A recent quote by photographer Mary Ellen Mark has had some angst-driven controversy:
““People are bidding on something that has no value. I thought it was a joke, so I just took a cell phone picture of a real photograph. It is easy to take a good picture and so hard, almost impossible, to take a great picture. It takes years of labor to do this well. Photography is a craft, an art, a point of view. Instagram is not meant to be fine art or a beautiful object; it is social media—a means of communication.”
As photography itself becomes ubiquitous, and slides farther and farther from the ‘craftsman’ column of definition, those practitioners of the craft will bitterly hold on to it – as a drowning person will a life-preserver.
They allowed their self-worth to be determined by the tools, the experience and the learning that they put into the creation of the image.
What used to take days now takes a half second. Or less.
What was a long and somewhat arduous road of practice/failure/practice is now an escalator with rest stops and arcades along the way.
What used to take a year’s salary to purchase can now be done on the phone you use to find out what time it is, or where the local diners are, or check on your favorite sports team’s score. Oh, and make calls too.
Those that fought for every new advance in film ability, or camera technique feel as though their very being was wasted. What good is it climbing up the mountain if at the top there is a parking lot with a mini-mall.
I always cringe when I hear someone say something along the lines of “everyone is a photographer now” with a bit of venom or resignation in their voice.
Tis true… but I don’t think that is bad. On the contrary, the amount of imagery, what that imagery is used for and how it is perceived is wonderful, uplifting and socially, personally exciting.
As with anything that has to do with technology, the changes usually end up making the process easier, the outcome more predictable, and the learning curve flatter. This is a sword with two edges – it has always been so.
I think she is right about one thing.
Photography is now communication. Language. A link between people and peoples.
Photography is no more in the residence of those who built it, painstakingly slow and with precision. That was photography as a ‘child’ – to be taught with rules and guidelines and arduous facts.
Photography is now a young person striking out on its own… and it has new rules, new tasks, new sensibilities.
Growth and maturity means a new entity.
What we called photography will endure, but it has a lot wider embrace, and a far deeper pool of practitioners.