Life, Baseball, and Stupid Rules

Ever notice how rules are often made up by people who don't play the game? It happens all the time. Take baseball, for instance. Once again, there's talk of limiting the strike zone. Of going to the DH in the National League. Oh, and the travesty of Instant Replay. Fans (such as myself, if you haven't guessed that already) are not the ones who come up with this nonsense. It's all about the peripheral stuff -- television coverage, commercial appeal, and of course, money -- and only rarely, if ever, integral to the game itself. And, yes, I think about such things. I lead a charmed life.

This minor tantrum comes to me by way of another such rule change that came about late last year in my other beloved passion. Reuters, a most august British news agency, announced that it would no longer allow its photographers to use the RAW file format in their photography. Their reasoning, such as it was, didn't seem to address a legitimate work-flow concern, but rather that a RAW file supposedly leaves open a greater opportunity to manipulate an image, thus calling into question its authenticity. But it completely misses the point of what good photojournalism is all about in the first place. It's just changing the strike zone.

RAW file or jpeg, a committed and talented photographer's point of view is precisely what I want to see. The editorial process is inherent in the act of photographing any event, newsworthy or not: where the camera is aimed, what lens is selected, what sort of light is used, and most importantly, what isn't in the photograph. That's what's being manipulated, not the artifact of exposure, but the very moment in time that the photographer wants us to remember and hold dear. Doesn't matter if the photographer shot it in RAW,  jpeg, or Ecktachrome. And there was certainly more room for a skilled printer to manipulate a tri-x negative in the darkroom than you can imagine, but I don't recall anybody bitched about that.

The great storytellers of our medium have always broken the rules, and that's largely what made their images great in the first place.  Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Sabastião Salgado and so many others gave us their personal strength of vision. Their images were powerful, and, presumably, damaging and upsetting, in some cases maybe even uplifting and affirming. Some people don't like that.

Rules have always been made by those on the outside, people who aren't fans of the game, people who want to exert some control. Some rules were just meant to be broken, and others, perhaps, just ignored.

I don't care how long it takes to play the game.