He who pays the piper…

Have you ever sat and watched someone selecting songs on a jukebox? I often wonder if the person is choosing the songs that they actually like, or are they choosing the songs that they want everyone else in the bar to think they like? I see it at parties too, there’s always the self-designated iPod DJ who sits in the same place all night, frightened to leave his 16 gigabytes of music unattended in case someone finds, amongst the cool Little Dragon and Black Sabbath, that Steps album or the Justin Bieber podcasts.

I’m never allowed to plug my MP3 player in at parties because I do have a VERY eclectic taste in music which includes anything from Dolly Parton to The Rolling Stones, Take-That to ZZ Top and Status Quo to Cee lo Green. I’ll even confess to a bit of Rihanna. I have three play lists in my iPod, their various uses are self explanatory – ‘Dossing’, ‘Run Fatty Run’ and ‘Road Trip’. I don’t need  a forth playlist titled ‘Music to make me look cool and clever’.

Music is no less of a consumer product than a loaf of bread or a tin of beans. But wouldn’t it be great if more people could be open and honest about what they REALLY like and say “Hey, I prefer that cheap, mass produced sliced white, it makes lovely toast” or, better still “I don’t actually like tinned baked beans”.

It’s no different in photography – people are frightened to make, let alone display the images that they enjoy looking at and end-up producing mediocre chocolate box crowd-pleasers instead of pieces of art. I’m not for one minute trying to say that the image below is a work of art, but if a thousand people looked at it and only one person loved it, then I’d be happy.

You’re paying the piper, so if you want a bit of Daniel O’Donnell – crack-on!

Mamiya 7II, 80mm, Kodak Portra 400 film.


  1. Agreed! I’m happy to admit I like Dolly Parton, Five and the occasional Britney Spears almost as much as Repairman, Rufus Wainwright or Joan As Police Woman.

    Bit off topic tho….this fab analogy caught my eye:-

    “Music is no less of a consumer product than a loaf of bread or a tin of beans.” So very true. Music is as ‘nourishing’, vital and likely consumed considerably more often than a decent plate of beans on toast. And yet, very few people would think it OK to walk out of the shop with a loaf of bread under their arm without bothering to pay, just cos they felt they deserved it…Nor would a shopowner start saying ‘ahh just take the bread, you don’t have to pay, I’ll cover the costs myself. In fact, have a tin of beans on me too, to make it even more enjoyable!’


    Apologies for steering the argument elsewhere Phil, couldn’t help myself x
    **rant sponsored by freedownloadingisformugskids**


  2. Pete Williamson

    Good post and pretty spot on. I admit that it took me a few years to be comfortable in my own choices musically.
    Your point also stands good with photographers as well as photographs. The amount of people who “like” something because of the perceived kudos of “liking” the photographer rather than actually thinking the photograph is worth more than a glance.


  3. franch

    “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

    I found this question on a typography poster off tumblr. My answer was along the lines of listening to whatever I enjoyed even if it were deemed uncool by the cool. And it’s changing my life. I haven’t actually taken the leap to do what I want to do, but your entry gave me the huge extra shove I needed to get me going. Thank you!

    P.S. Your photos are awesome.


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