17 July, 2008

The List to End All Lists

Recently, I was told about a “top-ten list” which was published in one of the photo-magazines, a list detailing the best wedding photographers in the world.

I did not see this list or this magazine, but through the grapevine, I heard that there were many people who were somewhat upset by the photographers who ended up on this grand list.

My response to hearing this was laughter. Not laughter in a twisted way, just laughter in a pity way, laughing at anyone who was caught up in this current trend of list making or list reading.

First of all, if you haven’t noticed, it seems that every magazine is now making “list” issues at an alarming rate. But why you ask?

Well, the reason for all the lists is that our collective attention span is getting shorter and shorter. There was a study done recently regarding how we humans take in information in the technology age.

Due to our copious time spent on the internet, we are now taking in far more information than ever before, so much so that our brains, in some cases, have relearned how we process this information.

Anyone having trouble reading a book? This is one of the new signs that your brain might be having difficulty dealing with anything longer than the brief, pamphlet, or…..web story! Pick up a copy of The Atlantic. Their average article feels like War & Peace.

So, now we have the “list.”

For the magazines, these are a piece of cake. They require almost no text, can be about anything and require only tiny photographs, leaving room for more ad space dollars.

And, most importantly, they satisfy our need for the short, the simple, the easy, the fast.

In my opinion, they are a constant reminder of where we are headed, a world of fast-twitch journalism.

How about “Top Ten Places To Live,” the list you pray your hometown NEVER ends up on.

One of my favorites is the “Most Important People” list. I never tire of this one.

So back to the wedding photographer list.

When I hear about something like this, my response typically has nothing to do with the names on the list. My thoughts go straight to who created the list and why.

How old is this person? How long have they been in the industry? How long have they been a photographer? I don’t mean how long they have owned a camera. I mean how long have they actually been a photographer? How long have they been shooting weddings?
Or, was it a committee that chose?

Personally, I don’t’ think you can make a list like this unless you are on the inside of what you are listing about. I think most of the time, the people making these lists, have very little knowledge of what they are listing about.

I think this is the squeaky wheel syndrome. And hey, let’s not knock the squeaky wheel system, these lists, I think, are proof of how well this system works.

Someone said that this wedding list didn’t have any European photographers on it. I’m not sure if that is true, but my question was, “How about Latin American photographers? African? Asian?

Perhaps it would have been better to name this list, “The Top Ten American Wedding Photographers.” Or, “The Top Ten Wedding Photographers That This Author Knows About.”

The “World” title suggests a little bit too much ego.

Several of the best wedding photographers I know are complete unknowns. They don’t advertise, and they don’t tell people anything about what they are doing. They just shoot great pictures.

I can’t imagine them ever ending up on a list.

Lastly, for those who are upset over this list. Don’t’ worry about it. I shot weddings for several years and I never had a client mention anything about a list, ever, at any time. If this list was in a photo-magazine, I don’t think most brides are going to see it.

Here is some advice. Make you own list and put it on your homepage. “Top Ten Reasons to Hire Me,” list.

1-I’m cool.
2-I’m great looking.
3-I’m really funny.
4-I have a cool car.
5-Your mom will love me.
6-I’m exotic.
7-I workout
8-I wear all black.
9-I use the word “amazing” in every sentence.
10-I’m all about image.

Now, these are MY top ten. I’m not suggesting you use these! Make your own!! I already copyrighted this list and patented it as well. So don’t even think of using it. The t-shirts are being made right now. And the DVD. And I’m teaching a workshop regarding the list.

Good luck.


Wishful Mommy said...

well, #1 is accurate

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

You sound a tiny bit harsh you know? I bet those photographers were thrilled to be on the list and it brought some nice business their way. And hopefully, none of them suck and people who hire them will get nice photos of their special day.

The list serves a purpose. It's objective, of course, but so is everything. I write articles with my lists, too..... favorite things to do in Marrakech, pretty baubles to buy, places to dine....Does this make me a crappy journalist? I hope not. Is it useful to some people? I hope so.

SmogRanch said...

As for the list trend, it is a phenomenon at the moment. It has always been around, but recently, due to the factors I mentioned, it has exploded on the market. It's not the only indicator. Newspaper articles are shorter than ever. It is not to say they are bad articles, they are just SHORT. The modern audience, as a whole, seems to be seeking the written snippet. When you watch CNN, how many different visual references are blasting at you on one screen? Four? Five? The anchor, the stock market, breaking news, the logo of the network, etc, again, all pieces of the same puzzle. Shorter, faster, more information, less time and space.