Monday, 5 February 2018

Salon des Refusés

Jardin des Plantes

View from Montmartre

It is a species of idiocy to visit Paris, as I did in October last year, take some good photographs and then to completely ignore them, either because they resemble too much the paintings you've been admiring on the wall of various galleries (a bit of Monet here, a touch of Rivière there, maybe a splash of Derain), or because they're not part of some self-declared project, or simply because they're just too conventionally attractive. It's basically self-censorship motivated by snobbery and a reflex contrarianism, which amounts, as I say, to a sort of stupidity. So here's a little Salon des Refusés of my own work, rejected and then defiantly exhibited. Hah! Take that, me!

These were all taken with the Fuji X20, which has established itself as my "holiday camera". It's conveniently small and robust, feels good to use in the hand, and a feature of the images it produces that I really like is the character of the grain. These may not be the sharpest or smoothest photos you've ever seen, but they have a "painterly" quality – especially at higher ISOs – which is very eye-pleasing. It would be nice to find a replacement camera that produces larger files than 12 megapixels, but so far I have failed to find anything. I had a brief flirtation with a Sony RX100 but didn't like the results; I'm also quite interested in the upcoming Fuji XC 15-45 "pancake" zoom lens (I like the suggestion that it's not so much a "pancake" as a "muffin" zoom) but will await the reviews. But, wow, look at me doing photo-gear talk!

Pompidou Centre nocturne 


Place de la Concorde

So, go on, admit it, Mike: these are pretty good pictures! Don't be so hard on yourself... Although (uh oh, here he comes again, that self-censoring idiot) what are they pictures of, exactly? What sort of experience of "Paris" are we seeing here? Who cares about your straight white western male sensibility any more? You're just another tourist in town, stepping around and ignoring all the homeless and the hopeless, carefully framing them just out of the picture! Why not get your lazy arse out to les banlieues or over to Calais and photograph the real stories? Or better still, why not just get out of the way, and let other, more urgent voices be heard? Besides, "pretty" good is the word: what's with this beauty shit? The world is an ugly, confusing place! Why pretend otherwise?

Hum. Well, I'm not exactly in the way, but I take your point, Meanie-Me. On the other hand, us straight white western males really aren't going to go away – and go and look in a mirror, btw, bro – but we are changing, and I think you'll just have to accept that how we see the world matters to us, if no-one else. We think we have multiple "identities" worth exploring, too. And as for "beauty", if you can't see we're surrounded by it, that we live within it, even at the toughest times and in the most unlikely places, then I feel sorry for you. Though I concede central Paris is the proverbial "low-hanging fruit" in that regard. But, banlieues? Hey, I /we live in Southampton...

Anyway, ignore him, the miserable old PC puritan. Check this out, instead, which I don't think I have posted before, and which, if nothing else, must surely score highly for "original view of an over-photographed object of touristic interest". I don't think you'll find this take on the grand old beige pylon thing on Flickr or Pinterest! Yet...


Martyn Cornell said...

As an ugly, fat, balding,ageing straight white male, I can only say any privilege I have doesn’t seem to be doing me that much good. And there,s my intersectionality right there, thanks.

Mike C. said...


Tell that to the ugly, fat, balding, ageing straight white women... ;)

btw, I can offer help with the second thing (me now being an ugly, *thin*[ish], balding, ageing straight white male), but you're stuck with the rest!


Struan said...

When we had a trip to Paris with the kids, I tried hard not to experience the whole thing through the viewfinder, or to be always thinking of photographs. Some of the pics I took were clichés, but they were our clichés, and a true record of a family trip with a well-established itinerary. I don't inflict them on others as 'my photography'.

I think Mike Chisholm shines through in these (though there's a disconcerting lack of barrier tape and temporary fencing). The pigeon is great.


Mike C. said...


I have been blessed with a family who have never minded -- even encouraged -- my lens-based activities. They just keep walking on and leave me behind...

Thanks, btw -- although it does seem to be the case that the "wherever you go, there you are" thing gets truer, the older you get. I suppose it's a bit like being lucky -- the more you practice, the luckier you get!