How do you stop mediocrity ?  We all know that photography has changed as a creative medium, as far as how images are made, as well as what the world accepts.  It is easier than ever to produce, play with, alter, or appropriate images.  Is there more good art in the world as a result, or is more mediocre work being produced these days ?  You can be the judge, and we can all argue over what we think good art really is (another discussion), but I see more mediocre work being produced faster than ever. I see more bad images than ever.  Somehow, I feel our (?) standards have been lowered.  Not our personal standards, but what the world is now accepting as art, newsworthy information, and personal expression.  Some people would say that the world has been dumbed down, period.

Mediocrity is being hailed by some as the new genius.  A sign of the times.  The quick message, the instant news item, the paparazzi snap shot, a cell phone video.  Just the image, no matter what, no matter how.  Technique ?  Naw, don’t worry about it.  We’ll fix it, or do something with it, later. First, feed the frenzy, quench the thirst of the media and the part of the world that has nothing else to do and doesn’t know the difference.

I saw some of Hockney’s I-Phone art recently.  Art made by Hockney’s fingers on a little electronic device.  It was good.  But then again, I think most people would agree that David Hockney is a pretty damn good artist.  Basically, he put something good into an electronic device and it gave us art.  Hockney uses electronic devices as a tool, another one of his paint brushes at the end of his fingers, to creatively express.  How do you use electronic devices? Do you put good imagery in, help it a little bit, and spit out some art?  Or do you put mediocre in and try to make it something more ?  Mediocre in, mediocre out.  And that is a polite twist on an old adage !

How do we stop mediocrity ?  By not accepting it in the first place. Say no to mediocrity, by not allowing it to proliferate under the guise of ease of expression and the accelerated pace of our times.  We must be more critical of ourselves as artists and much more critical of what art we do put out into this world.  Mediocrity is not the new genius.  Mediocrity is average.  And who wants to be an average artist ?

“You can’t polish a turd.”    Anonymous

“If you put a good image into your camera in the first place, you won’t be drowning later, grasping for an electronic life-saver.”  Ken Merfeld

“An artist entering the world of photography today must be careful not to fall through the thin ice of technology and electronics that yields a ‘fix-it’ or ‘change it later’ mentality.” Ken Merfeld

Categorized as Process


  1. Hi Ken,
    II’m so glad that you have a blog! I also love that I can see all of your colloidial (sp?) work . I’ve always
    enjoyed talking to you when we work together but there never seems to be enough time for that . I feel that
    this is a great way to get to know you better and to read about your thoughts on art, photography, music
    ( music has always played a big part when it comes to the work atmosphere) and all the other stuff that
    interests you. We’ve worked off and on for the past 20 years ( yikes!) and it’s fun to have that history. I look
    forward to reading more and seeing your work!
    All the best,

  2. what if one cannot break out of “mediocrity? should one just give up? what if the one passion you have in life turns out to be the one thing you cannot do well? what shall a person do if “above average” will always elude them? i struggle with these questions daily. i sit at the computer every day and read about photo, look at photos and i even dream about taking photos, but alas, i havent taken one in a while. why? well, i feel there is no point at this moment since what i will make will not fulfill the images in my mind. perhaps, i say ” i am not ready yet” but how will i know? i believe one, cannot find art, art will just happen. that is why i sit here and wait.

    1. Jonathan … Reading about photography will not make you an artist. Looking at photos will not make you a photographer. Dreaming about photos may give you inspiration but will not put images into your camera. One does not ‘find’ art, one works hard for art, very hard. Art does not ‘just happen’, it is the possible result of that same hard work, with trial, error, determination, and persistence driving an artist to learn, fine tune, and hone his craft. None of this will come out of your computer and neither will your art, no matter how long you sit and wait. Do not spend time worrying about breaking out of something that you will not work your way out of as an artist. You want to be an artist or a photographer? Invest yourself, make a commitment, … and do the work ! KM

  3. One thousand attempts may be rewarded with one complete message…one glorious complete message dreamt of in the heart, struggled with to realize from the hand to the print, and communicated at a level seldom realized in the “real” world.
    It’s not supposed to be easy when it comes from dimensions described without words

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