Fish Porn Exposed For What It Is – Part 1

| March 10, 2010

Based on the article “Money Shot” by Niki Christopher in the latest Gray’s Sporting Journal

I will never forget when I turned the corner on my porn addiction, fish porn that is. It had to have been the hundredth image of the butt of a fly rod, selective focus, looking down the line, reel gloriously gleaming like a chrome spinner. Ugggh. Pick up your latest favorite magazine, latest on the newsstand, and there will be at least one of these images in an ad, gallery or story.

The bigger issue of course is that the ability to afford cameras, lenses, flashes and camera housings, has far outpaced their owner’s ability to use them creatively, and sometimes even competently. Forget that they are uneducated. Forget that they haven’t “paid any dues.” Forget all that. It’s simple math; in the past, every time I punched that shutter button, I heard a cha-ching and one dollar just disappeared into the film’s emulsion. Now, that little shutter sound doesn’t advance film, and it doesn’t cost a dime. Photographers chimp* and delete, putting only their acceptable images forward for a merciful edit.

Mistakes have no cost. A very successful friend of mine recently sold a Nikon D3. It had more than 183-thousand “actuations”, what we used to call exposures counted on the firmware. That translates into 183-thousand dollars saved against the cost of a top shelf camera, lenses and accessories. No brainer.

But I again digress. The ability to record, edit, enhance and transmit images to publications makes for a more economical world for magazines as well. I would like to meet the working fishing photographer who is making more per job or per usage than they were say two years ago. Add electronic magazines to the mix, and we have a downward death spiral. No one has ever answered my many posts and questions on pay (which should have set standards and is not some kind of a privacy issue) for “This is Fly”, or “Catch”. I would love to be corrected on this, but no one has yet come forward.

The idea of a staff photographer, who carries the look of a magazine into its own creative direction is as extinct as the dinosaur. Why? Staff costs money. There’s plenty of middle ground for a magazine to be the “Rolling Stone” of fly fishing – falling somewhere between the gratuitously irreverent Drake Magazine and consumer rags like Fly Rod & Reel or American Angler. Feel free to think.

A concrete example of how pay at paying magazines works, is a recent shoot for Poets & Writers Magazine. They called, defined the project and told me what the budget would be. I was good with that, delivered, billed and was paid. Then, I got a call once the magazine hit the stands, and they wanted usage for their web site, and said to bill them 100. for usage. Done, and done.

Beyond the obvious financial problems the business in general and fly fishing in particular presents, there is the sad sameness to the category that is fish porn. It does no good to define fish porn here as we all know it when we see it. And what is creative today becomes the fodder of fish pornographers tomorrow. It really is less the fault of the photographers than the editors who are, after all, the gatekeepers for the images they publish. If the editors would start to raise their creative expectations, maybe the photographers would follow. That could never happen though. Why?

Porn sells, and good porn really sells. It’s like Niki Christopher said in the article “Money Shot” (Gray’s Sporting Journal, April 2010), magazines sell some distant location over the water ten miles from our house. Exotic locales and more exotic fish are as magnetic to fly fishermen as any other type of porn is to any other consumer. The balance of selling and showing, for the vast majority of fly magazines, has been sacrificed and will be difficult to resurrect.

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Category: Culture on the Skids

About the Author ()

I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

Comments (2)

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  1. Jace says:

    Thank you for posting this.

  2. shannon says:

    Texas Fly Caster is having a photography contest! The best photograph of an angler with only the fish’s tail or the fish’s head (must include one eye at least) are in the running. No angler images with the entire fish body will be accepted. Prizes?