There is an undercurrent in the photography industry at the moment. Thinking about it there has been an undercurrent for a long time.
The advent of digital photography has democratized what was otherwise seen as an art form. Some pro photographers are unhappy because they believe that it cheapens the ‘art’. No more hours in the dark room, no more need to understand metering, exposure, aperture lighting etc. Now everyone can get a camera, lens and practice and learn to take great photographs.
In the past week I have read words of bitterness and anger about the photography business. It unsettles me and makes me unhappy.
Time changes things and we have to accept the progress and adapt and change, or maybe really make ourselves skilled individual artisans in order to stand out.
There has been talk from some about people copying and being influenced by other artists. I say this is not a bad thing and it is important for us photographers to be aware and study the work of those that came before us. To look at the work of the great artists; To understand how light works and how it can change and make magic, and most of all how we must keep on looking with our eyes – Truly seeing things, creating a visual vocabulary and taking what I term as Considered Portraits. There is nothing wrong with being influenced by the work of the greats. I love Vermeer, Botticelli, and the Pre-Raphaelites, in photographers world I love Sally Mann, Dorothea Lange, Dianne Arbus, Annie Leibovitz, Rineke Dijkstra, and many more.
It has always been tricky making a living as an ‘artist’. There are very few in the photography industry who are truly ‘artists’ , however there are ones who can capture moments of your life beautifully, and make them into art.
I find myself feeling uncomfortable when other professionals complain about new people entering the industry and ‘devaluing ‘ the art of photography. Though I really do have sympathy for those who have been in it for years and have seen their business having to change to suit these more difficult times.
At this point a little voice enters my head and then I remember.
I remember the skilled printers at Wapping; the miners who lost their jobs when mines closed down. Even the till workers at the local supermarket are in danger of losing their jobs when the self-service tills take over and the News and Documentary photographers who are losing their jobs, as more news organisations accept images and videos from ‘Members of the public’ instead. I feel utmost sympathy, sadness and a sense of loss for all the above.
BUT I truly believe fellow portrait and social photographers and artisans, that if you stick to your art, hone it, adapt to change, and work hard then you can make a business work. It has to be different; you have to be at the heart of it. Infact you have to be the heartbeat of the business. It used to be different and, the images were enough. Now the personality of the photographer counts just as much. This may be wrong but when I look back on the art of those I admire, their works sings to me first and foremost, their way of seeing the world, but also their quirky and sometimes difficult personalities enchant me too.
But getting back to the point, I am delighted to see that progress has enabled everyone to gain access to the photographer’s tools. It has democratised this artform. I also believe that only a small percentage of these will decide to turn this into a profession, and I salute and encourage all new people entering the industry. May your journey be a good one.