Being contrarian to a contrarian....

August 21, 2010

Someone I know just announced a photography workshop, and to underscore the fact that this workshop will be different from, and probably diametrically opposite to, conventional workshops, this quote by

Stephen Shore

was used:

“I went on to flickr and it was just thousands of pieces of shit… just one visual convention after another.”

Now, I find myself in a contrarian position with this …opinion. What I have against it is..

a. though it purports to be a statement of fact, it is, necessarily, the opinion of one person.

b. It makes the posit that all visual conventions are “pieces of shit”. Conventions become conventions only after a lot of people follow the same path. So a convention is at first a new path and one which is later liked by others, who could be following it out of their conviction. So how could something validated by so many people be a piece of shit?

c. It tries to pull down an established and recognized icon (Flickr is one of the most popular photo sites, I think.) Which is fine..but it seeks to do so not by any reasoned argument, but the unsubstantiaged opinion of the pronouncer, and by heaping a perjoratory phrase upon it.

d. Also, a contrarian point of view evolves into that only after psssing through the conventional phase. With photography, for example, one has to learn the basics first and be proficient with them, before one can have the courage to beat one’s own path, sure in the belief that it is the right path for one. This, to me, is tantamount to kicking the ladder one has used to climb up on.

Well, I suppose I cannot argue with this photographer using it in the text to describe the workshop…because this photographer is a self-styled


…one who goes contrary to what is usual.

But…I cannot agree with any point of view that must substantiate itself only by heaping abuse on another point of view. The conventional point of view, to me, has as much validity as the contrarian point of view.

However…alas, now I find myself in a bit of a paradox….I seem to be falling into the same trap as the point of view I am decrying…I am saying that point of view is not valid, only mine is…and surely I should not be making that statement, since I hold that all points of view have their validity?

I will not attempt to resolve the paradox…I’ll just go to bed and let the paradox swim peacefully on the lake, eating breadcrumbs…