the irrationality of slamming tools that make hard things easy

Daniel at has an interesting post about a talk by photographer Ron deVries, who slams Photoshop as being a “toy”. Daniel (though he respects Ron as a photographer) goes on to explain why this sort of thinking is just nutso.

Here’s my take on it:

When people perceive their livelihood to be threatened, they tend to act in irrational (or rational but dishonest) ways. I would guess that the combination of two things led Ron deVries to say these things:

  1. he’s seen a lot of really cheezy work done in Photoshop, and
  2. he sees people able to gain the skill in hours or days to do digitally what took him weeks or years to learn to do optically and chemically. And they can perform these feats in seconds, while it still takes him minutes or hours.

The first item (if my speculation is correct) is what he uses to justify putting down Photoshop, and the second is what motivates him to put it down. His skills are not nearly so valuable if some upstart can catch up to him

I would agree that film has a quality to it (I can’t put my finger on it) that I’ve never seen in (my own) digital pictures. And I certainly prefer using my Olympus OM-1 (which forces me to do everything manually) to any digital camera I’ve used. It feels nicer, and I’m almost always happy with the results, although I can’t quantify how or why it is better, or even be certain that it is1.

This irrationality is not limited to Photoshop-bashing, however. I’ve seen contracting gigs for web development that said they wouldn’t take anyone who used Dreamweaver, as if everyone who uses Dreamweaver is a slave to the wysiwyg mode and can’t code HTML for themselves. Actually, Dreamweaver can be used as a pretty nice text editor with features particularly suited to web development. I personally use TextMate and Dreamweaver in tandem, and use the wysiwyg mode mainly to navigate to other parts of my code (especially with legacy table-based layouts, which can be a real pain otherwise). But if someone is able to get the right results with wysiwyg mode (that might not be possible in this case–I’m not sure, but for sake of argument let’s pretend it is) then who cares? It’s the results that matter, and any tool can be used in a multitude of ways. Just because a tool *is* used by uninspired hacks doesn’t make all of its users into uninspired hacks. And just because a tool lends itself to cheezy results doesn’t mean that a user with vision and taste can’t make that tool deliver something worthwhile. Judging a piece of work by the tool used is prejudice, pure and simple. We must let the results speak for themselves.

  1. The one exception is that I’d like to have auto-focus on my OM-1. I’d like to have the camera focus, and then let me adjust it if it I want before taking the picture.
Explore posts in the same categories: Software, Technology, This Electronic Life

One Comment on “the irrationality of slamming tools that make hard things easy”

  1. danielweinand Says:

    Brandon, I could not explain it better. I agree with what you say even though there was a time when I would judge people on the tools they are using. I used to spend a lot of time in Logic Audio recording and mixing tracks when one day some application from the Nether Hell called “Majix Music Maker” appeared and all at sudden every fourteen year old was dragging a two half-cut song-samples together, boasting they just created a song. It seemed frustrating at first thinking of it would devalue me as an artist. Eventually I figured that: yes, it is good that those who don’t have either the money, time or passion now have a really accessible option to become familiar with what i love – music. Also in the end only those with a passion and vision will stick to and be successful regardless of the tools.

    PS: Textmate is very lovely indeed 🙂

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