This week involves a lot of train travel and, as the reason for the travel isn’t very nice, I have treated myself to some photography magazines. I only read these intermittently. I often find ideas are repeated and sometimes advice is quite frankly wrong (more on that in a later post). But sometimes there’s something new, a nugget of helpful advice, or a source of creative inspiration, and it is good to put the brain on hold every now and then and just soak in the visual goodness that you get from lovely, large images in a glossy magazine. However, I was a little taken aback by a vein running through all three magazines, namely the tendency to rant along the following line: “why I am a proper photographer and you are not”.
In one magazine, in particular, the bete noir was people who buy expensive pro-level cameras, open a Facebook page and then call themselves photographers.
This same article included the frankly nonsensical and now rather overworked expression: ‘If you have to use Photoshop to make your photos look better, then you should think about whether you’re worthy of the title photographer’. This is actually a bit like saying, in pre-digital days, if you have to dodge and burn in the darkroom to make your photos look better, then you are not a proper photographer. Does this make sense to you?
But all these moaning minnies (or michaels, in fact) got me thinking about what is a photographer? Is it someone who makes their living from taking photos or anyone who has ever taken a photo? Or something in between? And does it matter if an amateur has a Facebook page called Joe Bloggs Photography on which he shares his images, enjoying his hobby and perhaps giving pleasure to some viewers? Are viewers, as one writer suggested, no longer capable of discerning the good from the bad because we are saturated in images or are we perhaps not quite the Philistines he suggests?
I have some sympathy for pro-photographers who find their income eroded by amateurs who are willing to license their images for low fees or even just a credit. But none of the columnists mentioned that. In the end, when I had stopped imagining epistolary remonstrances to the editors, I decided that I had just two words to say to these writers: chill out! Photography is fun, and I think it’s good that more people now enjoy taking and sharing photos. You don’t have to look at their Facebook pages if you don’t want to. But if you do, you might just find that one or two of them have taken some pretty good pictures. And, if they haven’t, the virtual exit is only one mouse click away.
What does the word “photographer” mean to you?