Some of you know of an ugly email exchange I have had with Mr. Binoo K. John. I now wonder why I even bothered taking the time to respond to his uninformed assertions about photography, his presentation skills and his approach to the photography business.
Mr. John in his most recent emails threatens me by saying that I will “face the consequences” if I don’t remove the post that called him on his deficiencies.
He initially initiated contact to have his site linked. As it is only natural to check the site one is about to link to, I reviewed the site and explained to him why I didn’t think his site was such a great fit on my site. He should have left it at that. When I declined his request, Mr. John’s vitriolic emails calling me names spurred me on to retort back with what I really thought of his site, his photography and his business ideas [yes, in public because he urged me to have his views published]. I used his own images to show that he lacked the knowledge to present his work in an aesthetic manner and felt as a seasoned photographer that his images were far from professional. While that is largely relative, there are still some standards that I adhere by; one being the images you present, whether they are high or low resolution images shouldn’t be so impossible to view because their quality, well, sucks. I also found issue with the way he was hawking his images; devaluing the art and practice of photography and giving the profession of photojournalism a black eye.
Mr. John emailed back to say that he has high resolution images that are crisp, clean, color corrected and content-driven. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that he has these at the ready to sell to us NRI’s [non resident indians, who don’t know what that means] for a $1 a piece. Why he doesn’t publish low-resolution images on his site that are also crisp, clean, color correcte, content-driven and easily viewable is really beyond me. As Aditya commented, I ought to perhaps just let Mr. John do his thing and people will figure it out for themselves.
My commentary was a review of his site and his skills as a photographer. I haven’t read his books but by reviews of them on the at least the Outlook magazine site they look like they were panned rather than ‘critically acclaimed.’ So, I am not so sure why Mr. John keeps writing to me to say that I have “libeled him” and “put hurdles in the way of my carrying out my independent profession and caused damage to my reputation as a writer and photographer.” If he found my words critical of his skills as a photographer, he ought to take Outlook magazine to court as well for not being so thrilled about his books. He goes on to say that my intentions were malicious. Far from it. I had hoped our private conversations were taken as constructive and instructive. Obviously my sincere intentions backfired on me.
I believe in learning and teaching. However, if you approach me with the attitude that I should do you a favor and accept whatever you pile on me, I am going to take you task. If your approach is about fostering a collective learning experience, as my new friend Tahir Amin has done, then we can work on an equal footing. The exchange of true knowledge begins with humility not egoism.
In any event, being open to criticism is absolutely key. I do not for a nanosecond believe this site or even my own photography is at a level where it should be. There is always more to be learned and my work can always be improved. But at least I recognize those facts. I have received numerous emails telling me how to improve this site and I have taken them all to heart; acting on the advice when time permits and socking away ideas for a day when I can devote time to make those improvements. And to be fair, I have shown my work to many a newspaper editor and had my portfolio shot down for content, vision, quality and presentation! One simply cannot take things personally in this business. Not everyone is going to be happy or thrilled with what you have produced. At some level, your art is your own. But if you are going to share it and then ultimately market it, your work better be at a level that is nothing short of exemplary. And you have to be open to have your work commented on and critiqued (and critcized) if you want to stay in this business. To use a cliché, Mr. John, if you can’t handle the fire, get out of the kitchen.
When I saw his poor presentation and lackluster images, Mr. John’s audacious claims that he is a professional photographer riled my sensibilities and I do admit that I became defensive. Far too many people are able to now at the click of a button claim that they are professional photographers. I am all for citizen journalism but it needs to be recognized as such. I have seen photo bloggers who don’t call themselves professional photographers with better, more interesting, portfolios. But let me really stop here. This is hardly an attack on Mr. John “the person.” I do not know him personally. Nor do I wish to. It’s a critical assessment of him as a purported professional photographer and review of his publicly accessible work. And given that his site is in the public domain, it’s open as much to constructive criticism as it is to praise.
Mr. John’s beef with me is that I called him on his inconsistencies in private, then published my thoughts publicly on this blog (again because he clearly challenged me to do so). Now he wants me to take it all down. I am afraid I cannot in good conscience do so as it cuts down my ability to express my thoughts (in essence censoring myself).
This is a blog – a weblog – where personal ruminations, including sharing opinions, are expected and accepted. Mr. John, if you don’t like what you see here, feel free to visit another website or shut your machine down for the day. Here is one “demented NRI” saying – we’ll all be the better for it.