More Than a Product

10/18/20235 min read

More Than a Product

By Anna Cimbalista, 18 October, 2023

I was posting on instagram one August day, and I came to the dreaded caption. I could leave it blank, of course, but that’s like having a painting in a gallery titled “no title.” In school, I was taught that was a huge no-no because it shows lack of thought regarding your art, like you don’t care enough to at least describe your horse painting as “horse” instead of leaving it up in the air. Not to mention it helps with cataloging and association. So I try to write captions now for my posts, no matter how cheesy they may be.

It even applies to people themselves. Maybe someone’s super chipper, but no one can see that they’re really struggling inside. No one can see they had a really bad day and are finding it extremely hard to put up a front. They want so bad to be seen for who they are and be understood, but no one cares enough to delve deeper and look beyond the surface, beyond the product.

Photos taken August, 2023

This one post, I was struggling to come up with something to say (as I usually do) when it hit me. I realized that the specific photo I was posting was part of a series. A series that hid well all the unfortunate events that had unfolded to make it possible. The photo didn’t show the surprise rainshower, or the subject nearly falling off a horse, nearly missing a horse pile of you-know-what. And it led me to the thought that photography fails to show all the hard work put in. All the viewer sees is the product. There is no notion of how much work was put in to create the art. With painting, there is more of a timeline, more evidence because the viewer knows the artist took their time to paint every little detail by hand, took their time to mix every single color by hand. Even if you’ve never painted before, you can imagine how much work was put in and how much time was spent to get the painting before you. With photography, it’s different.

In a photo, you don’t see how long it took the photographer to get that specific photo. You don’t know if it was an accident they happened upon or if they waited for hours unend for a train to cross a bridge. You can’t tell how much time and effort they put into post production - it could’ve been two minutes, or it could’ve been two hours. There is no way to tell all the ins and outs of what it took to get the photo before you, all the happy accidents, the climbing up a waterfall, the falling off a horse.

This irks me a little because sometimes it takes a lot of work for a photo, and people look at it and think it was effortless. “That’s a nice photo,” they say. But to me it’s ART. I’m proud of it. I worked hard for it. You show that same person a painting, and they’ll be floored. “Wow, that’s incredible. I wish I could paint like that. I’m not artistic at all.” Which is another pet peeve I’ll get to another time. But the point is, I think people don’t appreciate the work it takes to get great photos as much as they appreciate the work it takes to make great paintings. People KNOW it takes hours for a painting. It’s common sense. But they don’t know photography is the same.

The correlation between photography and life I’m trying to draw here is that oftentimes, the behind the scenes part of life is left unnoticed, unacknowledged. You invite someone into your home, and they comment on how great the interior is, how well it’s decorated, how clean it is. You kindly thank them. Maybe you say “oh it was nothing,” or “it’s just a few things I’ve picked up here and there.” But what your guest doesn’t see are the hours you spent on your hands, knees, and feet, washing, scrubbing, and sweeping. They don’t see the hours of work you put in to even afford your furniture which may or may not be thrifted - but they don’t know that.

You make a well planned meal that takes you hours and hours of standing on your feet, slicing, chopping, and shredding. The gratitude you get is, “wow this is really good,” and then it’s gone in fifteen minutes. Nobody acknowledges the hard work put in and the time consumed, no one says “thank you so much for taking all that time out of your day to put a delicious meal on the table.”

Say it’s a nice fall day, and you’re doing the town with the girls and decide to dress up a little. Your friends tell you how cute you look, but they don’t know the amount of times you went to the thrift store just to happen upon those boots. They don’t know the six months you waited for those jeans to go on sale. They don’t know the frustration and the sore muscles you got from braiding and re-braiding your hair four times.

~ Anna C. Photography

I’ve heard this one quite a bit, the old ‘’how did you raise such amazing kids?” Eighteen years of training, that’s how. And they don’t see all the time outs, the screaming on the car ride home, the scribbling on the walls, the complaining about the food. All they see is the product.

I find it SO INTERESTING how people consistently accept the product at face value. Sure, they might acknowledge that it took time to make - everything takes time - but they don’t seem to fully understand what it takes to make something, to produce a photo, to make a nice home, to make a delicious meal, to dress well, to have a pleasant demeanor, to raise good kids.

Not trying to put anyone down or anything, it’s only natural. Everyone falls into it, including me. It’s just an interesting observation I have discovered through my life as a photographer. There is so much more than the product. So much work was put in, so much time spent. Maybe take some time out of your day to appreciate the things around you, and remember, a photo is so much more than a photo. It’s a work of art; someone took the time to learn that skill, to cultivate that skill, to take the photo, to work with the model, to spend hours in post production.