Since I like to be controversial, let me tackle a subject that will get some people’s feathers rather ruffled by this statement: Everyone is a photographer, and often a very good one.
There are many professional photographers that may not like for non-professional photographers to be further encouraged, but the truth is simple, digital has done for photography what Kodak’s Box Brownie has always intended to do, but without the recurring revenue of film and processing for them.
The smartphone has only accelerated that process even further today which can be a good and a bad thing, depending on where you are seated.
Definition of Photographer
If photography is painting with light, then someone who takes a photograph is a photographer. It is really very simple. I feel like I should just be able to close the conversation at this point, but let me give more context to my frustration, which is actually shared and very well voiced by David deChemin in many respects.
There are those struggling professional photographers who would try and proclaim that only someone who has a degree, is published or earns a full-time income from the craft of taking pictures is a real photographer. Many of these same people would belittle the term amateur to indicate someone who is inferior to themselves at the art of photography.
Let us clearly understand, the word amateur has its root from words that denote one who has love or passion. There is nothing shameful about being an amateur. One who takes images for the love of the art and can very often create even greater work than professionals is something to be proud of.
There have been many professional photographers who have pushed out any kind of work just to get paid. They are making their living from the skills they have, they are not doing the work they are passionate about.
An example of an amateur would be the discovered photographer Vivian Maier. For a period of about 40 years ending in the early 1990s if I recall correctly, this passionate photographer collected over 100,000 images of her work documenting life in the free time of her work life as a nanny.
Those who knew her appeared shocked to learn after her passing in 2009 and the discovery of her work two years earlier in sales of storage lockers that she had defaulted on the payment of, that she was such a prolific and talented photographer.
This to me supports the argument, that an amateur photographer need not be an inferior photographer to the professional, in some ways, the opposite may be true, for they can shoot consistently for their own enjoyment and not merely work that will pay the bills.
There is, however, a silver lining I think to some that are still trying to keep their profession of photography alive.
While Smartphone cameras have increased the ability for everyone to not only take a reasonable quality image from a hardware perspective but also edit and share the same, there are some limitations of this technology that prevents the humble smartphone camera from working in every environment.
So while global camera sales decline due to the popularity of the smartphone, there are circumstances where experience and specialist camera gear will be the cornerstone to a successful image.
In the future, it may be increasingly difficult to be a photographer who claims to specialise in every genre – the antithesis really of specialising – but those who build their brand in a specific genre with the required equipment and expertise could carve out their niche for the future.
The Box Brownie did not kill professional photography. I do not feel that the smartphone will do the same either. Sure this time the number or professionals may not increase with technological developments, but I think there is still an opportunity to be found in adversity.
(Catch last week’s Photo Friday episode here.)