As a photographer I’m always on the lookout for another unique photo opportunity, sadly they don’t come along too often, at least not the kind that causes a sharp intake of breath and my heart to skip a beat. The process of observing is a very different one for every photographer, certain things that may catch my eye might well be missed by another whose interests or mindset are receptive to different things. All I know is when it happens it’s like it came out of nowhere and feels as if it’s been presented to me alone for my attention for a limited period of time, for me to do something meaningful with.
I tend to look for things in isolation and try to present them in such a way as to grab the attention of the viewer, then release them slowly for closer inspection of the setting and the context so the image reveals it’s story in an orderly and easily understood manner. Although it’s something I find natural to do, I rarely consider my work completely successful, and feel that it always falls short.
Photography was once a mystical process of chemicals and paper that revealed a World of hidden places and alternate realms both fascinating and intriguing to the viewer, and although it’s still possible to peek into a Nether World through the lens of a camera, the advent of camera phones and cheap compacts, appears to have made it much less likely than it used to be. Now it seems such snapshot takers understand little of what hides beyond the lens, and I have to wonder. Why.?
Is it that the experience of the dedicated photographer is better or different to that of the snap shot taker or the accidental image maker, those vernacular photographers that simply capture rather than compose.? Does an accidental image convey anything less than one designed or created, does it have less to offer than the artists impression, just another image without meaning along with all the other millions uploaded to the internet each day into the world of ‘Forgetable Photography’.
For me it’s more a case that the casual phone photographer has never understood what photography really is, rather than a case of having forgotten and on that basis they should be forgiven for believing themselves for being Photographers in the true sense of the word when they are clearly Not.
I don’t like to say this, but I’ll say it anyway… There is a difference and a very Big One at that. I don’t mean to diminish the efforts of budding young photographers by belittling their efforts or marginalizing people using phone cameras to take pictures of their lunch, it’s all valid in it’s own way, but it,s also enough that they exist and nothing more, for if we cannot not distinguish between the snapshot and created images of interest and importance, real photography would not exist. The distance between the casually represented and the intellectual creation is not just different as some would like us to believe, it is as far apart as the doodle from a Rembrandt, and to say that vernacular or accidental photography is as good as any is an overstatement of monumental proportions. A Camera is just a Camera and while it holds a unrivaled place in the world of expression, it is Not a Photographer Nor an Artist.
There’s a fanciful view that many holders of phone cameras now have, that it’s the camera that does the work and that they now have in their possession the secrets of photography, once only available to a privileged few that call themselves professionals, and they now own and control the World through the medium of photography and the internet. Comfortable as they may be with this misconception most of them are producing images that are at best inferior that may never see the light of day by anyone on screen or in print of any kind, even by themselves. Proof enough that as photographs they are significant only in that they produce something that exists, and nothing else.
If it were possible for someone to produce a photograph of worth or value without making any effort, would it not be fair to say that anyone owning a paintbrush and canvas could call themselves an, ‘Artist’ or someone with Pen & Paper an Author. Photography is by it’s very nature at least a craft or as some prefer to consider it, ‘Art’. I am of the opinion that it can be both and I rest my case on the matter there.
Digital photography may have made it easy for anyone to take an acceptable picture, but from the evidence it’s clear that out of the staggering number of pointless images made everyday, that Cameras are nothing more than recorders of objects and events and Photography is very much something else, something beyond the obvious, above the mediocre, something that brings together Objects, Moments & Mood in a way no other medium can, and I for one am glad that it’s still Alive and Kicking, perhaps not shared or fully understood by the complying masses but none the less in my view still unique and just as Important now as the day the very first picture was taken.
Of course only a ‘True Photographer’ would know this, which is why everyone else and his dog out there, in La La Land, pointing their cameras are not just self appointed critics, but self appointed experts on ‘What Photography Really Is’.