Intentional camera what?

When I do workshops or one-to-ones, I always ask the clients if there are any techniques they want me to teach. I’ve always thought that I knew most techniques, and I’d at least tried all the techniques you could possibly think of, but I was stumped recently when I was asked to teach something called “ICM”.  Somewhat perplexed, I asked – “I See what?” and my client replied “Intentional camera movement”. Still perplexed, I asked my client to explain further, and I was told “it is a new technique where you shake your camera to create a blurry picture”.

I was still none the wiser so out came the phone for a quick Google and sure enough, the “ICM technique” was listed and links to lots of pages. So, I had a look at a few and it was simply a term that has been coined for what photographers have been doing for decades on film. Yet, looking at some of the articles we looked at you’d think it was someone who bought a digital camera 5 years ago that invented the technique and unveiled it to the world.

I’ve no idea how this term came about, but this is one of the problems with the internet and how it is rewriting history. You see, when someone tries an age old technique and coins a phrase for that technique, it spreads when it is posted on the internet. The phrase becomes an “electronic keyphrase” that is indexed by websites such as Flickr, and is indexed in search phrases on Google. The phrase is date stamped and it all points back to the person that coined the phrase. BUT…. they also get credit and an elevated status for basically something they didn’t invent!

There are now so many new acronyms appearing on the internet that it’s hard to keep up. Whilst I’m sure some photographers genuinely believe they stumbled upon these techniques by themselves, believe me, they have all been done before!

Despite this however, there are the some photographers who refuse to accept they’ve been rumbled and will continue to (blatantly) take credit for techniques they didn’t invent – by branding them as their own, then shamelessly plugging them in popular magazines. Take for example, the “magic cloth technique” that one photographer from Iceland claims to have invented. Despite it being pointed out to him by several photographers that he didn’t invent the technique, he persists in branding it as his own invention. It was actually a technique going back to the 1900s that involves moving a black card or cloth in front of the lens to hold back exposure in parts of the scene. In other words, it’s the same as dodging and burning that we do in the darkroom. Then there’s magazine spreads where photographers are credited with new techniques such as split toning, shooting everything at f/5.6, 2.8 etc or turning your camera on it’s side for the purpose of cropping square. We are told by the magazines that these techniques are the trademark of invention of the photographer gracing the article, but the truth is, it’s just plain nonsense and these magazines should know better. But, magazines live in desperate times and I suppose desperate articles are now the norm. Still, these techniques spread across the internet where the “inventor” gets credited and if you dare to set the record straight, you are met with a Tsunami of abuse on social media because you dared to “call out” their idol.

Anyway, I digress….this ICM thingy. I’ve only just learned about this and I cant find who coined the phrase, but there’s some truly bizarre stuff being written about it online. For example, there’s apparently a “science” behind it? Really? (Being a physicist myself, I kinda have an insight into what a science is) The technique is one where you take 500 odd shots of a scene whilst you jiggle your camera about and hope you get one “keeper”. Now forgive me, but there is f*** all science behind that method. It’s just random shaking of your camera with absolutely no prescribed method and with hopeful end result. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some breathtaking images I’ve seen using this technique, but to call it scientific is just wrong. An art form maybe? You can decide that for your self, but for me it’s indicative of the bullshit terms that appear every other month. It’s just “intentionally, randomly, moving your camera and hoping for the best” – or IRMYCAHFTB!

The blurry photo technique has been around for decades as far as I can remember, and was widely used in wildlife photography. In particular when panning animals or birds in motion, and I remember much of the techniques being developed further into art and landscape photography. Techniques such as particular movement in a certain orientation for example would produce a certain result and it was clearly repeatable. There are some beautiful examples of this, but don’t just take my word for it, have a look at some of the past winners and commended images in the wildlife photographer of the year competition. You will see various examples of “ICM” going back 20 odd years.

But, if you look back at the images captured by these talented photographers, they were capturing such images on a roll of film, and sometimes over 3 or 4 shots. They clearly had the technique down to a fine art and with great skills in pre-visualisation so we must bear this in mind. It also says that the current advice on how to practice the technique involves far less skill – namely, if the advice is to take 500 shots to get a keeper, then literally anyone can do that. Strange advice indeed from the modern experts of the technique don’t you think?

I could no doubt point out numerous examples and I’m all for people trying out new things in their photography, but when you read about someone being an expert in a “new” technique, do a bit of googling instead. I’m sure you’ll find a few masters who did these techniques long before anyone current.

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