I was amused by scottbourne’s article, “Five Changes for the Worse in Photography” published by Photofocus on 30 January 2013 and tweeted by Corbis at http://t.co/yIvWLIFA
The proliferation of terribly smart digital cameras and photo software has certainly democratised photography, and made it far more accessible to hobbyists, wannabe-professionals, “pro-sumers” and, well, everybody who sports a camera phone. But this wonderful access to photography and its tools has its obvious downside too:
First, every Tom, Dick and Harry has taken the liberty of labeling himself as a “photographer.” Worse, T, D and H, armed with wonderfully sophisticated digital cameras that can do everything from lightning fast autofocus to making a cup of tea, our friends Tom, Dick and Harry (and Margaret, Jill and Anne), are putting “proper” photographers into crisis. And stealing their jobs. Why, you might ask, are the hacks able to unseat the pro photographers? I’ll tell you: Photoshop and similar software allows one to do magic with just about any photograph, even the most dismal ones. So, if you’re good with photo manipulating software, you can fake anything, and fool most of the people most of the time. You can even fake talent, up to a point. Also, today’s cameras make it possible for the worst idiots to make images that are vaguely appealing to an audience (and clients) who are so accustomed to jaggy jpegs, over sharpening, and ridiculously over-contrasty images that even mediocre pics seem quite okay (Instagram has bred a whole new generation of photographers who find distortion to be funky, and defect to be cool). Add to that, of course, the fact that Tom, Dick and Harry are likely to be seduced into “doing” your photography for free in the vain promise of “exposure.” In a nutshell, access to the new technologies have spawned an era of photography that has become cheap, in more ways than one. In fact, looking at dozens of “photographer wanted” ads every day, I am struck by the fact that the majority, almost all nowadays, indicate “no pay, but we’ll be giving you exposure and an opportunity to add to your portfolio.” Pro photographers can’t eat exposure, and most can find plenty to publish in their portfolios.
Second, there’s the issue of the Emperor’s New Clothes. There are honesty issues in making photographic images. Like the odious self-appointed wine Tsars, who flirt with fruity gobbledegook to describe everything from the produce of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to plain plonk, there is a new political correctness accompanying the spreading malaise, in which it is considered “wrong” to say that a crap image is… crap. Oh no, everything must be appreciated, and everybody must be congratulated and lauded, even if they have no skill, no talent and almost no brain, and their images prove it. It is not politically correct to critique honestly – one must always praise. It seems that criticism, however constructive, must always be a sign of the viewer’s own lack of insight and failure to understand an image. Bollocks. When I look critically at a photograph I am trying to detect and appreciate the photographer’s camera skill and an honesty about the scene that has been imaged, not the photographer’s ability to do conjuring tricks with post-production software. Get it right: are you into photography or are you a playful graphic designer at heart? A photographic image is not a doodle. Pretentiousness in photography, like all things, is rarely welcome. To be sure, neither is deliberate unkindness. Access to the tools of photography on its own does not automatically make for successful image-making.