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January 27th, 2010

"Now anyone can be a photographer!"

I was talking to someone whose wife complained that now with technology, anyone can be a photographer. Which made me think a bit, since I'm definitely part of the "anyone".

This was my response:

So I was thinking about what you said about how everyone does photography now.

It's like computers... It used to be only the geeks know how to use computers, but now everyone does because it's so easy. Before, technology was what held people back.

Also, like oil painting. Before, no random peasant can just paint if he wants to. Pigments were expensive, and you need a patron or be born in a family of artists. Access was what held people back.

Now, anyone can paint. Anyone can make a webpage. What I think separate people is their perspective on that art, and the kinds of work they produce. It doesn't matter that I know the technology behind HTML and server-side programming, a lot of non-Computer Science majors can make more useful and aesthetically pleasing websites that I can, despite my degree in Computer Science.

And while I don't know how to develop film in a dark room, I know how to use the settings on my camera to set the white-balance, and to play with the saturation settings on Lightroom to make a picture more vivid. I make the picture my own, an image that no else in the world has made.

It also made me think of other artforms like ballet, that not anyone can do right now. But one day, with technology, it may be possible to lengthen someone's limb, or to program the ability to do triple pirouettes in the brain. In that case, ballet dancers will also have to differentiate themselves from each other with their own interpretation of the art. Even among the most talented dancers, they all perform the same leading role in a different way.

Yes, anyone can be a photographer. But only I can produce pictures that are my own.