Is There Such a Thing as a French Eye for Photography?

Don’t let the title of this article fool you. It’s kind of misleading. In fact, it can easily become some sort of red herring because there are so many things you can read into it. The truth is, there is such a thing as culture. I know that’s not really politically correct nowadays because we’re living in the age of post-modernism and one of the central philosophical pillars of this line of thinking is that all cultures are the same.

Seriously, you probably haven’t heard it stated that way, but in practical terms and in the real world black-and-white terms, that is the case. The whole idea is that all cultures are the same. They’re of equal value. One culture is not necessarily better than the other. It’s basically a grand unified philosophical theory of “Live and let live.” What’s not to love right?

Well, here’s the thing, we cannot deny culture. While it’s true that people from all over the world have to eat, we have different ways of eating, we make different decisions regarding what to eat, how to prepare that food, and what kind of rituals we go through before we sit down to eat, or whether we sit down at all. Also, we have all sorts of checklists, whether unstated, unpublished, or not, as to what we should do after we eat.

This applies across the board, and I’m not just talking about eating, although eating is a very easy way to explain this universality of culture. What I’m pointing out here is that there is a dichotomy between the reality that culture arises from biological functions and biological needs like the need to eat, sleep, drink, get shelter, so on and so forth. There are distinct regional or culturally specific ways of meeting those needs. This is why there is such a thing as Thai cuisine as there is Romanian, or Ukrainian, or Filipino cuisine.

People have to eat, but they eat different things, prepared in different ways at different times, involving a wide range of eating rituals. This is culture and if you understand how this works, then you can understand that there is such a thing as a French eye for photography.

No amount of multicultural sophistry, justification, or casting aspersions will make this reality go away. There is such a thing as a French eye for photography just as there is such a thing as an Italian eye for photography or a Japanese eye for painting. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. There’s nothing to apologize for.

Please understand that this may be politically loaded, but it’s also true. This doesn’t mean that the French eye for photography is somehow superior to everything else. That’s not the discussion we’re having. Instead, we’re talking about its existence and my point is yes, it does because of the undeniable reality of culture.