Photography for me is a respectable art, but it involves a lot of work. I just realized that it also involves lots of money. It's an investment art. You just don't get into it out of nothing and be mediocre. The appreciation of photos varies from person to person, so a photographer really has to be good in capturing the awe of the majority. Who would've thought, that an artistic-deficit like me would be closely connected to the art? But I'm not doing any of photography though. I don't have the creativity, artistic eye and mechanical adrenalin whenever I hold any kinds of camera. I'm not even comfortable taking pictures, much more discuss, enhance and study them. But people close to me are now taking photography very seriously that's why this matter hits home.
My boyfriend, then an IT enthusiast and a specialist, is a part-time photographer. He is a close relative of one of the most classic, gifted and popular photographers this nation has. But 3 years ago, he wasn't into anything artistic. During those years, I never saw him as a photographer. He didn't even own any point and shoot camera.
It all changed one normal day when he discovered the power of photography. He had started playing around with cameras and hanging out with his uncle. He started to develop that interest into passion until he became what he is now, which is a learned photographer. In the last three years, I've seen him grow. I see his passion unwavering. He organized and conceptualizes shoots. He has expanded his network ten folds. He is now open to traveling. He has a new role in group summer outings. He also earned added income and even considered giving up his day job and own a studio. All of that because of photography. But he is the type who respected the word and title of a "photographer" so much that he didn't use it until he is more comfortable with his abilities. I say at this point, he could be considered a photographer, a good one, but still struggling in creating that big and distinct mark to be one of the greatest and established photographers this nation has ever known, and hopefully give him reasons to quit his mundane IT job.
Practically my boyfriend, a simple fellow who was just inspired to shoot one day, took the leap of faith, and now finds himself in the world of photography. With his story, it seems any normal person could tread the same destiny and take hold of that artistic title. Before, whenever I see a person holding an SLR, I would immediately think that he or she is photographer. But now, I don't know. Almost everyone uses the term, shoots and has die-hard cameras.
You see, the word photographer gets tossed around too lightly. Before when someone introduces you to a photographer, there would be no question or doubts in your mind; and a certain artistic hierarchy and respectwere immediately shown. But now, being introduced to a photographer, the luster that was once there is slightly fading, and at some time, you may want to specify.
I asked Mitch once about the different levels one has to go through in order to be called a photographer. First, he identified himself as a hobbyist. Then there's serious hobbyist, then amateur photographer, professional photographer and then the higher level that includes national artists. But I feel now, the hierarchy has gotten screwed. Thanks to accessible online photo sharing, photography techniques online tutorials, massive production and accessibility of SLRs in the market, almsot everyone gets a fair chance to taste a photographer's life. Even point and shoot camera's, those who have no technical skills in photography, find themselves producing worthy pictures that gets sold online. In this modern set-up, who could be really called photographers?
Back then, when good cameras are not bought everywhere, information was concentrated and online sharing was unknown, photographers hold on to their title as a banner of unquestioned success in that form of art. To be called a photographer, one has accomplished and learned more than enough to capture great pictures for clients, patrons, advertisements and events that give them the proper distinction of capturing art form that only they can do. But with the emergence of amateur photographers, using good point and shoot entry level cameras, the art slowly loses its novelty and the title photographer loses its rank.
Good thing for those who are already considered the greats, they are spared the grueling tasks of establishing themselves in this pool of photographers and wannabe's. They have already made their distinction and exhibited enough artistic consistency to hold on to patrons and clientele. They even serve as inspirations to all starting photographers because they are known to produce great works miraculously all the time. But what about those professional photographers and those who are struggling to be one? With lots of skill pool, they would have to battle it out with the rest. They would face more stressful times in making their works stand out because let's admit it, there are lots of talent out there and people have more means to practice and be inspired. Clients would now be thinking twice to pay a premium price for a professional photographer's work when they could easily get cheap from others who easily call themselves photographers too. Professional photographers now boil down to cutting their prices to compete with amateurs, hobbyists and even lucky point-and-shooters like me. Online photo sharing websites that expose random pictures are constantly reaching advertising agencies and magazines that inevitably jolts a random person, who isn't really a photographer, earning a fraction of what a professional photographer should've earned. Photography before was considered a stable occupation, but now, almost every worthy picture from any lucky, skilled or passionate camera holder, could be bought, leaving professional photographers on their knees.
Mitch knows this hard fact, which is exactly the reason why he still juggles photography and his day job. Going full time now, producing your own capital, is not easy. He already did the computation.
Exhibits are everywhere, but involves money, so he just takes advantage of the free online photo sites to showcase his art. His main concern now is to keep the money coming in and to find that distinction from other photographers, market and establish it. But it's always easier said than done. Before it would've been easy, but with advanced gear technology, endless resources and photo accessibility, the playing field is now flat that even I, who never saw herself as a photographer, might get randomly lucky and sell a good photo for a fraction of the real photographer's price. It may be disheartening to know that professional photographers might get affected with massive one hit wonders, but a real photographer should find constant improvement with his craft, face the test of time, be distinct and be artistically consistent because some people may make art, but a few could only live it.
Read more about the: Shrinking Path of Photographers. (TIME)