Indeed that would be miraculous. No, rather, I’m quite sure the moderators decided to publish some comments and not others. While there is no law against this (yet, Trump seems to be working on it) I do find it antithetical to the post’s argument and entirely in opposition to the desired outcome of their publishing such a “rant” (their word) in the first place. Was the purpose not to inspire us all to get along and treat each other with respect? Again, my comment, as you can see below, was not even contrary to their post much less hateful or trolling in nature. There is no reason to refuse its publication.
I’ve been a controversial figure in street photography. I admit this and I own it. Some love it, others not so much. That’s fine. What I have always done is to speak plainly and stand by my own opinions and ethics. I too think there is a lot wrong and a lot right in street photography. As a result, I have often written about what is wrong. I also have my opinions as to how to fix some of the wrong. Articles such as my now infamous Street Photography Has No Clothes, (which was originally published in the HuffPost in 2015 and later reprinted here on StreetPhotography.com) have deeply offended some street photographers. I’m not blind to this fact. Others have kept their distance (or trolled me) because they are jealous of my accomplishments and my recognition in the field. Indeed, they are the people this post in The Phoblographer is talking about. With all of this in mind, one would think that The Phoblographer and I would be on the same page – best buddies. Let’s all get along and promote open and genuine dialogue, despite our personal feelings of jealousy, envy, etc. I guess that is not the case. My three emails (to two separate email addresses) to the editor The Phoblographer, Chris Gampat, all went unanswered (as of the time of this publication). This, combined with the omission of my comment, leaves me with no other option but to conclude that there are some at The Phoblographer who fall into this category of street photographers that Ginn feels should “leave the room” and find another hobby.
Dan Ginn writes, “I always try a have a balanced opinion and see both sides.” If this is true, then I guess he was not responsible for the “highly selective” editing of the post’s comment thread – a practice that decidedly does not display a penchant for balance. Ginn also begins the article with this line, “The street photography community can be a funny little place. Lots of street photographers divided into their own groups…” Indeed, and The Phoblographer’s editorial practices appear to be a prime example. I wanted to like this article. It had a lot of promise in my mind. Finally, someone else writing about the widespread negativity in street photography. I also wanted to like The Phoblographer – a small, independent, local, upstart photo blog. Yet, all this has done is leave me with that “bad smell” that Ginn himself writes about in his post. It seems that The Phoblographer has failed to heed to the very advice they were attempting to dish out.
The Transcript of my proposed comment to their post:
“You make many interesting points here, Dan. I’ve written about this very thing various times over the years. However, I’m not too sure there is anything here that is unique to street photography – miserable folks are involved in everything! I’ve worked as a street photographer, writer, and an (amateur) painter for many years. There are nasty people in all those endeavors. For example, if you think street photography is bad, give creative writing a try! I think the issue emerges out of the social media phenomenon more than anything. The anonymity and access to a “soapbox” that social media provides have engendered a lot of critics and worse. Think about Instagram alone, for example, everyone wants to be followed and no one wants to follow. On the face of it, this is absurd. Everyone wants to be the “famous photographer” and no one wants to be the “loyal fan”. Street photography is intensely produced but poorly consumed. I’m not sure my mother would even know what “street photography” is, let alone spend any time looking at it. The issues that have caused this toxic environment are varied, complex, and not at all unique to street photography. What you put into the world comes back to you.”