I like Taylor Swift and Icons

The following post highlights images from our recent road trip to the Victorian Alps and back.

“I don’t shoot icons ……….but [insert what you like to shoot instead]”.

I’d like to examine that mentality briefly. Sure an icon won’t look much different in your shot compared to the millions already out there but if you manage to get a good shot of such a frequently photographed location, I think there’s still pride to be had in that image. I’m going to be completely honest. Whenever I see an image whose aim was to portray something different from an iconic area, I mostly find those images to be quite ordinary and uninspiring. Likewise when I see images of a frequently shot icon, my bar of expectation means that I mostly find those images to be quite uninspiring and unoriginal but they’re usually technically pretty good even if the composition has been borrowed.

Mount Feathertop, the icon to shoot around Mount Hotham

Around Mount Feathertop – The caption could read “I wanted to shoot Mount Feathertop but that wouldn’t have been original so I pointed the camera another direction”. Does that make the picture better than it is? I think it’s just an OK picture no matter how non-iconic it is

The intimate images which  I find are striking, are striking because they are striking. It’s not because they’re random shots of vegetation away from a main scene, it’s not because of the accompanying text of protest about photographing icons, it’s not because they were shot at a different focal length to the norm or when there wasn’t any good light but you still came away with something ‘special’ . It is because, they are just great images on their own.  The iconic images which I find striking , are striking because they are striking but they have to be insanely striking for me to notice them any more than 424,242 images that preceded it from that same tripod marking.

The twelve apostles from a different viewpoint. Attempting to separate this icon from the rest of the images taken from the location but is it any good on its own right?

I’m going to reverse some thought processes here. If you’re passing up on a good shot of an icon because you don’t want to be seen to be the type of photographer who just shoots icons then it seems that public perception concerns you just as much as the photographers who purposely shoots the icon to parade it on social media for popularity. Your concerns are in the opposite direction but nonetheless you are still concerned about what other viewers think . If you’re doing it because of a photographic challenge to come away with something different, that’s a completely different issue . But  when your ‘original/non iconic’ image is presented and sold to the audience as awesome , you’d better make sure that the image itself is good on its own right and not play on that ‘I don’t shoot icons’ mentality to elevate its status.

Smoke at Smoko. I shot this because I thought it was a striking scene, and being non iconic had nothing to do with it. It just looked good so I tried to capture it!

When your iconic image is presented in all its awesomeness, you’d better make sure that the image itself is good on its own right AND discernible from the 424,242 that preceded it. My advice that stems from this train of thought (to new photographers particularly)  is to shoot what you want to shoot for your own agenda and don’t let the public perception either pull you too far toward just shooting icons for ‘likes’ and ‘faves’ NOR let the negative perception of iconic shooting (mostly from established photographers) steer you away from shooting said icons.

The view of the Cathedral, Mount Buffalo’s icon. Looking good to the eye with sidelight ,so I photographed it, iconic and all.

The view away from the Cathedral – I wanted to get a sunstar with the 24-70. It’s non iconic but is it any good just because I might tell you the icon was to my left but I shot this instead?


The above photographic story kind of relates to what I call ‘Indie music snobbery’ but that’s a whole new debate. Let’s just say that in recent times, I hear a song like ‘Blank Space’ by Taylor Swift and hey, I kinda like it (honestly, I really do !). I don’t fight it, I just like listening to what I like these days whoever sings it!. 10-15 years ago , I would have purposely convinced myself to ‘dislike it’ because it was ‘too mainstream’. Nope only indie music for me. Yea that’s right only non-iconic photographs for me too.

Hopetoun Falls, one of the icons of the Otway Ranges if not THE icon. Now why wouldn’t I shoot a glorious scene like this??

A retired physician once told me in his earnest voice, “When I’m interviewing new high school graduates for a position medical school, I don’t mind hearing ‘I want to be a doctor because the pay is good’. There’s an honesty in that statement and at least I know they will work hard for that money!” . I was once taken aback by this statement but the more I see the dishonesty expressed from interviewees who turn back on their word once they start their job, the more I appreciate simple honesty. I’m a doctor partly because it enables me to set up my life outside of medicine financially but it just happens that I really enjoy aspects of the job involving patient care and teaching. Correlating this to photography, if you truly are shooting for yourself, call a spade a spade and shoot what you think makes an image meaningful to you. There’s also nothing wrong with taking shots for social media if likes and faves earn you a living or make you happy. Go out that there an NAIL THAT IMAGE and forget if its actually an icon you’re shooting or just a pretty scene.

This rock at Robe hasn’t reached iconic status yet but even if it does, I will still continue to photograph it!


Posted on July 14, 2015, in Australia, How we..., Photography, Random Musings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Absolutely spot on Dylan. I try to shoot for myself and focus on what I think is interesting. I do hunt around for different compositions, but they have to stand on their own.

  2. I love your analysis, but Damn your photos are exquisite. Really beautiful pieces.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: