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It is amazing how little attention people pay to the perceived meaning of what they say at any given point.  Without proper understanding of the meaning and application of language in particular contexts along with reflection on meaning portrayed through tone and body language, a compliment can easily turn into a dismissal of the hard work put into a finished product rather than praise of a job well done.

Sometimes I wonder where everyone else was during the English class for the first 12 years of their schooling, at least.  It is hard for me to believe that only my teachers in middle-America, USA taught the importance of context, sentence structure, tone, style, clarity of written language and the importance of attention to these same characteristics in spoken language.  These are intelligent people, some with multiple degrees, who do not recognize how that compliment or question can come across as a backhanded insult.

I spent two weeks preparing to photograph my family over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend.  We have not had true family portraits since my older two were 2 and 3 years old, which was about 17 years ago.  We take pictures with Santa every year and I have just always considered that my opportunity to have a photo with everyone together.  Only Santa is not a part of my family and I am tired of being asked if I have photos of my kids and I want to be able to send a Christmas card with photos of my family wishing everyone holiday joy.  Therefore, quite a bit of work went into thoughts of where we would shoot, what we would wear, how I would set up the shot, and how to get everyone on the same page long enough for me to get the end product I wanted.

That’s why when I took my photos to work and showed them to my coworkers, it bordered on pissing me off to hear them ask, “So, you just put the camera on a tripod?”

What the hell is with “just”.  I didn’t just do anything.   I didn’t merely put the camera in place.  Merely would not be used in any sentence I use in describing an artist’s work.  Would you ask Michelangelo if he “just dipped the brush in the paint?” or Ansel Adams if he “simply, pointed at the tree?”  Don’t get me wrong, I am not putting myself in the same category as the aforementioned world-renowned artists other than that we are all artists (amateur, famous, rich, dead….doesn’t matter)  An artist’s work is more than the equipment used in the production phase…it is the eye, the thought, the execution.  I could have placed that camera on a rock, I could have propped it on the ground with lens supported by a folded blanket, I could have rigged it anyway I saw fit to capture what I saw and pose and light and adjust according to how I saw it.  The tripod is insignificant.

Just has its place in the English language:

  • I just got to work.  (only: merely)
  • I live just down the street. (at a short distance)
  • It’s just five o’clock. (at the exact moment of)
  • He is a just and noble king. (honorable and fair)

There are countless other proper and understandable uses of “just”.  I love the Webster’s dictionary, make it your friend.  But know that, with regards to my work, I didn’t just do anything and intended or not, I feel a slight bit insulted by the semantic ignorance.