J.J. Abrams once said:
So, that — you know, I love Apple computers. I’m obsessed. So the Apple computer — like those — the PowerBook — this computer right — like, it challenges me. It basically says, you know, what are you going to write worthy of me?
J.J. Abrams in a TED Talk
I think something similar happens — or should happen — in photography. Not only with cameras, but it starts there because they are easy to acquire. There are some really brilliant cameras and lenses out there, my personal dream would be the Leica M9 with a 50mm/f2 or f1.4, but it’s going to be a long way until I can afford one (then it’s probably the Leica M10 or M11 ;-)), and I think they come with a responsibility to really use them. I mean, I’ve seen photographers with top-of-the-line equipment (usually Canon or Nikon professional level cameras) who thought that the camera does it for you. It doesn’t — and it shows if you think so. And in many cases, they make shooting harder, not easier. You have to see, to compose, to show something that is usually not seen. A camera might give you more options, but these options easily distract from concentrating on the technique … and the motif.
And that’s the second thing here … I think that a photo is comprised of essentially two different aspects: the technique and the motif (which should nevertheless ‘fit’). A beautiful motif is ‘easy’ to photograph in the sense that people will look at your photo and say: “beautiful model”, or “beautiful dress”, or even “whoa yur pict is hot! thanks for posting it. did the job. 😉“. But what does this have to do with creating a great photo? The person was beautiful or the dress was well made, where’s your contribution? For this reason, I think it’s hard to make a great photo if the motif is beautiful because it’s so easy to make a good photo. When you have a beautiful model its beauty — like the options with a camera — are a hindrance to a great photo, not a boon. You have to ask yourself: What can you do that really shows her in ways neither she nor the audience has seen herself? Or to put it differently, how can you top the beauty that is already inherent in the motif?
In a way, I think Heinlein said it best when one of his characters was talking about Rodin:
“Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist — a master — and that is what Auguste Rodin was — can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is … and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be … and more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart … no matter what the merciless hours have done to her. Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired — but it does to them. Look at her!”
“Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert A. Heinlein
There are a lot of photos floating around of beautiful models, beautiful dresses and beautiful locations, but there are few really great photos.
So, if you got a camera and a model, what are you going to photograph, worthy of what you have?