I can understand calling a judge, “Your Honor.”  The Honorable, Judge Brown, etc…  There is reverence for the law and for those who have studied it and risen to the true top of the profession, as respected arbiter of the law.  While there are a thousand lawyer jokes, there are  not so many judge jokes.  I suppose that is because we honor them more highly.  However, when a mayor or a congressman wants me to use the title, The Honorable, I have to laugh.  Because the last thing I would call a politician is honorable.  Likewise it is pure silliness when Senator Barbara Boxer asks that General Walsh refer to her as “Senator”, rather than “Ma’am.” Even thought the title Senator contains no inherent honor, a Senator will remind you of their title every chance they get.

Titles are a funny thing.  Doctors and dentists put MD or DDS after their name.  Some lawyers even want to get into the suffix game with ESQ or JD.  Many of these titles help us to determine who has gone to medical school, who has gone through a rigorous accounting examination process, etc.  In that respect these titles can be helpful at identifying where we should go when we are sick and where when we are in need of tax preparation assistance.  But what I can not fathom is when a photographer gets carried away in the title game as though they had earned a medical degree or had been elected US Senator and thus deserve a special title with its accompanied respect.

I recently began to read an article in a photo magazine where Photographer A was mentioning Photographer B’s workshop and when they mentioned photographer A’s name they wrote, “..when Jesica Cornbluthe*, M.Photog.Cr., Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP, Hon.ASP. told us,…”.

You have got to be kidding me.  First, after quoting this, my spell check lights up like a dried out Christmas tree doused in napalm.  Second, listing five enigmatic acronyms after someone’s  name only help to confuse and annoy the reader?  By the time I got through the long list of acronyms and attempted to associate them in my mind, I had completely forgotten what the article was even about.  And third, if I were able to decipher one of the obscure references, the fact that Photographer B belongs to an association to which anyone can belong for $300 a year, gives me no further information about her other than she has at least $300 each year of disposable income?

As I attempted to cross the sea of shortened titles, I fell into John Nash’s abyss and immediately stopped reading the article and started trying to decipher the hidden messages in the code of the endless string of acronyms.  I was unable to find any Nazi war plans, or US government conspiracies, but with the help of Google, I came up with the following list:

  • M. Photog.Cr: Master of Photography and Craftsman. I’m not sure who gives the title.
  • Hon.M.Photog: Honorable Master of Photography.  This must be better than the first, because of the “honorable” part.  Although I never liked getting honorable mentions because that meant the work was not good enough to get an award.  So perhaps it means you are not good enough to get the title Master of Photography.
  • CPP: Certified Professional Photographer.  Is there a state agency somewhere that certifies one as a professional?  Wouldn’t a bank account and a photography business certify one as a professional?
  • ABI: American Bankruptcy Institute.  I seriously couldn’t find anything on this one except for this.  Perhaps she is a part time bankruptcy advocate?
  • A-ASP: American Association of Swine Vetrinarians.  No joke, this is what google gave me.
  • Hon.ASP: I have no idea on this one either.  Perhaps this is the judge (the your honor) for the A-ASP above.

By the way, I never returned to reading the article.

Besides loosing the reader completely, here is the philosophical problem.  There are plenty of people who put an acronym behind their name, they are call doctors, and lawyers, CPAs and such.  They save lives, or at least help you avoid taxes or help you out of a nasty divorce.  But, when a photographer not only comes up with , but actually places not two, but five acronyms behind her name; that is not only arrogant, pompous and self obsessed, but begs the question: why do the honorary titles and lists of meaningless accolades matter so much?

Bill Brandt (who incidentally has no acronyms following his name) would not, as a matter of principle, talk about himself. The person is of no importance, he would say, it is the picture that is important … I have to agree with Bill Brandt to this extent: honors and titles, degrees and associations mean nothing.  What defines a photographer (as a photographer) is his or her images.  Nothing more, nothing less.  By their fruits, you will know them.  Do they produce superior work on a consistent basis?  Then we can call them great, respect them and give them honor.

Show me your portfolio and better yet, your un-edited contact sheets and I will come to know you as a photographer and as a person.  Strip away your honors and titles.  Loose the acronyms, the association cliques and the name recognition and show me your images, just your images.  To me, nothing else matters. The photograph is king.

Jared Platt, CIP, Mn.HPD, GOP, APL, M.D., LLC, PPP, AIG, GM, BofA B.S. AZ, LR.

* The name Jesica Cornbluthe is not the real name listed in the article.