What is the value of a photograph today? What does it mean to take a photo and is everyone a photographer? These are important questions with a variety of answers as our technology has grown exponentially and the word photographer is loosely used today. Having a smart phone in this day and age is helpful to capture a moment in time to share with the world, friends or family while making something look unique based on the user’s preference of style. It seems that the ideas conveyed among some people are tapping into a creative realm, which is also a good path for an individual that might be interested in pursuing something further in photography/arts, but by no means does having the vast amount of internet users liking one Instagram photo a thousand times over make everyone an artist or even a professional photographer. A good eye, yes… Right place at the right time, sure. Technical savvy, maybe. And a techy device that does everything automatically with little to no skill involved.
Technology has surely helped us progress into a digital age — it also has consequences about how we tap into and absorb information — making some out there cynical, even lazy. Die hard film photographers would probably look at most of the photographers today with a bad taste in their mouths while other old school film users embrace the future while still revisiting their original craft which got them to where they are today. A lot of people out there in the world really do have a great eye for interesting things or a moment arises to capture something that we as humans find fascinating and sharing it with others feels natural; this is the age of the internet with an overabundance of user data. But there are so many images and outlets to share that it feels overwhelming to try to absorb them all.
As a photojournalist I know what I want from a photograph and I was hired for the newspaper that I work at for a reason, but the question still stares at me down the barrel of a gun. What is a good photograph or for that matter with the millions of images that graze our brain waves for a split second daily, how does the outside world view what a ‘good’ photograph is, do they even care what they see? Lets take the internet for instance. A multitasking mindless vortex of open tabs, mouse clicking, index finger scroll surfing as information scatters across the screen while our creative awe-inspiring brains play janitors, sopping up an age of mess, an age of move quick, think quick and can’t sit still to see the bigger picture (not really absorbing anything, and I am at times probably guilty of this as well)! I know this isn’t everyone and people are different across the globe, but yes, there does exist a generation that I quite frankly think doesn’t care about a whole lot and I am still not sure if we should blame ourselves (because we all have some type of self-control), or should we be blaming the upper echelons of mass media.
It is just really hard to realize exactly how everyone thinks that they can be a photographer with the simple click of a phone or an instant filter to change a tone. The best photographer’s, artist’s, cook’s, teacher’s, writer’s, athlete’s, the list goes on an on. They got their start with a great idea or a dream. They followed it, worked on it over and over again with perfection not being an ending to their career, but an ongoing goal to make each day a triumph. If a phone, a small handy camera or an old inherited film camera is inspiring, then go after more teachings to learn as much as possible. Technology does help, but don’t let it dictate creativity. I guarantee you if for say Rembrandt used some kind of instant filter to create a masterpiece or Chef Gordon Ramsey used instant grits to make an amazing dish, these men would not be famous for their pursuits. But the person or people who created filters and instant grits now that probably took some creativity and a lot of trial and error. You see the road less traveled may sound more appealing at times, but it is not and it proves absolutely nothing. Ask anyone who works hard in any career field and I am certain they would say that to achieve something takes time, hard work, and dedication.
Bottom line is that these overabundance of images that can be found by typing in a few words on the internet are just that. They are images of moments in time that are saved forever. Some are taken with heart and soul while others are taken with nothing and a filter added to give some sort of ‘creativity,’ or life to the photograph that didn’t exist before it was taken. Sometimes this is okay for someone trying to be creative, but in no means is it worthy to call that person a photographer or even an artist. To be either of those things takes time. It takes sacrifice, it takes heart, it takes a willing individual who is trying their damnedest to make a career/a living in a creative field that is not set on automatic.
To anyone out there that reads this, seek out what you truly want. Don’t settle for second best, and if you have a passion and you want to pursue it, DO IT! You won’t regret it, you will only look back and think about what you could have been doing. If you love photography or anything else that inspires you, try to learn more. Challenge yourself to take a class and seek out new things. The sky is literally the limit. Do whatever it takes to reach the top and keep climbing.