Gabriel Hide (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/9, 1/100sec & ISO 400. Even my son is afraid of the questions being asked by photographers….
Not sure if it is the change of the seasons or just a bit of a mid-photography-life crisis but it seems that all 40 something photographers are going through a bit of a crisis. Maybe it has nothing to do with all of that and in reality we are drowning in images all over the web begging us to ask what it is EXACTLY that we are adding.
I have been devoting some time to this over the past few days and I have found that different people attack this “crisis” different ways. I have heard these great photographers argue that it is time to refocus on what it is you want out of your photography. To determine what their “voice” or “vision” is. I believe we are just now seeing the changes that digital photography has brought to our world….let me explain.
I believe that the photography world has changed faster than people do. We still hold firm to beliefs and perspectives from film days that are no longer as true or relevant anymore. The fact is that making a living from photography was always difficult. It took years of dedicated work to stand out. You began working from the bottom of the photography ladder….in some news room getting the coffee. After a few years you got your hands of a camera and began crossing the country in a beat up old car to capture different events. As your photography improved so did your reputation. A few years later you are flying to different events to capture them.
Over your career as a photographer you would take maybe 100K photos of which maybe 100 were good ones. It was a game of experience and numbers. Pictures were expansive. You shot three or four rolls of film on a shoot and this was considered plenty. That is maybe 100 pictures.
Today digital has changed all that. It has made photography affordable and hence has brought in the masses. Think about this. Imagine a young 20 year old kid. He gets a job (or asks his parents for the money) and buys a digital camera…say a Nikon D610, a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, a memory card, laptop and Lightroom / Photoshop all for about USD 5,240. He then lives in his parent’s basement and shoots pictures all year. He goes online each morning and picks an assignment for himself and goes out and shoots all day and processes all night.
Nap In Car (Perth, Australia): OMD 45mm shot at 45mm, f/1.8, 1/640sec & ISO 200.
He can shoot and process 2,100 images a week (assuming 300 shots per day) which is almost 110K images in a year! He does not need to spend a single dollar more. He will have a portfolio that would rival that of a professional photographer after a 20 year career and he would have done this in ONE YEAR!
ANYONE can do this. Anyone can raise the money and put in that time. This makes for a world of wonderful images being shot by very talented photographers being loaded onto the internet everyday. How does a “professional” photographer compete against this? I believe that the likes of the Zach Arias, Jeremy Cowart and Joe McNally have come to realize that they make more money teaching and coaching than from actual photography assignments.
So the question left to those who choose to share their photography across the internet is what exactly are we adding? There are so many talented photographers why should anyone spend their time looking at what we are adding?
I look to Zach Arias’s photography for the answer. His pictures do not have the lighting perfection of Joe McNally or the feel that Jay Maisel brings to his work. But Zach brings his personality. He talks to people and sets them at ease. He looks odd but is so very approachable and friendly that he brings out something special in most people. He then captures this like few people can.
So it is not Arias as a photographer that is so striking but him as a person that allows him to capture these images. When I look at his portfolio his personality comes through.
Sabrina & Audrey (Sydney, Australia): D800 70-200mm shot at 82mm, f/2.8, 1/250sec & ISO 3200.
As for my own photography I am still learning the mechanics. I am still learning how to use a slower shutter speed to indicate some movement without creating a complete blurry mess. I am still celebrating blind luck and the images I capture thanks to it. I am beginning to understand color and the power it can have. What value am I adding to the vast number of incredible images on the internet? Nothing….yet.