The art of photography has progressed a long way from the dark room days of film photography. As a result, film photography has almost become a hipster niche as opposed to the standard, while digital photography has taken the reigns. But the digital wave is completely justified, as it has provided there are many upsides, including: quicker processing, more control over post-production adjustments, the ability to alter pixels, faster motors, insanely high ISOs and so much more. With such an impressive list of pros, must also come an unfortunate list of cons. The main downside to digital photography has become its ease of access. Since digital photography no longer requires a dark room and an extensive supply of film, camera sales have risen and DSLR cameras time and time again become the better choice for the everyday consumer. The problem here lies in the ability for cameras to be more widely accessible and in-turn creates a trend that every person with a camera is an equally equipped photographer. This is sadly not the case.
Artist, Photographer or Culture Vulture. This is a discussion held in the shadows of the photography community all the time. Some of its argument are emotionally driven and some of them have very valid points. What truly makes the difference between the three and where do you as a shooter fall on this rating scale?
An artist, by definition, is any person that practices any of the various creative arts; a master, expert or maestro in their craft. It can be argued that because you practice an art form, then you are an artist but by the part I believe people often leave out is the important part; the keywords here are ‘creative’ and ‘master’. I look at an artist in the craft of photography similarly to how ancient Asian cultures look at their sensei in traditional martial arts. In order to be esteemed in such a light, you had to put in the time and effort to do so. The myths of proteges climbing thousands of stairs to reach the top of the mountain, just to gain the privilege to even learn the art says something about how much respect was given to these masters and how much humility was expected from their pupils. This example is a little extreme but the point is that this accolade takes time. A style of your own must be developed, a mastery of a certain skill must be gained and an eye that stands out from the pack are all part of the formula of what separates an artist from the other 2 categories.
When it comes to the title of photographer, this is also one that gets thrown around all too lightly. As we all know, a photographer is a person that takes photos at a somewhat habitual, debatably professional level. My issue here is that this understanding leaves room for the hobbyists that can now purchase high-quality cameras and equipment while producing amateur quality photos. This is in no way, shape or form, a diss to those that fall under this category but again, the ease of access has simplified the criteria. If we compare photography to any other art form (whether it be painting, drawing, poetry, singing, etc) there are intense differences in how we classify its practitioners. In photography, we classify a person by the quality of their equipment but what we often times seem to forget is that that person must also know how to use their tools in order to be deemed more than a hobbyist. You can not judge a painter on the quality of their brush or a singer by the price tag of their microphone, something that for photographers we tend to allow. For all other forms of art we look to the individual for skill, overlooking the quality of the tool that individual is using, which is how we should look at the art of photography as well.
And lastly, I cannot forget the category that no one wants to fall under but (by misunderstanding and lack of judgement by those esteemed in the craft) many fit quite snug, the infamous culture vulture. A term made popular in the last couple of years by Dame Dash, a culture vulture is seen as anyone that absorbs traits from a craft or social group for personal gain without any intent of giving back to that craft. Many of you have seen this time and again, whether you could knew it or not. Have you ever seen booking info on a page of someone with the word “films” or “productions” in their username but on their page is nothing but selfies and photos of them at the club? This would be your ideal culture vulture but some tend to make their vulturing a little more inconspicuous. With photography’s ease of access has also come a realization that payment can be gained if you have the right equipment. Many spend thousands on equipment with the understanding that it is merely an investment to triple your earnings. The problem here is that, again, ease of access has diluted the industry. Owning the equipment does not deem you experienced to use it and a lot of money is being taken out of the hands of those who desire to dedicate their life to the art by those who heard that you can make a quick buck in photography. What should come with this desire to invest in the craft should also be a love for the craft. And in order for photography to evolve as an art form, we must first treat it as one. We owe it to the art to be strict with our titling and precise with our categorization to establish an understanding that yes, anyone can buy the camera but not everyone holding it knows how to use it.
All-in-all, this is one photographer’s perspective of the current landscape of the artform. Some people may not agree but the art form is struggling. I only hope this article can provide insight into the inner workings of the craft and to put some thought into delivering the title to those that may not deserve it. It is up to people within the community to draw red flags when we see or hear the culture being appropriated and we must give recognition to those that aim to serve the craft as well. RespectheShooter as a brand is dedicated to bringing awareness and pointing out the mistakes often overlooked by the casual eye. To hear more about issues plaguing the art form, as well as insight to different details click here.
As always, keep winning and live life for love.