As a photographer, there are certain words that when uttered, strike fear into my heart. “That’s an ND filter, not an IR filter”, is a pretty good example. In appropriate measure, fear can be a good thing. Fear keeps us on our toes and if we don’t allow it to rule us, we can use it as a great motivational tool.

But as you may have guessed from the title, I’m not here to talk about the words that give me shivers up the back of my legs, no. I’m here to talk about one very specific set of words, one of those unsolicited nuggets that I’m sure everyone reading this has gotten or seen at some point in reaction to a photograph or article published on the web:

“…XYZ did it first…”

UGH…

The internet is a lazy place. As a consumer of the endless waterfall of content available, it can be easy to forget that it happens to be built on the backs of people doing things (how else would there be so much to consume, right?)

Sometimes these people – let’s call them doers – are not the first at doing the thing they’re doing. Sometimes, they’re not even as good as the first or second or seventeenth but here’s the important bit: they’re DOING something.

I share a lot of articles here written by members of our community who have figured out a solution, plugged a hole, bridged a gap or just plain and simply done something for shits and giggles. I love it. I love hearing about it, I love putting the articles together, I love sharing said articles and I love the reaction from readers. I don’t expect every single thing to inspire every single person who reads the pages of this website but I do hope something sticks and goes on to inspire others to try their hand or even better, iterate and improve. This is especially true of hardware hacks.

Many of the articles I feature here on EMULSIVE are from authors and contributors who are unplugged from the wider film photography community – especially social media – that’s a long way of saying that they don’t know everything that’s ever been done by everyone in every aspect of photography. Who does?

I see it as a 30/70 split between those Internet do’ers and the others – let’s call them don’ters. And honestly, it’s the don’ters, those tweed-wearing, cold-cup-a-soup-drinking, armpit-sniffing, lazy, unjustifiably offended armchair warriors that I’m singling out here.

I have a message for you:

Please, for the love of a deity, fuck off.

Or to put it another way: please don’t make me or anyone else read your poorly constructed, foul-smelling brain fart.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been @’d by don’ters on social media or in a website comment being told that the thing I just shared or talked about doing has been done before by Lord Flaccid-Butter of Sandwich III or Lady Lahdi-bloody-dah of Whogivesashit. My immediate response is to ignore these communications. Explaining that it’s ok to do things twice normally doesn’t go down well. In addition, the don’ters don’t seem to want to accept that common solutions to common problems can be found by multiple isolated groups.

Still, I have a platform (this website) and a recent interaction gave me pause for thought. Why not reply just one once, right here?

Here goes:

I understand that 99% of “new” film photography things, tutorials, how-tos, descriptions of technique, etc., have been done before – it’s not exactly a brand new technology. If you want to make a point of something having been done previously, that’s ok. However, try to at least add something to the discussion rather than blurting the film photography equivalent of “SIMPSON’S DID IT”.

In case you’re not familiar with the reference:

See how annoying that is? That’s you, that is. You’re trying to make a point, fine but a slight change of language will help immeasurably.

Quick tip: take the idea you want to express and mentally stretch it out, add in a bit of structure, context, consideration and knowledge. Thus, “XYZ did it first” transforms from a conversational turd into something a little more inviting and engaging:

“XYZ did something like this in 1846. This looks quite similar and you might find this useful: LINK”

Heaven forbid, you might even strike a conversation up and end up chatting to the author/commenter about the article. This is, of course, based on the assumption that you read the article before you made comment but that’s a whole other conversation.

To bottom line it, what’s the upside of spending an extra 30 seconds tapping out a slightly more thought out comment? It makes the internet a better place. Not by much but it all helps.

If your comment was merely a quick knee-jerk reply that didn’t fully express the depth of your opinion or knowledge, I get it. People get busy. Why not do this instead: put down your phone/tablet or bookmark/save and close the browser tab. Come back later when you have a bit more time. No one will think less of you for it and here’s the stink-free bonus: you a) don’t come across like a complete prat and b) actually enrich and advance the discussion.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

~ EM

Go on, get it off your chest

The world can be a frustrating place. Don't suffer with high blood pressure and pent up rage alone, just drop me a line with your rant to have it featured here on EMULSIVE.

9 COMMENTS

  1. It’s funny because in my academic education, I was always encouraged to be intellectually modest. Something like: ‘there’s a lot of intellectual work out there, a lot of history and context, my idea is ‘x’, which is probably just a version of y and z before it’. The modesty is good (because so often somebody else has already said it / done it better than you); but it’s the conversation that’s the point, as you so rightly say. Even as a novice in academia I was encouraged to take part in the discussion. So should it be with our photography I think. Great food for thought Em.

  2. I love it. Great article. Some photography websites I find very difficult to visit, simply because of the type of comments/commenters that are there (its initials are DPreview – ugh!). I could simply choose not to read the comments, but I often do so in the hope of learning something new. Unfortunately that rarely happens, and I’m not prepared to wade through dozens of “Hasselblad/Leica/Film users are stupid wankers” kinds of comments.

    Great work as always!

  3. Ah, someone already did a rant on don’ters before you. 🤣🤣🤣.
    Good read and totally agree with you. Now let me go and DO something, instead of just being a complaining, consumer dick.

  4. I had a ranter experience once. I had posted about my experience as a long time user of ECN-2 film. It was a retrospective, because the film was gone. I referenced a website that had discussed the film. The owner of the site went into a rant asking me not to reference his site. He contacted me a couple of times whenever I mentioned ECN-2 film even though HE was not referenced in later posts. Hey Guy, take the post down if you don’t want people to see it….OK, there’s my rant!

  5. It’s the mentality of “I know something you don’t know and I’m going to prove it” rather than “I know something they they are’t aware of, I can help them learn more about this subject they are interested in”.

  6. Have to say, I couldn’t agree more. Even if a certain point, a certain comment has been made before, there is always something new to learn. Thankfully there may be a preferred way to do many things – but a 100 different people will the same thing a 100 different ways. And some of them tend to be the better way to achieve the same end goal.
    Bring on more doers.

  7. Bwahaha too true. I think though that in making new guides to the old darkroom technology there’s an interesting space in bringing modern methods and perspectives to the art. Plus back when all of this stuff was written about, most people only wrote about the subjects in books (which are mostly out of print now). There’s a lot of photography subjects which should be revived on the web instead of in dusty old tomes and refreshed for modern eyes.

  8. Good one! Plus – I firmly believe that what most matters is how is done, not that it is already done. It means – you can always try to do better, or try to make it different.

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