The No-Filter Cult

An image has to speak for itself.

An image has to speak for itself.

Yes, we can now instantly publish our photographs for the entire world to see, but it’s a world of critics and dogmatists. I see the smug #nofilter hashtag on social media and snicker at the arrogance of it. In the 1970s I carried a red filter, a yellow filter, a polarizing filter, and a diffusion filter wherever I carried my camera, and I used them frequently. 100 years earlier, Edweard Muybridge photographed Yosemite on giant glass plate negatives, and if he liked Half-Dome in one and the clouds in another, he sandwiched the plates for printing. No filters my ass.

Photography presents an opportunity to express honest feelings, but it is not the representational art so many mistake it for. Never has been. Impressionist painters in the 19th century decried photography as “unrealistic,” because photography stops time – but time does not stop. We’re not recording moments; we’re creating them.

You have the camera I dreamed of owning in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, with instant feedback, instant processing, and instant worldwide publishing. We live in wondrous times.

Digital photography may be the most democratized form of self-expression ever, and an excellent medium for self-exploration. The photographs you make are YOURS. Play as much as you want. Layer filter on filter on filter if you damn well please. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll go too far. You’ll learn as you go, and you’ll learn to see the world anew. Ultimately, the image will speak for itself. If people are more concerned with how it was made than how it makes them feel, perhaps you haven’t communicated as well as you wished to. Or perhaps that’s THEIR problem. If you’re being paid to make images, you need to please others. Otherwise, have at it!

My philosophy is that the basic operating principle of life itself is infinite diversity. Therefore, whether you want to fit in or stand out, the most effective choice is to be yourself. Play. Learn. Repeat. And beware of snobbish rules that inhibit self-discovery.

I'll play with my images as much as I damn well please, thank you.

I’ll play with my images as much as I damn well please, thank you.