Photography is for Everyone
A few weeks ago I read a post on a fairly popular website from someone arguing that photography as an art from was being ruined because its become so accessible. The author was decrying the fact that anyone can take a photo now and anyone can call themselves a photographer. They believe that this has diluted the purity of the art (I’m paraphrasing) and are ruining it for the “real photographers”.
What a load of elitist rubbish.
If there’s one thing that really ticks me off, it’s elitism in the photography community. Photography is the most liberal of liberal arts. It’s something everyone can enjoy and participate in. It’s one of the most accessible and easy to get into forms of art. It means so many different things to so many people. It’s everything from a way to immortalise precious memories, to capture important moments in history, to sell a product, or just make a pretty picture.
Why should this be reserved for the select few? Who gives one person the right to decide who can and can’t make art?
I saw another post recently too from someone who said they gave up professional photography because too many people had camera enabled smartphones. Again, the ranting was in a similar vein. If people with smartphones are killing your business, there’s something wrong with your business model.
Art has existed as long as history has, and there has always been varying levels of artists. Great painters don’t fret over kids with crayons, so why are photographers threatened by people with smartphones? Your work sells itself. Sure, there will always be people looking for the cheapest option who don’t care about the results, but if you value yourself as a professional artist, your work will sell itself. If you’re good enough, it won’t matter how many people, who you don’t think are any good, call themselves photographers, or how many people have smartphones.
A person may not be eloquent, but they still get to write or speak. Art is subjective. I don’t like a lot of modern art, but I still accept that the people creating these artworks are artists. You may think there are loads of bad photographers out there, but so what? How does that affect your work in any way?
One of the longest running tropes in photography is that the photographer takes the photo, not the camera. But I would argue that when it comes down to it, for someone selling art or design as a business, it’s the results that matter, not what other people decide to call themselves. If you define yourself by your competition, then you’ve already lost. I’ve worked in the creative industry for over 20 years, and this has and will always be the case. People hire you based on the quality of your work. If your work is good enough, people will pay for you. Sure, some won’t, but you don’t want those people as a client anyway.
The creative industry is always evolving. Trends change on a weekly basis. Technology is constantly updating. As an artist, or a creative, you need to be constantly evolving and adapting to the market. This isn’t anything new, nor is it unique to photography.
For me, I celebrate that more and more people can participate in photography. These arguments aren’t anything new either, for what it’s worth. Back when 35mm film was relatively new some elitists argued against the pollution of the art form. Cheaper and cheaper film cameras began the democratisation of photography, and the digital camera revolution made it much easier for the average person fo produce better and better results. The arrival of good quality cameras on smartphones just continued this trend.
This isn’t something to be threatened by. It’s something to celebrate.
Instead of thinking that being a “photographer” makes you stand apart from everyone else, think of it as connecting you to the world. Instead of thinking of it as a right, think of it as a privilege. Instead of thinking that you’re better than everyone else because you’re a “real photographer”, let your work speak for itself. Instead of criticising others who want to participate in the art form as not being good enough, help them improve. Instead of complaining about how new technology is encroaching on your business, learn how you can adapt your business to take advantage of new technology. Instead of going on YouTube to complain, go take a great photo and share that instead.
I often think when I see an old film camera on someone’s shelf or even in a shop, that the camera probably has a history and a story. I think about cameras passed down from parent to child, and how people have been brought together by their love for photography. There are thousands and thousands of such stories out in the world waiting to be told. Photography is the story of humanity. It captures it and it is told by it. Form the photos of people kids on facebook and instagram, to devastating events captured by photojournalists. From the depths of the oceans to outer space, photography has allowed the world to see things they otherwise couldn’t. It has informed and entertained.
Photography is art and a craft. It’s science and creativity. It tells a story, it captures memories. It shares dreams, and creates dreams. It’s passion and beauty, agony and ecstasy. It brings the world together. It doesn’t discriminate. It can be abstract and documentary. It can represent beauty or ugliness.
Creativity is one of the most important things about people that make us human, and photography is a great way for everyone of all ages and abilities to express that. It’s not an art just for nobility, or a select few. It doesn’t matter if it’s a masterpiece or not, art is still art.
Photography is for everyone.
Cover Image by David Marcu via unsplash
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