There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of photographer Jake Olson before, but many people are learning of that name this week. He’s a self-proclaimed “famous” American photographer who’s now at the center of major controversy in the photography world.

Source: Petapixel (see above)

I hadn’t heard of Jake Olson before I read this post on Petapixel. So I took a look at his website and read some other comments on the internet. Is he a famous and/or successful photographer? I suppose he is to a certain extent – if one measures such things by visibility in social media and money (if indeed he really makes as much as he claims, a claim which I have no reason to dispute). However, it seems to me that there’s more to being ‘famous’ and ‘successful’ than these two areas. I’m fascinated by the history of photography and spend quite a bit of time studying famous photographers. He isn’t in their class. True his images are much better than mine (but then I don’t profess to be a ‘famous’ and ‘successful’ photographer – far from it: I know my pictures aren’t much good), but those of his I’ve seen are one dimensional, have pretty much the same look, are over-saturated. Moreover if, as I often read, photographs should say something then his don’t say much. His pictures don’t seem to sell for millions of dollars (which puts him in a different league to such luminaries as Cindy Sherman, Andreas Gursky and the like) and they don’t have the emotional impact of such old-time greats as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others. Still he apparently makes a good living (much better than I do) doing what he does and I don’t begrudge him that. He’s found a niche (a bit like the late Thomas Kinkade) and is capitalizing on it – good for him.

I would wish him all success in his endeavours if it weren’t for his behaviour. His comments are, as far as I’m concerned, beyond the pale. Of course he might, as he suggests, be making these kind of comments largely to stir up more activity on his Facebook page. If so to me this doesn’t excuse what he’s saying. Unfortunately this type of speech is more and more common today, and more disturbingly more and more accepted. Donald Trump has legitimized this kind of behaviour. Having said this I have to say that I don’t much like many of the things said against him either. They’re almost as bad as anything he has said.

Whatever happened to class?

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