A nostalgic scene from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
“One Morning at Liberty Furnace”–A nostalgic scene from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia

As an art photographer, I’m continually amazed that so many of my peers think that everyone else must be as enamored with photographic equipment as they themselves must be. Why else would they make it certain that I know what f stop, shutter speed, ISO, camera model, and lens they used to take a particular picture?

Maybe they think my knowing this information will be critically helpful when I show up at the same vantage point, and same time of day, and even the same day of the year and under the same lighting conditions, just so I can replicate that very same picture. I can’t think of another reason why someone else would want me to know this information.

Or maybe their web gallery software assumes they want to communicate all the EXIF  data, and there’s no way to turn it off. EXIF data are all those pieces of crap technical information the camera (largely digital cameras) embeds into the picture file where it remains forever. Photo sharing sites like Flickr, Pbase, and others don’t make it easy to make EXIF data invisible to viewers. But it can be done, and they probably should make it easier.

Or, maybe they have nothing else to say about the picture, but they think they have to say SOMETHING….

I’ve written before about the importance of storytelling in art and especially in photographic art. Whether we, as artists, write a narrative that helps viewers see the same story as us or if we choose not to tell our story, the story is still there. Sometimes, the title we give an image is the story. Sometimes the story is meant to be ambiguous, so the less said the better.

The problem I have with overt disclosure of EXIF data is that I find it very distracting. It may be because when I look at an art photograph, my mind wants to  swim among the neurons on my creative, subjective right brain. Then BANG, I notice that the picture was taken with a Canon Mark XXXI with 10-500mm lens at f64 and 1/10,000 sec, and the mood is destroyed. EXIF data excites the objective left brain which competes for attention with it’s right side. Too often the left brain wins.

If you are among those who think that disclosing all that sexy EXIF data is important to anyone besides your camera, you should reconsider that thinking. It can turn people from enjoying the image on its artistic merits to, in some cases, objective revulsion.

So if all you have to say about an image you created is contained in the EXIF data, perhaps it’s time you began saying nothing at all.









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