Not too long ago, I attended a meeting for a local photographer’s group in Manhattan. I was looking into whether I wanted to join the group in the hopes that I could network and meet new photographers. It was a small, newly formed group that was still trying to figure out what direction it was trying to take and what its primary mission was. Some of the people I met were still just getting started in the photography realm while others had been shooting for over thirty years. It was a nice mix of experienced and inexperienced, although one of the more seasoned photographers tended to take on a diva-esque tone.
Throughout the evening The Diva made it clear to the rest of us that he was serious about his photography by insisting that he wasn’t going to join the group if they were going to display in places like coffee shops or banks, that he didn’t want to submit a sample of his work to the group’s portfolio unless it was going to be digital, and how much of a letdown it was that Barack Obama’s official photographer wasn’t Black. I guess all of his quips might have been perceived as legitimate but I guess it was the way he expressed him that came across as a turn-off. While I realized that he had a lot of experience and ran in the same circles as Gordon Parks, his attitude made him come across as arrogant and condescending. A prime example of this arose when, towards the end of the night, he asked me what type of camera I shot with. Proud of my recent purchase, I told him that I had a Nikon D7000. With a smirk, the Diva looked at me and said, “You still don’t get it, do you? Nikon’s aren’t all that good….as a matter of fact, Canons are a better camera…” and then preceded to lecture me on all the virtues of Canons. I can’t really remember what he said; it wasn’t long before his voice just started to sound like that “wha-wha-wha-wha-wha” sound that all the adults voices made in those Charlie Brown cartoons.
After he finished, I smiled and evenly told him that I liked my Nikon just fine, I preferred their weight in my hands and that at the end of the day, everyone is going to have their preferences for what camera they prefer and it really didn’t matter what you shoot with, it was the eye of the photographer that mattered the most. This seem to quiet him a little, which seemed only fair given that a majority of his work on his latest project was done on a little point and shoot digital.
I tell this story for two reasons: (1) As I previously mentioned, it doesn’t matter what you shoot with. As Ken Rockwell wrote in one of his blog posts about the face-off between Nikon and Canon, “Anyone who tries to tell you that one brand or the other is significantly better
than the other in basic quality is either an idiot, or a retail salesman who’s
getting a bigger spiff from one or the other that week.” Furthermore, there are photographers that produce incredible works of art on toy cameras or camera phones. Just ask Stevie.
(2) Artists can act like real jerks some times. I know this seems awfully blunt, but it still blows me away the amount of attitude and entitlement with which some of them operate. While I can understand the diva was serious about his work, he talked to the rest of us like we weren’t. While I’m sure he had decades of experience and insight to contribute, he also understand that being a part of a group is a give and take process and that he also had things to take away from others. I’m not sure where the attitude comes from but I suspect that most of it arises from massive insecurity that is masked in smugness and condescension. Everyone can relate to the fear of failure but damn, lose the attitude! We’re not impressed.
In the end, I have to remind myself that for every diva, there is a supportive, encouraging fellow artist out there that is willing to share and learn and it will be an ongoing process to seek them out and cultivate them.