The Worst Thing You’ll Read About Cars Today

macan

Can anybody tell me what this opening sentence means? But it gets worse. Much worse.


Panorama, the official magazine of the Porsche Club, was redesigned a few years ago, under the direction of Pete Stout. There are a couple decades’ worth of the magazine in my basement; I’ve been a PCA member since 2002 or thereabouts but I also bought a substantial archive of Panoramas from the Seventies and Eighties when an older PCA’er in my region decided to simplify his life. Prior to the Stout era, “Pano” was a stodgy little book, featuring a consistent but extremely boring design theme that was vaguely related to Porsche advertising of the past thirty years. I primarily read it for the classifieds, but once in a while you’d find a nice historical piece or technical deep-dive in there.

When Stout redesigned it, Panorama went roughly from octavo size to super or imperial octavo size and the quality of the photographs, I’m told, went through the roof. I really couldn’t say. I’m part of Generation X, which means that I grew up reading magazines with terrible photography and/or illustrations. Other than the Ichiro Nagata pistol-porn that I’d occasionally see in American Handgunner and the like, I never really paid attention to the putative quality of photographs.

For better or worse, I always thought of photography as fundamentally feminine. It’s observational, receptive. During my years as a BMX rider, I kept running into people who had decided to make it their life to be “action sports photographers”, standing around trails or skateparks waving their cameras and videos at us. I always thought it was kind of pansy-assed. Why would you take a picture of somebody jumping a set of doubles when you could strap up and jump the doubles yourself? Better to be a lousy rider than a great photographer.

Writing, on the other hand, always seemed essentially masculine. You’re telling a story. It’s the same role that our prehistoric ancestors assigned to the senior men of the tribe. Most of history’s great writers have been men; to prove this to yourself, ask ten well-educated people to name their favorite male writers and then ask them to name their favorite female writers. You’ll get ten very different lists of men and ten fundamentally similar lists of women.

As a society, we intrinsically understand that writing is superior to photography. That’s why books full of photographs are derided as “coffee-table stuff”, to be flipped-through while one is waiting for something more important to occur. Yet photography and its bastard child, video-making, have risen in this age to outshine the written word. You can blame the short attention span of Millennials, you can blame a culture that takes children from the outdoors and places them in front of a blinking screen for hours at a time, or you can blame a soaring rate of functional illiteracy.

While all of those are certainly contributing factors, I think the biggest reason people are turning to photography over writing is their perception that photography is value-neutral. Even in the age of Photoshop, most of us see a photograph as being essentially “true” while text is, at its core, biased and argumentative. A photograph of an automobile is value-neutral, or at least perceived as such; a review of an automobile is biased. We’ve now raised thirty years’ worth of human beings who are uncomfortable with explicit value judgments and whose reaction to polemic or rhetoric is to retreat to the nearest safe-space hugbox for reassurance.

No surprise, then, that the Stout-era Panorama is praised from all sides. Truth be told, however, I’ve thrown the last few years’ worth of issues directly in the trash. If you want to understand why, this will help. It’s not really writing as such; it’s gushing over what is probably the worst and most depressing Porsche in the company’s history. The purpose of it is to convince more people to buy a Macan. This kind of drivel doesn’t serve the readers, and it certainly doesn’t serve the interests of the Porsche Club of America, which won’t survive the next decade if it relies on Macan owners to fill its rolls and attend its meetings.

If the old air-cooled 911s were like the poetry of Eliot or Pound — difficult yet rewarding, fierce in their division of opinion — the Macan is like a big coffee-table book full of gorgeous photos. It’s easy to understand, easy to approach, easy to consume, just as easy to forget and throw away and replace. Here’s another thing about photography: people don’t remember it. Think of the ten greatest things you’ve ever read. Now think of the ten greatest photographs you’ve ever seen. Could you even do it? QE to the motherfucking D, my friend. And that won’t change, even after the media society turns our minds into paste.

72 Replies to “The Worst Thing You’ll Read About Cars Today”

  1. Chris Tonn

    Jack, forgive my position as a non-Porsche owner, but how closely related are PCA and Porsche? I can imagine that PCA ranks swelling greatly, as those new Macan owners express themselves as “joiners”.

    I can see a new Macan owner dressing as Joey Tribbiani did, with Porsche gear head-to-toe, and PCA can benefit from that.

    Perhaps Panorama is now simply another shill publication for the OEM.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      PCA and Porsche are joined at the hip. To put it mildly. So much so that there’s a special “Club Coupe” 911 for PCA owners only that costs an extra $20,000 for no real reason.

      Reply
  2. Derek Kreindler

    Re: photography being passive, I’d respectfully disagree. To make a good photograph, one needs to understand concepts like geometry and spatial sense, which are inherently masculine from a biological point of view. It requires patience, self-control and a good sense of judgment, virtues which are also traditionally the domain of gentlemen. There is a measure of technical competence necessary, from understanding aperture and shutter speed to developing your negatives and making prints. It’s also possible to tell a story with a photograph – tell me that Robert Capa’s photos of D-Day don’t do that. You can argue that he could have picked up a rifle and fought alongside the Allies. I’d argue that in aggregate, we are a lot better off with the tangible recording of one of our greatest military campaigns.

    Of course, none of this matters if we are talking about the current aesthetic, which is mostly about showing up with a full-frame DSLR set on Automatic and then turning every photo into a heavily saturated HDR mess in post-processing. That is the epitome of value-neutral pap, requiring no technical skill beyond a credit card with enough of a limit to buy a 5D and a copy of Lightroom. But these are the “HPDE champions” of the photography world.

    Reply
    • Frank Galvin

      My wife restarted her photography business after a ten year hiatus. In adding to what Derek stated, the only thing feminine about her work is the manner in which she sets her poses, props, etc for the customer. She tried teaching me the mechanics, and its a challenge. I can only compare her skillset to executing finish carpentry on a renovated 200 year old New England home (my former line of work). Working with old and new timber, marrying the smallest details of an off center crown molding joint; reclaiming 150 year old barn floors to turn into the dining room floor of the project, saving horsehair plaster walls, etc. Each of these tasks requires exquisite attention to detail, planning, understanding how the material will work in your hands, adjusting your hand ever so slightly to plane detail molding to fit up against something as old as the Civil war, hand and eye coordination etc. Pardon the run on, but maybe the point is something a bit more simple. The camera is akin to a gun, bow, or bench plane. Its a tool that requires “patience, self-control and a good sense of judgment.”

      Now, lets not ask her about her competition; the MommyTogs – armed with credit cards, the Adobe suit from Amazon, and an unhealthy obsession on Pinterest. NTAC – no talent ass clowns as my cop friends say.

      Reply
  3. everybodyhatesscott

    Photography complements good writing. It’s why every article or story you write has a photo up top.

    Video usually replaces a story and it’s a horrible medium to quickly convey information. I don’t think there’s anything I loathe more than someone videotaping themselves talk about something inconsequential. It’s just terrible.

    Reply
    • Economist

      Yes, the sudden popularity of Youtube and embedded videos is frustrating to say the least.
      Burying your point in a mess of intro animations, greetings, ums and ahs is no way to convey information.
      I miss web 1.0, where information may have needed filtering, but at least you could filter it quickly.

      Reply
  4. Jim

    There is no way that a publication such as Panorama is taken seriously by anyone without PorscheDesign Brand blinders on. I love my Porsche but realize that there are few truly impartial words written about it. In publication form (print or blog), the writer generally depends on the factory for access which obviously creates a conflict or goes off the other end, and comes off looking like (or pretty much implicitly agreeing that) he has an axe to grind.

    Excellence has the same issue, it’s not as good as it used to be and really is only useful for A) specifications, B) interesting historical information/articles and C) Buyer’s Guides. Anything written about anything new will never be actually critical of the subject and while even the advice column used to be interesting why would anyone nowadays wait three months for an answer when Rennlist and several other excellent forums exist that can pretty much answer anything immediately.

    The Macan may or may not be the best thing since sliced bread, but fluff pieces like these really don’t do anything but reinforce to an owner that they made the right decision in dropping close to or over 6 figures with options on a car the size of a Rav4 with a more powerful engine than they will reasonably be able to take full advantage of with any regularity.

    That being said, a buddy of mine has a Macan GTS on order for April delivery, I’ve already told him I have dibs on it in three years at 30 cents on the dollar with maybe an extra penny per dollar if he keeps every receipt including car washes. He cringed but couldn’t really deny it, he’ll now have a 3-Porsche garage but this is the first that he’s buying new and not getting to experience that sweet, sweet depreciation in his favor.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Excellence relied on Bruce Anderson to give it soul. With his death, there’s nothing left. Without Bruce, the IMS/RMS issues would still be considered mythical. Same for valve guides on the 993, head gaskets on the 964, tensioners on the SC…

      Reply
  5. Felis Concolor

    I got to “Aligning these stars was no easy task,” and nearly coughed up my morning meal; that’s so transparently pandering it’s freakin’ hilarious.

    “-the Macan is like a big book full of . . . ” Maya Angelou’s banalities.

    In the vernacular of the youth: FTFY.

    Reply
  6. David Walton

    I usually ignore PCA emails but the particular missive that sparked this article caught my eye too.

    I don’t understand the need for PCA to fluff the Macan; most Macan buyers aren’t really PCA types (big time marque enthusiasts), but most PCA types would love to own a Macan/Cayenne/Panamera if it fit their needs/lifestyle. I really doubt that PCA gets many new members from those who enter the marque through a 5 door Porsche.

    I am a fan of the new Panorama, and I think Pete is reasonably critical of/thoughtful about the marque when he can be. The features have improved as well.

    Reply
  7. tifoso

    It’s hard to think of anything more antithetical than a Porsche Macan. Would it be too much to hope that Porsche used the obscene profits from flogging these monstrosities to rich Yentas to build better cars?

    Reply
    • Baconator

      Porsche’s 2013 profits exceeded the profits of the entire Volkswagen division. Given where VW was in 2015, that will almost certainly be true again once earnings come out.

      Certainly by the reviews Porsche is making wonderful 911s, Caymans, and Boxsters. My five senses say that the cars they’re making are less fun than 997s or 993s, but I can’t make all the kids (and their damn electric power steering cars) get off my lawn.

      Reply
  8. AB-1006

    Photography is inherently feminine? Many media and communications academics would tell you just the opposite, what with the penetrating male gaze and all: http://steponmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/blow-up.jpg

    A photograph isn’t value-neutral, just as documentary journalism isn’t: What the photographer leaves out of a photograph says as much as what they choose to depict. Ideology is at work in everything we portray, regardless of medium.

    That being said, I do think there’s been a surge in a sort of mindless, populist photography in 21st-century internet culture…Just as there’s been a surge in “independent” bloggers and journalists, newly empowered by technological reach, who feel less responsibility to their readers than to the companies that control their access/keep them in press cars/free swag. But I don’t feel the need to (back-handedly?) ascribe male/female characteristics to this dynamic. I suppose these styles of photography and writing are “value-neutral” in the sense that they serve to reinforce popular narratives… Here, there’s something larger at work.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      What I wrote was “I think the biggest reason people are turning to photography over writing is their perception that photography is value-neutral.”

      Consider “perception” bolded 🙂

      Photographs are used for all sorts of purposes that are not value-neutral, and the very decision where to point the camera in the first place is a value judgment. But we don’t necessarily “get” that intrinsically as human beings. We are inclined to believe our own eyes and filter what we are told.

      Reply
      • Ronnie Schreiber

        Saigon Execution by Eddie Adams is an example of how photography can be laden with values that not even the photographer intended. You’ve probably seen it, it’s the photo of the South Vietnamese general killing a Vietcong prisoner. It was portrayed as an example of the excesses of a U.S. ally but in fact was a summary execution of someone who had just killed some people. Adams hated the way his photograph was used to portray the general as evil.

        Another photograph from the Vietnam War, that of the naked girl running from a napalm bombing, was also used by those opposed to the U.S. military in Vietnam as an example of what U.S. troops were doing but there were no Americans involved in that incident. Those were ARVN troops and it was a South Vietnamese plane that bombed the village.

        I don’t know if I could pick out another eight important photographs but to the two above I’d add the following:

        Ed Rosenthal’s flag raising at Iwo Jima.

        Alfred Eisenstaedt’s V-J day kiss in Times Square.

        Ansel Adams’ Yosemite falls.

        Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          When I tried to think of ten famous photographs, I came up with:

          * The two from Vietnam
          * Iwo Jima
          * The Afghani girl from National Geographic
          * A generic image of the Earth from space
          * The Dodge Rampage 2.2 flying through the air in a C/D shot from the Eighties.

          That was it.

          Reply
          • AoLetsGo

            If you like the Earth picture you might like this video of how they took one from Apollo 8.
            https://www.youtube.com/embed/dE-vOscpiNc
            My uncle was one of those guys in the white shirt and black tie you saw in the control room at Cape Canaveral. I have always been a little jealous that his work on the Apollo program was something so grandiose as putting men on the moon. It makes my everyday job seem mundane. At least when I was a little kid he would get us into the restricted area and we got to see several Apollo launches up close, and behind the scenes tours of the VAB and other places.
            Your rant made me think of the movie Rear Window. Jimmy Stewart was the feminine photographer and Grace Kelly was the beautiful, masculine character.

          • sabotenfighter

            Just a niggling correction, but
            Afghani = the national currency of Afghanistan
            Afghan = someone from Afghanistan

            Common mistake made in the media/West.

          • Rock36

            I could think of several famous photos but many were mentioned here already:

            The beaches of Normandy
            The Soviet Flag over Berlin
            Neil Armstrong saluting the American flag on the moon
            Lee Harvey Oswald getting shot
            The falling soldier picture from the Spanish civil war
            Picture of the skyscraper workers on the steel girder

            Curiously though, they are all pictures of very masculine things and activities.

        • VolandoBajo

          Years ago I met a Vietnamese martial artist in Virginia whose family was a close friend of the family of the general in the photo. He knew the entire background of the photo, and shared it with me.

          The man who was shot had just ambushed and killed most of the general’s family, as well as several other families in the compound that his family and the general’s family lived in.

          The executed man and his accomplices had snuck into the guarded compound, and then slaughtered many people. Some of the attackers were still at large. The general was trying to find out who they were and where they were hiding. I believe that there were other captive terrorists present at the scene as well. The general was trying to get someone to talk in order to try to save other lives.

          When the executed man refused to talk, the general shot him in an attempt to get other conspirators to talk and possibly save lives.

          It was an act that anyone who had courage would have done in that situation in an attempt to sacrifice one clearly guilty life in an attempt to save other innocent lives.

          The general was a man of much training in the martial arts also, and he was not acting out of anguish or revenge. He had taken charge of a bad situation and was doing all that he could to save other people…yet he was reviled by many “politically correct” people who labelled him as either a cold-blooded killer or a vengeful madman, or both. In fact, he was neither, but rather an honorable man who controlled his anger in order to try to save lives.

          But people tend to see what they have preconceived, rather than seeking out the reality of situations. But they do so at their own peril, and at ours as well.

          Reply
  9. arbuckle

    If the have a dependent relationship then I guess I’m not that surprised the PCA magazine would praise the current Porsche products.

    When GM turns the Corvette into a mid-engine PHEV and Ford restricts their gas V8s to Class IV trucks I’d expect those moves to be praised in the respective semi-independent publications as well.

    Reply
  10. sps1911

    I’m biased about the Macan – I sell Porsches for a living and the Macan has been very good to me. We haven’t had a product this popular since the gen 2 Cayenne came out. I’ve jokingly told people that if I were to get a personalized plate on my Cayman, it would read ‘THNXMACAN’.

    If you’re distraught about the Macan demo now, wait until the 4cyl comes out with a $499 lease special and a whole new segment of buyers. I can tell you from experience (I sell Audis as well) that the ‘aspirational’ luxury buyer is different breed…just wait for the Insta posts of a millennial couple with #porsche #madeit #lifegoals #adulting

    Reply
    • David Walton

      #adulting killed me.

      Those people won’t be joining PCA for a variety of reasons (PCA is mostly old white couples anyway), and they probably won’t be brand loyalists for the long term.

      Reply
      • Widgetsltd

        I attended the PCA’s national tech seminar in California a couple of months ago. The info was great, but it was the oldest, whitest, most male group that I’ve been a part of in quite some time.

        Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          Is it really a problem that most Porsche owners are old white guys?

          Was it ever any other way?

          Do we need affirmative action? Does somebody need to give free GT3s to transgender biracial genderqueen bronykin?

          Reply
          • Widgetsltd

            I wasn’t suggesting that there should be some sort of affirmative action. It was just funny to see the stereotype “old, rich, white guy car” reinforced. There were some very noticeable exceptions, such as the apparently 30-something couple who pulled up and parked right in front in a 991 GT3 (his) and brand-spanking-new Cayman GT4 (hers). This economy must be working for somebody!

          • Jack Baruth Post author

            In California, it certainly is. I don’t know how many young people in the Midwest are buying Porkers.

    • Andy

      Interesting to get the views from someone who sells Porsches for a living – do you think their gradual push into the mass market is sustainable? and do your long term customers miss the exclusivity that the cars used to have?

      Reply
      • sps1911

        Porsche is pretty committed to their allocation system of production – “one less than demand”. Every dealer knows in advance how many cars are allocated to them every year, the only exception being a handful of extra cars that the area rep distributes. I’m sure Jack remembers that song and dance from his Ford days.

        It works well for speciality cars and new products (I had Macan clients wait upwards of 10 months for a build slot) and keeps the retail price darn close to MSRP. Familiar Porsche buyers recognize this, but if you have someone coming from another brand, they may have never had to wait more than two weeks for a car. Some people are amazed that they can’t just walk in and order a GT3 and pick it up in 3 months.

        I don’t think the exclusivity is going to be a long term problem for sports cars. Porsche is a huge profit engine for VW, and they realize they can’t keep up their ridiculous margins by flooding the market. Besides, as they move towards more SUVs, CUVs, and a rumored C segment sedan, the sports cars will be a small volume line for them and remain relatively rare.

        Part of me wonders if this search for exclusivity is driving the prices of older air cooled cars to the moon. Maybe it’s a rich guys version of Tulip Mania.

        Reply
    • Felis Concolor

      As a Ford Flex Fanboy, I won’t ever forgive the legions of idiots who shelled out more money for less car in the dumbed-down D4 known as the Explorer – but I’ll never begrudge Ford’s marketing genius in creating a nice margin booster which outsells its superior 12:1 in a bad month, while padding itself with an additional $1600, feature-for-feature.

      Likewise, when Steve Jackson Games secured their future by discovering a license to print money aka the Munchkin series of card/dice/board games, I wasn’t a major supporter – but I certainly appreciate how it allows the longest lived small game company to maintain GURPS as the most thoroughly researched RPG system, as well as rewarding faithful OGRE fans with a Kickstarter project that has become the definitive textbook case in how to properly handle a runaway success (the OGRE Kickstarter project poured close to $1M into a company whose normal annual operations run $2M; that’s a dangerously high budget boost and has killed more than a few small businesses since then).

      Likewise, while I can point and laugh at the hot-rod SUVs Porsche makes and markets these days, I can appreciate how it gives them enough breathing room to pursue their moonshot high performance automobile projects.

      Remember, folks:
      Sell to the classes, eat with the masses.
      Sell to the masses, eat with the classes.

      Reply
      • Jack Baruth Post author

        The only problem that I have with that is that the cars have gotten MUCH worse since the Cayenne era began. And Porsche actually used all of the profit from the Cayenne to engage in stock speculation and takeover bids, leading them to lose their shirts and their corporate independence.

        Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      He drives up a hill all by himself.

      Good for him.

      On the other hand, he apparently did a brief stint in Formula Ford in the Eighties according to Wikipedia. That’s pretty cool. But being the Pikes Peak champ is like winning an autocross where money really, really helps.

      Reply
        • Jack Baruth Post author

          All sort of shit is dangerous.

          That doesn’t mean it’s highly competitive.

          Freeway roll racing kills more people in a year than Pikes Peak does in fifty. That doesn’t mean I respect freeway roll racers.

          What I respect is people who compete head-to-head and win based on ability, talent, and effort. And I mean head-to-head as in you have to face your competitor, not a clock. That’s the attitude I picked up racing BMX and I’ve never lost it.

          But even if we assume that Zwart is some kind of super-stud instead of a boomer douche who rode the value curve of collector cars into a sort of faux-upscale existence, he’s just one person. I can name ten guys in my local NASA region who are total bad-asses. Can anybody name ten photographer bad-asses in the whole world? You can argue that combat reporters would fall under that category but I’d say they are thrill-seekers first and photographers second.

          Reply
          • jz78817

            “All sort of shit is dangerous.”

            As the venerable Sgt. Detective Lt. Frank Drebin once said, “you take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan.”

  11. Thomas

    “Here’s another thing about photography: people don’t remember it. Think of the ten greatest things you’ve ever read. Now think of the ten greatest photographs you’ve ever seen. Could you even do it? QE to the motherfucking D, my friend”

    1) The first part of your statement is unsound. The human brain not only processes, but retains, visuals much readily than it does words or facts. When I say the word “elephant”, the first thing that pops into your brain is an image of the animal, not descriptive adjectives. Why would we suddenly not remember photographs?

    2) I can think of ten, twenty, one-hundred great photographs that are burned into my brain. Photographs that moved entire societies. Photos of dead American soldiers at Buna Beach, photos of naked Vietnamese kids running away from napalm attacks, photos of the Earth from the surface of the moon, photos of Bobby Orr flying through the air. These are all images that defined their particular moment in time in a way that a dozen Booker award winners working in unison couldn’t quite capture.

    3) The whole argument that Photography is somehow feminine and passive, because the photographer would be better off DOING whatever he’s photographing, equally applies to writing. Both are activities of reflection, documentation, and in some forms, agitation. But at the end of the day, the guy writing about a car is doing as much driving as the guy who is photographing it.

    Writing doesn’t make you Ernest Hemingway, as much as taking photos doesn’t make you some sort of limp-wristed pansy cowering in his safe space. Trying to elevate one side (a side which just conveniently happens to be your profession!) over the other just comes across as insecure.

    4) The problem today is not the medium. Whether you are writing or taking photos, both mediums in the right hands can produce powerful results. The problem is the easy access to both platforms has led everyone to believe they are equal to a professional. We all have blogs, so we think we are citizen journalists. We all have camera phones, so we are all embedded war photographers. There is a basic degradation in the respect for expertise. We don’t respect craft. We don’t respect education. We don’t call them experts anymore….we call them snobs.

    5) For every Hemingway, there’s a Robert Capa. Just like for every selfie, there’s a hashtag.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      “Writing doesn’t make you Ernest Hemingway, as much as taking photos doesn’t make you some sort of limp-wristed pansy cowering in his safe space. Trying to elevate one side (a side which just conveniently happens to be your profession!) over the other just comes across as insecure.”

      Ah, but you assume that I’m valuing “masculine” over “feminine”.

      Witnessing is fundamentally a female act. Recounting exploits is fundamentally a male act. That’s a division much older than civilized society.

      I’m not saying that there are not thousands of brave photographers, and millions of cowardly writers, out there. I’m talking about the act itself.

      I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that fathers have stopped talking to their sons in roughly the same way that media has replaced storytelling.

      Reply
    • Derek Kreindler

      Re: Point number 3. I started my quest for a new career because I had that same notion about automotive writing. I wanted to be involved in the development process of the automobile, rather than just recounting it. I felt very strongly that writing about the industry was a waste of time when I could be *doing* something working in it. I have no regrets, but I also chalk that reasoning up to immaturity and inexperience. Who would have thought a twenty-something male would ever be afflicted by those conditions? 🙂

      So I understand where Jack is coming from. But I still think it’s a false dichotomy, if I’m being charitable. Writing and photography are merely different mediums to express ideas. Often I find that one is more suited than the other. I would rather have a snapshot of a family event than a written recollection, but I find that reading “The Elementary Particles” helped me understand the “Soixante-Huitard” generation better than Cartier-Bresson’s photographs.

      Reply
  12. Vojta Dobeš

    Jack, I never thought I would ever call any article of yours “stupid”, but now I’m afraid I have to.

    I consider myself a good writer in my native language, an adept one in a foreign language and I’m starting to get a basic grasp of photography.

    Even comparing these two arts in their “masculinity” seems a bit daft to me. But if anything, I would consider photography to be actually MORE masculine. In writing, it’s mostly talent. You either have it or you don’t, and if you have talent and you have something to tell, you can get pretty good at writing in almost no time.

    Photography is much more like, say, racing cars. Even if you’re talented and have great potential, you will never be good unless you spend countless hours learning how to do things, and how to understand basic principles. There’s lot to learn about physics, about the technical stuff, about the art itself – and on top of all that, you have to make it “art” instead of just good craft.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Honestly, Vojta, you’ve just described being a prima ballerina.

      Which is hugely difficult and accomplished and artistic, but is not considered masculine.

      Reply
  13. galactagog

    hmm. photographs I can think of, off the top of my head:

    1. Jimi Hendrix crouching over a flaming strat at Monterey ’67
    2. sillhouette of Roger Waters banging a gong at Pompeii
    3. Jimmy Page rocking out on stage wearing that old woman’s suit @madison sq gardens
    4. Robert Plant thrusting his groin out onstage in tight jeans, Percival loud & proud @madison sq gardens
    5. Pink Floyd’s equipment truck & gear laid out on the airport runway, back cover of “Ummagumma”
    6. Jim Morrison, album cover photoshoot
    7. The Doors standing inside that “Morrison Hotel” window
    8. Johnny Cash giving the finger to the cameraman
    9. the water ripple/ear overlay cover art to “Meddle”
    10. the flaming handshake on the cover of “Wish You Were Here”

    well I guess my chain of thought fell through music & album covers

    Reply
  14. jstyer

    Not a photographer, but some of your rational behind your opinions for photography and videography seem reaching at best, “I’d argue that they are thrill seekers first, photographers second”. How could you possibly be in a place to make that call? And if you truly respect the story telling history of our race, how can video be considered a bastard-child and writing some sanctified art of our heritage? You could say painting had even more of a historical lineage to our male ancestry than writing, and photography is a direct decendant of that art form. “Society intrinsically understands that writing is more important than photography.” Tell that to WWII guys with pictures of their sweethearts stuck in their helmets, or a widower looking back at pictures of his wedding day. I read a couple hundred pages a week but give me a break.

    Almost reads like you’ve had a Freudian childhood experience with a photographer… Probably your most bizarre post I’ve ever read.

    That said.. I couldn’t agree more with your points on the shittiness (shittyness?) of Panorama. I just think the analogy is flawed.

    Reply
      • jstyer

        Touche!

        There is writing for art/expression, and writing for purely technical/communicative reasons. The very best writers can blend the two into an informative but emotionally moving experience. I can do neither.

        In the same way, photographs, videos, and illustrations can be technical/informative or artistic/expressive with the best being both.

        I used writing above in a purely communicative sense since it was the best (and, more importantly, the most convenient) tool at hand. If I was trying to try to explain to you the grandeur of an ocean sunrise than it’s hard to argue that writing would be a better way to tell that story.

        None is more masculine/feminine than the other, the creator of BOTH are “witnessing”, but the difference in the medium is the difference of the re-telling of the story. Each is appropriate in it’s own time and place, but neither is appropriate when done poorly/gimmicky/insincere.

        I use writing above for the same reasons that I use a 19mm wrench and male triple square socket when changing the belts on a 993. It is the best tool for THAT job.

        Reply
  15. jstyer

    I guess I’ll finish my unsolicited rant with this thought, writing drivel = photographic drivel. It doesn’t matter if the words are written into legislation or the photos are printed on glossy magazine spreads. Shit is shit.

    And much in the same way that the nearly illiterate public cannot tell good writing from advertorial toilet paper, the morally numb 30 seconds of fame culture that we find ourselves in is the same with images.

    Reply
    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Just for the record, all rants here are solicited.

      Your opinion is important to me and I don’t consider myself infallible.

      Reply
  16. James

    I don’t remember many photographs or photographers, but I remember what many things look like that I have never seen. As you wrote, photographs feel transparent, true.

    How many shots from films do you remember, though? Is the situation different for moving images?

    Reply
  17. Not an Engineer

    Mr. Baruth

    I like my 15 Cayenne S. Due to potholes I can drive it a lot faster (within reason) around NYC than I could my former BMW M cars.
    To my non-engineer self it sure does feel like an over engineered suv.
    It wasn’t cheap but I believe it to provide a better driving experience than the BMW X cars, Range Rover twins and Jeep GC I get to drive all the time.
    When you’re in New York shoot me an email to come try it out.

    Reply
  18. Dan

    Interesting piece.

    You nailed it with the value neutral. A photograph is left purely to the interpretation of the viewer. That’s an even lower degree of advocating your opinion than the I-thinks, I’m-sorrys, and ending on question marks that make effeminate dialog so painful to follow. What a writer chooses to include at all is doing 8/10 of the reader’s interpretation for them. The first requirement of which is confidence in your convictions.

    As far as male and female writers, never mind the ten favorites, outside of school with no choice in the matter I can’t even come up with one book by a female writer that I even finished. Very few of them write about things of any interest to me and those that do manage to make them uninteresting and difficult to follow.

    Reply
  19. rpn453

    I haven’t taken many photos. I was always too engaged in the moment. Most of my personal photos were taken by friends and girlfriends. Mostly the latter. I figured that if you can’t remember something, then it probably wasn’t worth photographing anyway. But I’m glad I have them, and I wish I had more.

    The famous photo that first comes to my mind is Paul Watson’s “blackhawk down” photo of Staff Sgt. William David Cleveland Junior’s desecrated body. There was nothing feminine about getting that one. I recommend his book, Where War Lives.

    Reply
  20. VolandoBajo

    When in grad school and stomping the Village in my “free” time, I met another former Marine, Richard Stack, whom I have since lost touch with. He had been a USMC combat photographer, and later was working for the Black Star photo agency. Got subpoenaed to appear before a Congressional hearing, at his own expense, to testify about whether or not independent photojournalists were somehow being fed stories by the military, due to their being embedded for more or less the first time.

    He was also the person who got me into an after hours blackjack club on a rainy Monday night, one that was owned by John Gotti before he was capo de tutti capi, where we were treated with much hospitality, especially once he found out that I understood the blackjack count system before it had been popularized. (He was tested at genius IQ in prison, and understood the math better than many grad students I knew). And it was obvious that John had a lot of respect for Richard.

    Nothing feminine about that photographer… ooh-RAH and Semper Fi!

    If by any chance anyone out there knows if Richard is still alive and knows his whereabouts, please pass along the info, as he was a good friend back in the day…

    Though in general, you are of course correct, Jack.

    And one picture may be worth a thousand words, but pictures can only be strongly evocative. They can seldom portray detailed nuances, or if they do, they are of necessity subjective. Words can be shaped and crafted to a fine precise point, something that is virtually impossible to do with a photo.

    Reply
  21. Pete Stout

    Jack,

    Been meaning to reply to this, but the comments were closed over on TTAC by the time I saw this piece. Kudos to you for leaving the comments open here.

    I don’t mind fair criticism, but judging Panorama content by freeware from a club member on pca.org—and never seen by Pano staff—would be a bit like judging fully vetted R&T articles by the aggregated dreck seen on R&T’s Facebook account from time to time. Writing off the work of Pano contributors after throwing “the last few years’ worth of issues directly in the trash” is worse. We all know you can write, Jack, but so can many of the professionals who contributed to Pano in the years I was there. Without reading their work, how can you judge it?

    As to your point that Pano should serve its readership, I fully agree—and articles critical about Porsches old and new were published in Pano between 2012 and 2016. Regularly. Had you read the magazine instead of tossing it, you would have seen articles that criticized modern Porsches—particularly the 991.1 GT3. I wrote an op-ed alongside my early road test—a first ever, given the personal nature of my gut take on the move to PDK—that noted something to the effect of “while it’s a towering technical achievement, it’s also the first GT3 I have no desire to own.” Or you might have seen the 997 GT3 tell-all (oil pump failures, freeze plugs unfrozen, cheap cam adjusters, etc) with pics of the carnage. Or the shift in the Tech Q&As to address IMS/RMS honestly. Or other road tests that named the bad with the good. Or the think piece comparing PDK to the 928. A condition of my employment—I asked got it in writing—was that I could be critical of Porsche product, just as I had been at Excellence from 1997-2012. While I can tell you that working with Bruce Anderson was one of the highlights of those years, he wasn’t the only one contributing to the soul of that book. There were a lot of wonderful stories told in those pages, in those years.

    Don’t get me wrong. While I don’t know you, I do know (some of) your work, and admire your prose. I probably laughed harder at a bit of automotive writing than I have in a very long time while reading your piece on the Panamera (“You know, so when did you realize that…”). But, if there is something that mars your work, it’s the occasional lack of research. Errors in “Porsche’s Seven Deadly Sins” detracted from what was otherwise brilliant work—because the conclusions drawn, while witty as always, were based on erroneous information.

    I think that’s true with regards to your criticism of Pano, as well. It’s fine to have an opinion on others’ work—if you bother to read it. As to photography being a feminine purist? I’ll leave that one alone, and will hope to see you down the road. I’m always game for a vigorous debate.

    Respectfully,

    Pete Stout

    Reply

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