I’m tired of everyone posting crap photos everywhere. And not just a couple—clearly people held down the shutter and then posted everything that came out the other end. Why is it that everyone is a photographer now? More to the point: why is it annoying?
In a way, yes, everyone is a photographer in our fun, new digital age. Our phones have decent cameras that take care of most of the technical work and consistently produce okay images. Digital cameras are widely available, only moderately expensive, and also do most of the work for their owners.
What bothers me most about that idea is the mindset behind it. The incentive to improve one’s photography skills are more likes on social media… and the correlation between those likes and actually getting better as a photographer is thin at best. Snap a photo, post it, forget about it except to monitor the numbers.
So what does “actually getting better” even mean? Is it a whole bunch of technical knowledge and using your fancy camera on manual? That helps, but one can produce a technically well-executed photo that a viewer won’t care about. Perhaps it’s the subject matter—am I just not-so-secretly anti-selfie? No, actually—portraits are generally the most engaging work any photographer can produce, and self-portraits can be incredibly creative and different.
Our job as photographers is to engage the surface with what’s unseen, weirdly enough. Humans are built to connect with other humans, but it’s the individuality, the respect for one’s subject, and the truthfulness in portrayal that can facilitate genuine identification between the viewer and the subject. It’s hard to talk about because, it tends to get lost in buzzwords, and I don’t want to say that we should judge every piece by feelings alone—but they can be a helpful signifier of whether the work is hitting its mark.
Again, it comes down to intention. What is the purpose behind this photo? And what choices are we making visually to communicate that purpose?
I love the film community because of their thoughtfulness around the image. Because film is an ongoing expense, and because an image can’t just be deleted and retaken, it becomes necessary to consider how and what and why one is making an image rather than the immateriality and easy-come-easy-go inherent in a digital medium.