purism is ego

whenever some new technology rolls around that lowers the barrier to making art (or whatever skill), existing practitioners often shy away from using it by claiming it’s “not real,” hiding behind the belief that they’re purists and often attack new work for being low effort.

this post is not about ethical arguments surrounding AI generated content. thats another topic. this is about the reflex that people have when new methods and tools challenge their practice.

i dont think many creatives care about purism because of a deep emotional attachment to the process. it’s the weirdest form of stockholm syndrome ive seen, and it’s pervasive in every creative field. people enjoy the feeling of being an expert more than they like making their thing. they conflate their enjoyment of creation with the ego they’ve built up from becoming an expert, especially when it involves using complex tools.

is dragging around little layers in photoshop romantic? spending hours hitting a bunch of keyboard shortcuts? memorizing arcane and verbose terminology that the folks at adobe created for you? dealing with other people’s bad interfaces and design decisions? thats what people take pride in?

give me a break lmao

if you actually care about tradition you’d be taking a train to a mountainside with an easel and canvas to paint a landscape, not complaining that 10 y/o billy made something with a bot that could’ve made it into your art school. am i being reductive? sure, but this is my essay and im trying to exaggerate :-)

“but it’s not the same! i put in effort.”

oh goodness. yes, levels of effort vary a lot especially now you can get out so much from so little. i don’t know what else to say to this but like, try harder? if your work is so easily intimidated by new tools that let 1000x more people participate, maybe you should step up your game a bit. take your talent and use the new tools to your advantage. you did it once, now do it again

i dont care about purism for its own sake. i only enjoy purism insofar as the process is fun or fulfilling, not because i think its a valuable ideology. if you want to go to a darkroom and spend an entire day developing film photography because you want to keep the practice alive and you think it’s meditative, that’s fantastic. but that is absolutely not grounds to disqualify an amazing shot that an amateur photographer took on their phone.

i design and program a lot. i could give less of a shit if something came out tomorrow that made all modern programming practices obsolete, or would bring figma’s valuation to 0. i. dont. care! i want to use tools that let me get stuff out of my head in whatever way possible.

so, i think most purism is a coping mechanism and actually just a mask for 1) pride of expertise and 2) insecurity of being seen as worthless. claiming to be a purist is often a reflexive virtue signal that lets people avoid questioning their own creative motivation. and i think most defintions of purism for any field are very fuzzy, and at the end of the day arbitrary– where do you draw the line? how do you define tradition in a field that changes every week now?

i care about expression. i am not here to sit idly and twiddle my thumbs while the rest of the world moves on.