Photography Topics: 12 Random Don’ts by Alfred Stieglitz (And So Much More)

“Don’t believe that you become an artist the instant you received a gift Kodak on Xmas,” says photographer Alfred Stieglitz in an article. Mr. Stieglitz needs no introduction for those of us who have studied him and his works; but you’ll be elated to know of an article that he published years ago in a now dead publication called Photography Topics. The article entitled “12 random don’ts” (notice their spelling in the piece) is all about a number of things he doesn’t recommend as a photographer.

For many of us, the list holds up even into today.

In specific regards to that one quote, we tell this to one another all the time the moment that a friend gets a brand new DSLR or mirrorless camera. Indeed, it isn’t about the camera, it’s how you use it. A person using a Holga could easily create aesthetically better images with a different camera. To that end, you can look at cameras in the same way that a mechanic looks at tools: you wouldn’t use a spanner when you need a screwdriver instead.

One of his best quotes in 12 Random Don’ts by Alfred Stieglitz is the following:

“Don’t believe that because of your lack of taste you are privileged to air your opinions on pictorial photography and art matters in general. The world in its entirety is not a camera club.”

Sound like anyone you know? Trolls maybe? There are loads of them on the internet these days who try to give their opinions on things they don’t understand. But at the same time, sometimes when you go into real life camera clubs there are folks who fuss over some of the smallest and most non-important parts of images. Part of this is due to a lot of very old school mentalities that haven’t necessarily evolved over time in combination with, well, what I’d love to call privilege in some way or another due to being able to afford the latest camera.

12 Random Don’ts by Alfred Stieglitz is incredibly fun to read and contemplate based on how photography was back in 1909 to how it is today in 2017. When you look back at the time period then, it’s astounding to see that we’re still going through a lot of the same challenges due to photography’s reinvention over the times. Everyone used to shoot large and medium format, then 35mm became mainstream, then digital and now your mobile phone.

Here’s another piece from the same issue called: Notes on Street Photography. Did you know that they used to just associate it with landscapes?

12 Random Don’ts by Alfred Stieglitz is part of Photographic Topics. You can find more of Photographic Topics over at the free Google Book.

Big thanks to Thomas Evans for the tip

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.