The democratization of photography and modeling and anything else you can afford.
All the time its, "Mike, write a blog." "You have so many things to talk about!" You've finished like, 500 shoots, share your ideas!" I sit down to write a blog and I want nothing to do with this process. My thoughts matter less the more I sit here and type this. Though, wait till tomorrow when I am far away from a decent computer, I'll be wanting to write those silly thoughts down.
I suppose this blog isn't about anything in particular because all my thought processes have seemed to escape me. Okay, I'll stop right there. Nobody wants to read a blog about nothing. I just went and wrote the title before I even have written anything of substance. I'm calling this one, "The democratization of photography and modeling and anything else you can afford." Well, what the hell does that mean? It basically means that two, somewhat specialized, professions are now accessible to a lot more of the population. That's good right? Sure. It sounds remarkably good. Thousands of people who may have not had the means to now have the chance to try it out. It's good when everyone gets a chance right? Too bad I'm a cynic and all I'm going to do is focus on why it's terrible. Let's break this down and start with Photography because one undeniably has created the other.
Photography has been around in some form or another for about 170 years. It went from an uber specialty profession and then to the masses when 35mm film became much more prevalent. I'm not trying to argue that everyone shouldn't have a camera. I mean everyone almost does with the advent of smart phones but what I am arguing is that everyone who has a camera isn't a photographer. Well, duh Mike, they know that. Ah, but this is where the noise sets in. This is where the tidal wave breaks. If you sampled 1,000 people in 1970 who owned cameras and asked them if they were photographers I assure you the amount of people that would have said "yes" would be markedly less than a group of 1,000 in 2010. Am I losing you? Probably. Does this matter? Probably not. Well it does. It does to me.
Sometime after the year 2000 something happened. Digital photography started gaining strength. The cost of technology in cameras dropped significantly. Film started to increase in price. Demand was down. The winds of change had been felt. Stupidly not by Kodak, those schmucks. Camera companies introduce the first digital SLR. A compact, digital camera that changes lenses and uses a memory card to store photos instead of film. How many photos? As many as your card could hold. The prices go down. Memory prices go down. Film prices go up. They stop making certain films. Companies jump on this band wagon. Digital sensors are cheaper and so are the chips that run the camera. Image quality goes through the roof. I'm taking about real advances in latitude, resolution and contrast. There is no development time. There is no waiting to see if you got the right shot. There is no wasting of negatives.
I just had a thought that has little to do with anything. People have always taken photos. Most point and shoots and 35mm cameras got the job done but they didn't do anything too amazing. To take really great photos before the advent of digital photography you had to have some money(for film and gear), have a great eye, understand the basic concepts in photography. Okay okay, I'm running into walls as I type this. Of course, you don't need great gear to be a good photographer. My point is, you needed some education. You needed to put some work into that. That's it. That's what I'm trying to get at, you needed some effort. You couldn't just pick up an iphone and take a great picture without knowing anything. There was no iphone. I think about this when I use my mamiya rb67. That thing doesn't care about you. You work for Mamiya. It will do nothing unless you, meter, set the f stop, set the shutter, focus, recompose, focus, lock focus, take the dark slide out, press the shutter. Advance the film. Getting the negative back and scanning it, you still might have taken a crappy picture. People now hold up their little rectangle and hit a circle and you could get published in nat geo(okay maybe not nat geo) or any other magazine because that little camera sensor has made all those difficult decisions for you. Okay, slowly starting to get even more off track. Let's go back to the digital era.
You have these great cameras that do a hell of a whole lot. If you can't make a striking fucking image with a canon rebel t3i from 10 years ago there's something wrong with you. All these cameras start to become available at prices that were not in a lot of people's grasps. That's a good thing right? No. People don't deserve nice things. They deserve to be given the chance for nice things but you don't get nice things off the bat. This is how I feel about this generation in general. Now people have these image making boxes that do mostly everything for them and it instills some weird confidence in them. "Hey I took THAT picture?" Sure you did kid. You pressed the button. Give people power and they run with it. This begins the delusional feed.
Another striking realization as I type this is that social media has played a huge role in transforming the casual picture taker into the "photographer." The newly minted owner of a digital slr takes a couple pictures of something and posts them on the internet. His echo chamber responds instantly. Things like, "you take such beautiful pictures" and "oh my god you should be a photographer" start to murmur and swirl around them. The "photographer" is emboldened. They are caught up in a frenzy of feel good praise. "Hey, maybe I am a photographer!" they proclaim. They learn that putting watermarks on images is a "professional" thing to do and finagle something abhorrent in MS paint/Photoshop or Gimp and call them selves "such and such" Photography or images or "Focus studios" or something equally as shitty. If they are lucky people start to ask them what they charge. Never taking a business class or understanding what goods and services cost in their market they throw out outlandish numbers like "$350.00 for weddings! with all images and a cdr!" They systematically drive down the market without knowing they won't be able to sustain themselves before it is too late. Also, analogy time. Don't argue with me that people that shop at payless shoes are not the same people that shop at prada. If the Prada shoppers see enough payless prices they are going to ask for less. Sure there is definitely a market for everyone person and you should market accordingly but if those people who would normally pay 3k for a wedding keep seeing photographers that will shoot work for $850.00 people will start to wonder.
I'm getting slightly off track...again. Geez and I haven't even scratched the surface or mentioned the whole "model" issue now. I might make a second post as this one is getting long. Even my attention is starting to dwindle.
You create a sea of noise by giving everyone the chance to be a photographer. Just look at instagram. One could argue that it's a good thing. I mean there are a fuck ton of amazing people out there creating amazing images. Is it because they now had access to photographic means? Possibly? I think an amazing person is still amazing without the catalyst. Hmmmm I might have to think about that for a second or a day maybe.
I guess my beef isn't the fact that everyone can purchase a nice camera with less than 500 dollars. It's cool if you can. It's cool. It's just when you're given that power, and there is a whole lot of power in these machines now, you shouldn't be allowed to say you're anything. Wow, I'm just thinking again, social media is to blame. Maybe it isn't cheaper gear. So fewer people would try to work hard at what they do if they had to work harder to display their images.
You're not a pilot if you purchase a plane. I suppose you should be one though. I guess that's my point. A person that buys a 5d mark iv isn't a photographer but they should be. Now I see a lot of shit. Like really bad photography. It might be because I am now in a state that is a little more rural. It might be there is just less talent. It really is social media. I'm sorry I keep going back to this but there would be such less noise if people were not permitted to post things if they weren't really photographers.
Mike, that's not fair. You can't say that. You have a very humble beginning with awful photos. (My present is still humble don't you worry)
Yeah but I never called myself a photographer. I remember around 2009 when I actually said "I have a booking this afternoon." It felt really dirty. Like I wasn't allowed to say it. I didn't deserve it. I still have a hard time calling myself one. I guess my tax id number though kinda makes me say that. Don't worry, I'm not equating having a business license for photography to being a photographer.
Maybe I have issues with the word photographer. Maybe it's all on me. What does it mean to be a photographer .5 person who is drunk reading this? I'll answer it. It really just like anything involving skill. You have to earn it. I don't think there is an award or plaque or time frame that allows you to know you're a photographer but I can tell you about half of the people that claim they are in these small towns aren't. I guess that's not for me to decide but you sure do look like a chump parading your awful images everywhere.
Alright, too much talk. Part two I will chat about the elusive Model. Where did they come from? Why you aren't a model and the gross underbelly of a world that I have witnessed evolve over the years. It's unhealthy and it's here to stay. I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings thus far. Leave a comment or tell me to shut up. Part two, tomorrow.