"Selling aesthetic, not photographs"

by Shannon Polugar

It isn’t often that I come across an article in the art world that makes me bristle, but a recent article published by MyModernMet.com left me feeling raw, and not in the file type kind of way.

The article most simply put is about a young photographer named Fabio Zingg, who has captured some pretty incredible landscape images of the Swiss Alps, and then traveling to other ranges around the world. This alone was perfectly fine. His photographs are quite beautiful and some of them remind me of famous images taken elsewhere: a combination of paying homage to the ones that came before him while finding a way towards his own style.

  This photo, taken by Zingg of a traveling companion in Norway, is reminiscent of the Glacier Point photographs taken in Yosemite in the late 1800s, such as the one by George Fiske seen below.

This photo, taken by Zingg of a traveling companion in Norway, is reminiscent of the Glacier Point photographs taken in Yosemite in the late 1800s, such as the one by George Fiske seen below.

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However it is not his sense of aesthetics that bothered me, but the commoditization of that aesthetic.

“Thanks to a recently released collection of Adobe Lightroom filter presets, anyone can now achieve his deep tone aesthetic.”

Following the link presented in the article brought me to the landing page where I too could purchase the presets he used to make the images shine for $35.

So much of what we do as photographers is finding a style that is our own, something that makes someone look at our photos and not mistake us for some other photographer. It would be happiness to see someone recognizing the photographers who inspired us when they view our images, but also recognize how our own style is different, how our own style is an evolved version.

Now money is always an issue too. Selling those presets surely could help finance our photography. Printing isn’t cheap. Cameras and lenses need servicing every now and then. Portfolio boxes and the goodies that accompany them to try and have our work shown and sold cost more than a pretty penny. Could I imagine myself creating a set of presets for Lightroom or Camera RAW and selling them to help out? I sure could. Would I do that with the presets I’ve made for what I am trying to develop as my signature style? Not on your life.

Past the initial shock of finding this, I have to wonder what this does to the meaning of photography. The meaning of Zingg’s photographs is inherently altered by the salesman-like hawking of his aesthetic. Why were they taken? Were they just a sales pitch? Even his social media feels more like a sale-pitch first and artistic endeavors second.

 Little information on the actual photographer himself can be found, but pretty much anywhere you find his photographs, that sales pitch for the presets is the first thing you find.

Little information on the actual photographer himself can be found, but pretty much anywhere you find his photographs, that sales pitch for the presets is the first thing you find.

What saddens me after the initial bristling to what I found as a blatant disregard for any uniqueness his style had, is that I can’t look at his photographs the same was as if I hadn’t see the sales-pitch. They feel a little less remarkable, like someone has taken the magic away. I still enjoy the view, but at least for me, the wow factor is lost.

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