A Guide to LF Snobbery

What is a successful snob? Successful snobs do not have to defend their selections, but be ready to disparage those of others. An LF snob can be successful without even owning a camera, or having any work available for view. Note that snobbery and elitism is not based on your own work, or your own contributions, but on the promotion of a credo and method. You are espousing a purist approach, the achievement of the unmatched negative leading to the unrivaled print. Anything short of these goals is fair game for your derision.

Many photographers think they are successful snobs, but they are not. Usually it is their willingness to experiment and actually consider alternate opinions that leads them astray. Conversely, there are others who are quite competent at the job, and yet do not know it. Often they seek to convince one of their wide horizons of acceptance while secretly ascribing to a rather restrained view of the acceptable. Oooh, snobby! As something of a snob myself, I have assembled a list of steps to send you on your way

Step 1: Choose a format. Any size, 4×5 and above, will do. If you want to be a multi-faceted snob, select more than one.

Step 2: Choose a camera. The reasoning for your selection may be based on: [was used by an acknowledged Master], [is rare], [was made by an acknowledged photographer or artisan], [is very basic and simple], [your esoteric reason here].

Step 3: Choose at least one lens. This too may be based on: [expense], [rarity], [envy], [sharpness], [cult following], [all of the preceding reasons], [famous quote], [arcane, peculiar, unrelated-to-lenses reason].

Step 4: Choose a film / developer combination. Color film is not a consideration in this category. This combination is the only one that will produce negatives of the requisite quality. Think about: [combo used by one of the greats], [a reverse approach wherein you use wholly common materials], [only expired film], [uncommon developer], [homemade developer], [odd films].

Step 5: Choose a developer / paper / printing combination. There is a lot of variation in this area. Choose based on: [whim], [all materials no longer available], [obscurity], [foreign], [your father’s rants], [a dart thrown at a list].

Step 6: Cultivate at least one signature item of clothing or accessory. Make sure the item is authentic and / or genuine. Beret? Better be made in France with the label to prove it. Cigar? Cuban, please. Scarf? No synthetic material. Fur hat? An animal must have died for you. Monocle? Best not have clear glass in it.

Step 7: Anticipate some common comments and questions, and your responses to them. The best response is no response but if you must needs come up with something, a short statement is preferable. The following phrases will cover most queries: “Look to history.” “The work speaks for itself.” “Google is your friend.” “Ignorance is bliss.” “Alas, my phone is ringing.” “Simple things please simple minds.” “Oh, you are so very small.”

Lastly, some tips on behavior. There is no need to be overt; you know you are correct and do not need to advertise it. The stereotypical snob has his or her nose in the air. This is not called for in the LF world, since noses more properly belong underneath the dark cloth. Also, you may dispense with the outstretched pinky–another outmoded affectation. Your snobbery is based on your superior knowledge, not a social standard to which you supposedly aspire; you have no need of such a vaulted position–you ARE that vaulted position. Now go out there and whip those pussies into shape! P.S. A special nod to Peter de Graaff

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