Saturday, December 22, 2012

thoughts on photography

I recently read an article about how our phones have changed photography, and it really got me thinking about what I want to be as a photographer and how all of us are affected by this technology.

I learned once in some class a long time ago (or I might have read it in a Time magazine) that technology is growing exponentially. When I was a little kid my parents had a giant video camera that recorded everything on those big tapes that you could stick into VCRs, and now I have a video camera that slips into my back pocket. The same goes with cameras. They used to carve everything on rocks and ride dinosaurs and now film photography is seen as a novelty sort of thing (seriously, when was the last time you bought even a disposable camera, much less tinkered with a film camera?). We live in the digital age, and I am definitely all for it. Our cameras are smaller and better, we get instant gratification, we share, upload, download. Photography is no longer this novelty sort of thing, it's documenting and sharing our experiences (and I loved how the article talked about this).

That's largely why I'm a photographer, to document my life and the lives of those around me, be that through weddings, senior photos, you name it. It's all about documentation. The definition of photography has changed dramatically over the years, I think. Part of me thinks that way too many people call themselves photographers because of how available it is. Now I've seen some fantastic work that was done solely with an iphone in a studio, but it seems like every person with a camera phone calls themselves a photographer (or at least thinks they could do it). In one sense, it's awesome that this art form is so popular. There are a lot of creative minds out there who are brilliant photographers and extremely talented at what they do and I love their passion and creativity and how easily I can look at their work. Had it not been for them and the fact that photography was and is so readily available, I would have never dreamed of myself being a photographer. But in another sense, it leaves me worried (or curious, I suppose would have a better mindset to this) that the availability of the art form has cheapened it. If anyone can snap a picture of a flower or a person and call it art, is it really art? Perhaps, to borrow from Disney, the saying "anyone can cook" really means a great chef can come from anyone. Sure anyone can take photos, but great art is not limited to a select few, and even though the availability of photography does open the doors to anyone messing around with it, it also allows that one special person to discover it and do amazing things.

But with photography being so available today, it does make the market incredibly difficult. I guess it still goes back to "anyone can cook." I'd hate to sound rude or uppity, but not everyone should be a photographer. Even though the definition of photography has changed from being purely art to also documentation, that doesn't mean the art side of it has disappeared completely. You still have to have a little bit of creativity inside of you to truly be great. But I have also read that, like a lot of things in life, it's 90% learned skill and only 10% natural talent (that's not a real scientific statistic, but you get my point). There are so many classes and online articles and tutorials that are available to the public. It's that cookbook for the beginning chef. He just has to follow a set of ingredients to become awesome. It all takes time and learning and patience. But I do think this has caused people to become hasty in giving themselves titles and creating makeshift businesses and charging people for photos that could have been better had they taken the time to learn and grow in the art side of photography rather than jumping into the document and experience side of it.

As for me, I truly believe that anyone can be a photographer. I love photography because I can document my life. I also love it because I can create art with the tools available to me. I love it because it's an art form that is instantly gratifying and I love it because I can share it. I love it because you really don't need fancy, expensive equipment to create. I love it because instagram came from it and opened this new world of sharing and the planting of ideas in people's heads (thoughts like, "Hey, this photo isn't so bad, maybe I should look deeper into this photography thing."). I love it because anyone can pick up a camera or a phone and feel the same way I feel.

If you want to be a photographer for whatever reason (to document, to share, to create), I would say go for it one hundred million percent. Taking the plunge has changed my life completely, and for the better too. All the tools are available. You don't even need a fancy Digital SLR camera (I did my entire first 365 project using only a $75 point and shoot camera, so I know there are no excuses). All you need is a desire, a crazy desire to create, to document, to share your life with others, because I have learned that photography is so much more than just instagram and an iphone, it's this insane community of creative, beautiful people all with a desire to create something amazing.

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