California Conceit


Begin rant:

Certain activities, sports, hobbies, various professions, tend to attract or enable humans of extreme hubris. I've seen it in the horse show crowd, yachting to a sickening degree (I rescued them for many years in the northeast Pacific), to some degree in flying, in the stunt-man crowd to a gargantuan degree, in tattooing (I teach tattoo), and even among regular old painters and sculptors. I saw it to a lesser degree among published writers during the decade I wrote for national magazines but it was still there. Among unpublished writers it's ludicrous.

Small people have a tendency to attain some small degree of skill at something (or in many cases no skill whatsoever) and then proceed to loudly and obnoxiously proclaim they are THE BEST IN THE WORLD. They don't actually come out and say it, but they think it and they struggle to project it and they'll bend over backwards to try to make you believe it. Photographers are as guilty as anyone, and in places like Hollyweird this is the mentality of pretty-much everyone, even the motel maids who are, of course, only millimeters from riches and fame because in their spare time they wrote a screenplay which is, of course, the best screenplay in the world.

I have to say, since spending time in California, off and on over the past many years, I have witnessed this stinky, off-putting phenomenon ten times more than in any of the eleven states or three countries I've resided and worked. I have frankly never seen anything like the conceit and obnoxious arrogance among photographers that I see in this region, and in many or most cases the work is absolute junk. Why is this? I could tell you stories, and I'll pay five dollars cash to know the answer.

As a social experiment in 2007, which was just before I retired on royalties from my work, I placed an ad on several California Craigslist servers showing eight photos, all of which were award-winning images from around the world (none were mine), and all of which had earned extreme amounts of money over decades for their creators. I represented myself as a struggling new photographer and asked for "advice" on how to take better pictures. I received 36 replies, all (all) of which rantingly denounced those works, offering "expert" tips for this or that -- the lighting was amateurish, the composition was terrible, the focus seemed "a little soft in my opinion", or "what the hell is wrong with your sense of color", etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam, with a couple advising me to go find a real job, and one aging, way-too-much-lipstick broad from San Francisco offered to "take me under her wing" (the horror) and get me started in the right direction -- after, of course, denouncing the work. In the end I told them all the truth behind the images. Not a single critic ever replied after that.

I recommend trying that yourself (it's fun and revealing and only takes a few minutes).

But the staggering, rancid conceit in California among Californians is legendary worldwide, which is why Californians are so widely reviled for being rancidly conceited, of course. Every comedian has a routine about California and Californians because it's true. I just can't figure out why it's true. Why do so many Californians act this way? What is it that they think they've done in life that earns them this right? Maybe Chuck Yeager and Quentin Tarantino have earned it. They're on the list of people who've earned the right to act like arrogant assholes if that's how a person chooses to act. But it's a damned short list which could be handwritten on a post-it note with a felt pen.

Advice to California:

Learn some humility. For God's sake, you're making the other 49 states (or 56 states if you ask Obama) gag and hurl.

End rant.

So.....having thoroughly trashed the state of California almost in its entirety, I'll admit that, except for that peculiar strata of the obnoxiously conceited for which California is so famous, I prefer the company of Californians. I make friends easier in California than in most states or countries I've lived, but of course friends made in California are transient because they all believe in the "Bic Lighter" concept of friendship (disposable).