Cameras are fucking awesome.
The Camera is an amazing machine that has evolved and changed the world many times over. Since the Camera Obscura, people have been FASCINATED with the idea of recording life. The desire to make better and better cameras has existed since the first camera was invented. Innovation is humanity’s greatest gift. Personally, I have always loved old cameras. We had an old Brownie in our house growing up, my father had an old 35mm he bought in High School, and any time I saw a camera I didn’t know what it was I would research the fuck out of it. I liked the idea of knowing how to use cameras that not everyone was able to. It was a learned trade, which is something that I value and respect in society.
Any craftsman, who genuinely loves their chosen practice, will have beautiful ways to describe their trade. Also, they will know what the fuck they are doing. Learning film photography is important -It may be irrelevant, but it’s important. To learn all of the basics of camera operations, learn how to develop your own film, and learn how to make prints are all incredibly important if you want to call yourself a photographer. When I learned such things, it was enthralling. I remember being in the first dark room being hyper aware of the fact that I was discovering my passion as I learn. That’s a weird thing to be aware of. I fell in love.
The history of photography and cameras is like this enchanting world where science some how turns into art and then back to science. The ability to Record Life as precisely as possible, can be twisted, composed, conceptualized in all different ways which turns life into Art. I had an amazing professor in college, Alex Emmons, who works with “alternative processes”. (BTW, I hate that fucking word, “Alternative”. It just means older generations of processing techniques. i.e. Cyanotypes, daguerreotypes, etc.) She was incredibly influential in making me understand that this passion of mine, is a learned craft. You had to know what you were doing and how a camera actually fucking works before you could make anything in her classes. Seems like a bit of a no brainer, right? You’d be surprised. Alex Emmons is a brilliant teacher and a true craftsman.
Why am I being all nostalgic and pretentious?
It’s too fucking easy to take pictures these days.
Yep. The advancement in camera technology is amazing. It seems like science fiction. No one ever talks about how fucking awesome it is we have the ability to actually record life. It gets better and better, which is fantastic, but it also gets easier and easier... too easy, even. I’m not sure how I feel about this yet.
I have, many times, said that it’s too easy to be a photographer in 2016.
Let me give a dumb example:
Joesephine Somebody goes on instagram, sees some awesome photos with hashtags about all the gear used to make said photos. (#CanonRebelT74i or whatever number they’re on now)
Quick Google search of said camera, thinks, “Whoa! $300 is totally doable!”, and orders it via amazon prime.
The camera kit gets there the next day (or maybe even same day? Fuck man, Amazon is taking over. They got their shit together. Whatever.).
She switches that mother-fucker to fully auto mode and snaps her first picture.
She uploads to instagram with same hashtags (maybe even #JoesphineSomebodyPhotography because why not?), hundreds of people see, like it, follow her, and get excited by her “work”. She’s ecstatic. Good for her! It feels awesome to have people like your shit.
Someone asks her to shoot them for money.
She says yes.
She’s now a photographer.
Awesome, good for her. I know tons of people just like her. I think I read one of those shitty Kardashian types is now a photographer? Whatever, my point is, it’s too fucking easy.
Also, what’s actually “in” right now is very amateur stylized photography. Thanks, Terry Richardson, American Apparel, and everyone else who rips them off... myself included. You could argue that even going back to Nan Goldin and others’ early work who made candid photos with that Point and Shoot look Art, but whatever I’m getting away form my point.
So, the cameras are far more advanced than ever, the ability to take a high quality photo without even knowing how the camera works, and the fact that it’s trendy to take simple shitty photos is the magical combination of ingredients that make being a photographer the easiest goddamn thing in the world.
But should we be giving people money for this? I don’t know. I get confused myself.
Now, let’s take it a step further and say that Joesephine Somebody is actually a model with a large following on instagram. She is an “influencer” who is around cameras all the time, becomes interested in having a “new thing”, buys a camera, and BAM! Suddenly a photographer. She now talks about her “work” and all that douchey bullshit. What happens next is interesting to me, because her “work” is instantly a real commodity. She has an audience for her “work”. If a person or company were to pay her to photograph something, she might feature it on her social media platforms and expose it to her large audience. This is a valuable thing to people. It’s a little gross, but no one seems to care. It’s exposure. It’s marketing. But is it good?
Some would argue that if it’s a “good photo” then it must be good. But is it a good photo? Is it really? If it’s just a happy accident based on the simplicity and ease of taking a picture in 2016, is it really good?
Let me go off on another tangent, because this isn’t already too long:
Picasso knew how to paint. Like, really knew how to paint. To the layman, his most famous works might look simple (I know, they’re not really. But for the sake of argument, ok... just go with it) but I promise you, Google his early work and you will see that, Homeboy obviously knew what the fuck he was doing. (#Understatement of the year?) It drives me crazy when I hear, “I could do that!” in reference to major paintings. That’s probably not true, but whatever. With photography, though, it is true!
You can probably do whatever American Apparel ad is currently running within the first week of owning a camera, while not knowing a single thing about cameras or photography. It’s that easy!
But, should you?
There’s a story I heard about Picasso sketching in the park when some cunty* woman recognized him and then proceeded to ask him to sketch her. He did in less than a minute or some shit. She was amazed by how perfect he had captured her. She asked him how much it would it cost to take home, and he responded, “$5,000”. She was taken aback and said “But, Picasso! It only took you less than a minute or some shit!” Picasso responded, “It took me my entire life.”
(I’m paraphrasing, folks. I don’t even know if it’s a true story.)
This hits home with me. I see all sorts of people taking photos. Friends, strangers, people from my past, famous people... literally fucking everyone these days is a photographer. Yet, very few of these people take the time to get to know how their Magical Picture Boxes work. Most of them aren’t even making good photos, just trendy ones with mass appeal. This wouldn’t bother me at all, except I see that they’re charging for this craft that they don’t actually know how to perform. They’re missing the skill set that should determine whether or not they are able to be called a photographer. Yet, because of the technological advancements, the end product is still a quality photo. This freaks me out.
On one hand: Whatever, if the client is happy, the “photographer” is happy, I shouldn’t care. But, on the other hand: This is all a sham and no one knows what he or she is doing and it’s perverting the craft I love. If I were in that situation, I would NEVER charge anyone. I would adamantly tell people, “I am a beginner, let me figure this Scientific Magic Box out before I can morally charge you. Let me develop my craft before I boldly claim to be photographer.”
Whatever. The world would be better with less shitty content, and more craftsmanship.
Who knows though, maybe I’m just self-righteous.
Nah, I’m definitely self-righteous.
*Cunty. Yes, going up to arguably one of the best painters ever and asking them to draw you is in fact a "cunty" thing to do regardless of your gender.