Who killed professional photography?

We all did

Everyone became a photographer.

Technology advanced, the evolution from snapshot to photo art happened at lightning speed, forcing professionals and other art critics to devise new ways of feeling superior.

In addition to photo equipment, image editing (retouch, filter, post-capture, photoshop) became sophisticated, very easy, available to everyone.

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Image editing programs wrenched serious photography from members-only darkrooms, galleries, and magazines.

Making something like art from a camera capture requires care, attention, and interest, but not talent.

No-filter photography (unretouched), no matter how complex the equipment, how superb the symmetry, the dark/light contrast, focal point, etc., is still only interesting if the subject is.

And if the subject is appealing (botany, cities, portrait, etc.), the viewer will like the picture no matter who took it, and there’s no vanishing point and the lighting isn’t right.

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Unretouched photography documents moments in time. Here’s an example.

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If SV (Stranger Viewer) likes Florida’s Gulf Coast, SV will like this. If SV isn’t interested in the Gulf Coast, or likes the Coast but only beach and sailboats, SV won’t like breakfast joint and boulevard photos. Even if the photographer is Annie Liebowitz? Cartier-Bresson? Elliott Erwitt.

Jessie observes the confusion between subject interest and talent wherever photography is discussed.

It’s the subject, not talent, that appeals in no-edit photography.

Photo art has a different aim altogether, involving a skill ridiculously easy to learn— no setting up a tripod at dawn waiting for the right light to get the perfect capture.

The aim in photo art is to tamper with an original capture. Occasionally the result overrides lack of interest in a subject.

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2. We used to shoot casually

To share on social and other media, “photographers” (everyone) have to pass through a warehouse of edit options, and if these options are used, photo artishtry is created.

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It isn’t easy being an art critic anymore, especially the teacherly type who appreciates film and pixels. The worst are focal point and lighting experts.

But the numbers.

So many people became really great photographers so quickly.

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3. Research

One year. A sample of people taking pictures, not identifying as professionals, who started sharing their photography on social media at least once a week (not only on vacation, for example) were tracked.

The improvement in picture quality after a short period of time was dramatic. Most became careful for the first time, eyes opened, interested in a more serious level of picture production.

That wasn’t the surprise.

The surprise was that within a year it was difficult to tell the difference between the work of those who identify as professionals, and everyone else.

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4. Research II

She was closely involved for a year in activity leading up to a particular wedding, which allowed a rich opportunity to research the troubled professional photographer.

A still photographer was hired.

A videographer was hired.

All the friends and family took pictures, too, a ton.

The couple took pictures.

There was film. There was digital. There were zoom lenses on Leicas, and tripods, and phones.

Unless you define quality as amount of money spent on equipment, the wedding pictures taken and edited by brothers, in-laws, friends, strangers passing by on the street, were  indistinguishable from those taken by the hired professionals.

Afterwards, looking at mountains of pictures, no one had any idea who took what.

The Very Experienced Old Guy Professional Wedding Photographer? or the Hipster Videographer? Was this taken by the bride? Or Aunt Kari, little Callum Jr.

The difference was style, meaning for example that the videographer’s style was pretentious and stingy. Conclusion: DIY–this isn’t 1966.

More rough draft commentary

Even rougher, wordier here

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We are always under construction

 

contact info: jessiecarveth@gmail.com

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