You might be asking what do I mean by torched? Here’s how I’m defining it.
I manually removed all my followers.
I manually removed all my followings.
I deleted or archived all my posts and highlights.
Once I committed this virtual seppuku of my account, I felt like a horrible burden had been lifted off me.
Why did I do this?
1. My account still looked and felt inauthentic.
I had removed about 10,000 ghost followers (manually) and got to about 1400 followers. At this point my engagement was 10% without even trying with hashtags or engaging with my audience which was pretty decent. I could get a 30% engagement if I posted a decent photo and engaged with my audience. What gnawed at me was different evaluations of my account comments being inauthentic. I used a calculator like this one. No matter what I did, folks from inauthentic DM groups would comment on my photos no matter what in the hopes that I would engage with them.
2. I was sick of the implied supposition that if someone commented and liked my photo, I owed them the same thing.
Seriously, is every photo awesome? I would look at photographs and see that they would get the same scores or hundreds of comments from the same people on the same kinds of photographs. I get that when you start out in photography you photograph the same thing lots in order to hone your craft, and because of the subtle differences in light, shadow and color. For influencers, photographers become a means to an end: a way to grow a following and a way to get engagement. This reduces the world to a mere photographic resource at the expense of story telling.
3. The interactions on Instagram are (on balance) not healthy, nor what I need.
I’m grateful for all the friends and positive interactions that I’ve had on Instagram. But if I weigh all the pros and cons, I’d have to say overall that my experience on Instagram has been a negative one. You run into so many people that are just using other people to get ahead – that’s simply not healthy.
As someone that is passionate about philosophy, I never found folks who combined philosophy with a love of taking honest photos.
4. There has to be a better way to build community.
Even in its early years, people like Lady Elizabeth Eastlake noted how photography created a motley republic of sorts that crossed barriers of class. There have existed “republics of photographers,” a sort of tribe, global in nature, bound by just the desire to chase light. I remember how in the 1990s travelers would make fast friends with just nothing more than a camera in common. Many think Instagram did this for the first time, but it did not. However, with early Instagram, it was very much possible to travel the whole length of the country and all you needed was an account to gain the hospitality of a stranger.
Now, moving into its 9th year and making Facebook billions last year, you have to wonder if you can even create community with an app so antithetical to it. Instagram has become an ad platform designed to turn your attention and by strip mining your life’s photos into profit. Whatever community is there flourishes despite this, but there really ought to be a better way.
How should photographic communities be really built in the 21st century?
On June 6, 2017 I started photographing with film again. The last time I was super serious about film photography was in high school, where we were blessed with unlimited chemicals and film. Sadly, all my negatives from high school got stolen from my apartment when I was living in Italy.
It was a relief to go analogue, and a respite from digital, especially social media. I could just shoot all day with either my Leica M-A, Pentax K1000, or Argus C3 and never worry about battery life. I could totally unplug and just focus on the real world, and work on producing decent images. I didn’t think about how an Internet audience would react to my photos. The goal was just a print.
I developed most of my film except for the first few months of shooting. For that I went to Photoworks SF. Once I got the hang of shooting film, I joined the local darkroom, The Harvey Milk Photo Center. I bought a bunch of tanks, a slew of chemicals, and a scanner (under $250) to develop and post-process my own film. The tanks, chemicals, darkroom membership, paper, and film come out to under $600 a year to develop and make my own prints. This is assuming I”m shooting 1 roll of film a week, and am just doing black and white. For the most part 90% of what I shot at this time was black and white. If you want to do color, tack on another $300 a year for chemicals and film.
The first trip I took with my film camera was to Oregon with Paul Wozniak and Dave Alcaraz. The familiar panic of film set in. Would the photos come out? With digital I would’ve known right away, but it was refreshing to just focus on my surroundings.
My next trip was at the end of December to Yosemite. There was no snow, but I caught a beautiful moonrise.
After awhile, I soon grew tired of photographing landscapes. There was a feeling that it had all been done before. I devoted more of my efforts to street photography, since the same street was never the same on different days. I went to Cuba with my friends, Dan Fenstermacher and Harvey Castro. We were struck by the perpetual golden hour that suffused the city streets of Havana. I wish I had lots of great shots, but my technique still needed a ton of work. I would get anxious, and click before the shot was there. Dan got an award for 2 of his photos! But all wasn’t lost, I did get a few photos like this one:
Street photography is something you have to do everyday in order to grow. For me 5pm to 6pm is perfect for street photography since there are so many people in the streets. After Cuba, I went to LA with Dan (again) and Armand (@armand67gt on Instagram). My modicum of skill and luck finally hit a level where I was getting the shots I anticipated or previsualized.
After LA, I was in New York for the Nor’easter snow blizzards, and even went out in that weather to photograph. I was very happy with this photo:
For client work, I’ve been stuck with digital. There have been opportunities to offer film, but nobody has taken me up on it. Now that I’m done with a year of shooting film, and look at social media again, I can’t help but be struck with the tyranny of an audience. To produce any lasting art, the masters of the past relied on solitude. Photographing with a film camera and leaving your phone at home has totally provided many hours of solitude these past 12 months.
The pull of the world towards digital is still very strong despite this current film renaissance. There’s such an emphasis on NOW that the expectations are high for getting an image right away. I know that the great photographers rarely dabbled with “old” technology in their own times. Joel Meyerowitz is an exception with his “Connecticut Light” work where he used a large format, view camera that took 8×10 film. As technology advances, a new way of telling a story opens up, and its important to note that potential of that. However, with innovation pushing a new camera 3 or so times a year in the case of Sony, or every 3 years in the case of Leica, and the rest somewhere in between… Is it really worth it to keep up? I would have to say, “No.”
For my own photography, I’ve let film be the thing I shoot for travel, street photography and portraits. The great thing about 35mm film photography is that I’ll never have to upgrade my camera. For landscapes and night time scenes, I know that with a really portable, digital mirrorless kit the photos can come out so clean. However, I know large format, film cameras still can beat digital in landscapes at day time, yet digital is so convenient. Also, every year, the sensors are heading towards 1/30th of a second Milky Way shots that are clean, and at currently, science fiction level ISOs. Will I still shoot film? Yes!
Images are basically free to produce these days. Video, however, has always been a production, especially if its high quality. Where does this leave us? Nostalgia for the past isn’t the way forward, nor is being prisoner to a tech company’s idea of what is art, and what people ought to see. At the end of the day, you have to have a story worth telling that’s so good that even if you’re just sitting by a campfire, people will love it. The same is true for our images. Regardless of what the post-modernists say, exciting photography still has to be about something. Epic images have to be about something you are passionate about.
Do you shoot film? Want to meet up? Let me know in the comments below.
The Internet makes words mean different things. If you used the word, aesthetics, pre-Instagram, then that word could have meant, “The study of the beautiful and to a lesser extent, the ugly.” Post-Instagram, the word can mean, “The results of one’s ‘gains’ from doing things to get swoll,” or to use less idiom, “the physical results of following a fitness regimen.” If you do a search of “aesthetics” on Instagram, a good portion of the 16 million posts is dedicated to hour glass figures and six pack abs.
This is the tragedy of technology: to make the masses masters of words instead of philosophers.
So that thinking about the arts isn’t drowned, I’ve revived for posterity the term, “the philosophy of art,” which is a poor substitute for aesthetics. That word to the ancient Greeks meant simply “of perception,” or the things that came to the senses. It wasn’t until the 18th century that the Greek word became elevated to something akin to “The Philosophy of Art.” Yet it meant so much more, if we consider how the great philosopher, Kant brought brought to light flaws in Humean skepticism regarding space and time by using the Transcendental Aesthetic.
Why the philosophy of art in this point in time and place? There is widespread ignorance of terms such as “temporal power,” and “phenomenology.” The latter is a tool for revealing how many of the arts lack the former. Nobody asks why certain types of photography are privileged over others: well-marketed over authentic, viral over quotidian, digital over film, sharpness over grain, single photos over photo essays. I’ve asked this question, and the answer seems to be a fetishization of technology where pixels are chosen over morsels of meaning. We live in such ignorance of how things were or can be that the simple act of questioning is a radical cure for such ignorance.
From now on this blog will be more about the philosophy of art than photography. I will still post images to illustrate points, to make a point, to surface, to adumbrate, etc. But my main task will be to continue the work of exposing the aesthetic origin of things considered not so aesthetic, e.g. much of technology is an aesthetic choice, and we learned this from Gadamer. Also, much of what is regarded as inspiring photography is merely a technological fetish, and it is this that needs to be exposed.
Update (7/26/2019): The photo stealer now goes by the IG handle tedslittledream – also, this douchebag had the gall to throw a photowalk on the very day I moved to Houston. Anyways, I got news for you haters, I’m back in San Francisco, and have been since November. 😛
If you look at page 32 of issue number one of the Art of Visuals print magazine, you will see at the bottom left, the Aurora Borealis veiled with some wispy clouds and a silhouette. Below this you will see the supposed name of the author, Ted Chin, @eye.c on Instagram. The photo of the Aurora Borealis is not his, and what is in this magazine is a crude attempt at art and plain theft. You see… Ted Chin is a photo stealer. What is more is that he is simply amoral and will do anything to get ahead.
The real photographer of this photo is Scott Slone. How did I figure this out? When I went to the Art of Visuals launch party in San Francisco, my friendship with Ted was already on the outs. You see, I gave him and Brock Sanders the @igerssf account. The moment I gave them this gift of friendship, they totally ignored me and never wanted to hang out with me again. I was duped, and all the times they called me friend was really just lies.
Before being frozen out, Ted and I would have debates. Ted showed me how following and unfollowing could grow an account really quickly. I didn’t think that was a way to grow community, but he really didn’t care about that.
So there I was at the Art of Visuals launch party about a year and a half ago… I thumbed through the magazine and there was a photo of the Aurora Borealis apparently by Ted Chin. No way. He never traveled that far north or anything. I know how tough it is to get these shots, too, because I was in Iceland freezing in the middle of the night just to capture the Aurora. When I got home and got the digital version of the magazine, I ran it through tineye.com and it showed the original photo was created by Scott Slone, @scottslone.
A few days later, I posted my discovery on Instagram.
One user pointed out that on his feed he even went so far as to claim that he took the photo with his Canon.
In fact this interesting exchange occurred:
After this revelation, Ted decided to use his ill-gotten position as a moderator to block me from the @igerssf account. He also decided to go ahead and steal a bunch more photos.
Ted has a video where he’ll show how he innocently goes to a site like Unsplash, and gets the photos there, but if you talk to any of his victims they will tell you that Ted is one of many photo stealers that have stolen their work. Moreover, that Ted is appropriating their images from shady photo dealers.
Scott gave Ted permission to use his photo after the fact, but I believe this was a mistake. This allowed Ted to believe that he could get away with his photo stealing with impunity.
Also, Scott Slone isn’t the only one he’s stolen from.
He stole a photo from someone on Flickr, and this is a response that I received when user, anoldent, found out his work was being sold:
Recently, as of this year, he’s used a stolen photo twice without attribution on the Photoshop account and on a Lightroom and Chill ad:
Whenever I run into Ted at Instameets, I keep my mouth shut. Why bother with the drama? I know Ted trash talks me to other people, and has supporters that are pretty huge. I know that he can use his huge following against me in the same way Trump will use his Twitter followers to bully folks that support good causes like Black Lives Matter. But I also know a ton of those followers are fake or bots or bought!
Here’s Ted’s account on the 31st of January, 2017. It grew by 1500 followers. How was this possible?
I did a little digging.
I found out that you can get your photo featured on Lovewatts for $600. I guess 1500 followers in one day can be bought for $450.
Ted has gone on to be a brand ambassador for Photoshop. Some people would report Ted as stealing their photos and they would get taken down as part of the DMCA. Large corporations though, they see someone with influence, and they don’t care if he’s a photo stealer or not. In my eyes, Ted Chin will always be a photo stealer.