Review of Anti Manual of Street Photography, v. 2 , written by Michail Moscholios
By Tzen Xing
Finally, there’s someone who cares, thinks and writes deeply about photography today. It’s Michail Moscholios, author of the “Anti Manual of Street Photography, v. 2.” We are living in an unprecedented time when millions of photos are churned out daily online, most of them formulaic, repetitive and forgettable, threatening to drown us all in a tsunami of mediocrity. Michail offers us a helping hand with his Anti Manual. His book, accessible freely online, provides us with many intriguing images and 14 chapters full of revelations, sometimes practical, often provocative, always inspiring, never boring, preachy or pedantic. His writings are an astonishing flow of brilliant insights, visionary thoughts, and intense convictions. Not an easy accomplishment, especially when he tackles the timely and hard questions: What is a good or great photographer? What is a good or great photograph? What is the difference? There are no easy answers, but like a good guide, he maps out the pitfalls and bullshit to avoid.
In Chapter 9, The “Real” Photographer, he advises us not to be shackled by settings, presets, gear, composition, or projects. Instead, shoot like you’re obsessed, like Winogrand, who didn’t give a fuck about talking about photography, or anything else that prevented him from prowling the streets, high on shutter hits. We can be sure that Garry would not have wasted his precious time on Facebook!
This book is not for the faint of heart, the dilettante or the social media addict. So who is it for? Well, anyone who wants to challenge their limitations, or for a breakthrough outside the box rather than a break. It’s for those who choose “madness” over “mediocrity,” which Michail describes as “very easy to achieve. Just let hypocrisy, egotism and conformism invade you.” It’s for the “visionary rebel photographer” who creates images as an act of rebellion. He urges us to resist the enslavement of our creativity to experts, judges, critics, and curators. Run as fast as you can from their dictates about formulas and composition (leading lines, fill the frame, the rule of thirds, sharpness, etc.). Avoid like hell the cliches, pretensions, rules, recipes, comfort zones, me-only narcissism, going viral, and the tyranny of “likes.” He is a fierce advocate for creative freedom, urging us to have faith in our instincts, dreams, feelings and experiences (even failures), instead of following like sheep the latest trends. He has deep empathy for the photographers who create images as an existential struggle against an increasingly oppressive, alienating and prison-like world. He’s on the side of photographers who dare to take the red pill, “when all becomes a paradox” and “what we seek, the real hunt, is the impossible, the invisible, the immaterial, the dream. We want a picture that contains both the tangible and the futile.” (Chp. 12, Revelations).
Unsurprisingly, at this point some of us may despair that the pursuit of a great image is as elusive and challenging as finding the tomb of Genghis Khan. But life is short, there’s no time for regrets, and failures can lead the way to unexpected destinations. Let’s remember Michail’s farewell as we embark on our adventure of a lifetime, “Go shoot and then present your work knowing that you are a hero! Because it takes courage to reveal, to share the intimate moments of a partial failure, to understate that to be a good photographer is not an eternal achievement but just a clandestine touch of genius!”
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