Photography Reconsidered: #80Stays with Trey Ratcliff

Photography these days is in a strange place:

Everybody snaps so many pictures, they have lost all value.
So much is being done in Photoshop, there is little reality anymore.

And many photographers are among the most-followed people online.

Is it all but superficial artifice and the allure of the traveling lifestyle, though? No way to #GetAtHome as everything is only seen through a lens and a screen (or a viewfinder, at best)?

Trey Ratcliff and #80Stays

Case in point if you want to be critical: Trey Ratcliff.

I have my misgivings about his work; the karst landscape around Guilin never looks like it does in his photos, and a drone flight in central Beijing should obviously be illegal, not a reason to tell a heroic story.

But, being critical like that from afar is easy (and tinged with not a little jealousy).

Trey Ratcliff in Vienna
Trey Ratcliff in Vienna

Getting to know a little more of what someone thinks and how they explain what they do is still – and all the more – worthwhile.

So, as Trey happened to visit Vienna on his 80 Stays Around the World tour through Europe, and at a time where I could make it to (most of) the photo walk, at least, I jumped at that chance.

We managed a few words, he also explained quite a bit of his (current) approach on the walk, and I think it was all worth it.

More on that in my vlog on all that:

Photography: Artistic or Journalistic?

You’ll just, following what I feel I learned, have to decide what you want photography to be for you:

Exercise that “interesting” muscle!

Is it journalism, then realism would count.

For work like his, though, there is quite the artistic intent.

That, of course, is where things like the HDR he’s known for comes in. And he’s clearly – as is obvious from some of his explanations on the walk – not afraid of using Photoshop and implementing ideas of how something should be post-processed, even cut and copied and changed, to make for an interesting image.

Master and Motive: Trey Ratcliff at Vienna's State Opera
Master and Motive: Trey Ratcliff at Vienna’s State Opera

Me, I still think we could do with a bit more reality.

But I’d probably frame and hang up a photo made his way: Popping colors, greater artistic intent.

See the World (Anew)

Either way, we were of one mind on one thing (I think):

Your practice of photography is what you make of it.

Approach it as a means of paying more attention to the world (even if “just” on the lookout for things that would make great motives), and you will learn to see the world through different eyes.

Feel free to contribute