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"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.


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 28th, 2010 07:55 am (UTC)
I don't know the context, but it seems a strange and somewhat elitist complaint. Complaining that the technical gear needed to take good photos are now accessible to even the middleclass hobbyist.

This sounds sorta like the nobleman complaining that now with the rising standard-of-living, he can no longer feel SPECIAL for owning a car.

Besides, like you said, adequate equipment is nessecary to make good pictures, but it's not sufficient. An amateur with a $5K camera will -still- take pictures that look amateurish.

And honestly, isn't it better this way ?

Separate by actual skill, not by who can afford to play ? Isn't the true artist the skillfull one, rather than the rich one ?
Jan. 28th, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Strange
An amateur with a $5K camera will -still- take pictures that look amateurish.

Agreed. And a master can take a well-made one with a toy camera.
Jan. 28th, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
very interesting and true. Nice anyone can have access to more and more of these things in future.
Jan. 28th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
I agree with you. My take on it is this (speaking as a non-serious but prolific amateur photographer): It is very easy to push the button and record an instant these days. It takes experience and an aesthetic to capture evocative moments. Having better equipment, and enough experience to make that equipment do what you want helps a lot. Knowing about lighting, and framing, and timing... all important to having more than one shot in a thousand be worthwhile.
Jan. 28th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, this too.

Think of Hitchcock and his shooting ratio.
Jan. 28th, 2010 01:51 pm (UTC)
There's a difference between having the ability to and being an artist in.

Anyone can take photographs, paint a picture, sing a song, make a WordPress site. But, only some people are photographers, painters, singers, Web Designers/Developers.
Jan. 28th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
That's right. Anyone can be a photographer. What has she lost because of that?

Jealousy is so unbecoming.
Jan. 28th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of a conversation I read among marathon runners who despised walkers and people who don't train for weeks, but just run the marathon. They said it felt like people were taking something away from them and their marathon (and their weeks and weeks of training).

Fuck them. Everyone can do things their own way. How does that hurt you or take away from "your marathon"? I don't care how you finish, if you go 26.2 miles, you're a freaking champion.
Jan. 28th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
I know! I did 2 marathons and I walked them. It took me 7 hours! But I had random people telling me to "start running" including the cops :)
Jan. 28th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
"They said it felt like people were taking something away from them and their marathon (and their weeks and weeks of training)."

Someone was - it was themselves.
Jan. 28th, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
I don't agree with the attitude the woman expressed, but I don't think it's as simple as "what has she lost?" If she's a professional photographer, she may have lost having some of her stock photographs purchased because companies found an amateur's picture on Flickr that they can obtain for free or credit and she may have lost gigs because someone doing it as a hobby can undercut her rate.

I don't know that that's the case, but those seem like reasonable possibilities in which the spread of amateur photography can hurt established professionals. I'm sure there are more examples that I haven't thought about.
Jan. 28th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
oh totally, it's the income revenue that is lost that threatens those people who went to college for a photography degree.

For example, you want some pinup shots done, hopefully in a nice quality that can be printed, professional looking. I'm doing it for you for free, but if you didn't have photography friends, you would seriously consider paying a glamour photographer to do it.

Jan. 28th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
In my case, it's more likely that I just wouldn't get them done. So there's that side, too.

In an ideal world, what would happen is that aspiring professionals would build their books and gain experience by doing TFP, free, or low-cost shoots with people who couldn't or wouldn't pay professional prices. After book is built and experience is gained, the aspiring professional would raise their rates because they're now able to target that market. And everyone wins.
Jan. 28th, 2010 02:58 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of different art-historical discussions on the "Democratization" of art over time. In the beginning of photography, nobody considered it art because it was a nifty trick that didn't require skill, and it produced multiples, which for lack of uniqueness were less valued.

That's not the case anymore, not just for photography but also for other printmaking arts.
Jan. 28th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about this more, and I don't think you are part of the "anyone." Maybe you wouldn't have started with photography in pre-digital days, but you've still invested money in your equipment and in workshops and time in doing photoshoots. You are putting a lot of work into improving your skill and natural talent.

It's not like you're just picking up a point-and-shoot and taking a whole bunch of pictures in the hopes that you'll stumble across something nice.
Jan. 29th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
I think she's totally wrong. With today's technology anyone can take a photograph. Not everyone can be a photographer.

It's like she's saying that because harmonicas are cheap, everyone can be a concert pianist.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )


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