From a photographer on the death of the “Photographer:”
First, let me say, I'm not a writer. I’m an artist who expresses through images not words, so bear with me here.
So, let me tell you a little bit about how and why I became a photographer/ artist. I am a Chicago-based artist whose style could be expressed as abstract nature photography. I am particularly drawn to Georgia O’Keefe and Expressionism, although, art in general inspires me, from the Old Masters to Street Graffiti.
Lately, I have heard so many people talk about how the rise of technology, i.e. the camera phone, equals the death of the photographer. Alluding to the fact that everyone now has a camera [phone] so everyone thinks they are a photographer. From newspapers laying off their photojournalists to the take over of the all-important selfie has since led credence to this idea.
Although, these developments are disturbing in the worldview, I don’t believe it is the death of the photographer.
Personally, I never imagined being an artist. As a shy and introverted girl, art was not on my radar. Actually, it terrified me. Luckily, art found me. While in college, I took an art class on a whim and never turned back. As a visual learner, art spoke to me. I was always great at remembering faces and art was the epitome of visual learning. Studying different forms of art, I discovered my passion for photography and alternative processes. I thought I could express myself without talking, and in a way I could. But art is a conversation, and I quickly realized you couldn’t retreat in art. Art is exposed. Art is out there in the world to be critiqued and judged and criticized and admired and praised.
I began my photography journey by photographing the unexpected, especially, reflections and shadows. I slowly moved towards the abstract and began to use more unconventional materials. Color and texture have always been an important part of my aesthetic. Through my practice, I discovered that I create art to see and show normal things differently. George Steinmetz said it well when he said, “My job is to open people’s eyes to all the amazing things they didn’t know existed.”
Now, the everyday person taking pictures with their camera phone is doing just that, taking pictures, just documenting the everyday world around them. They are not intentionally making a statement or speaking from the heart. However, when a photographer takes a photograph, it is intentional. They are not only documenting the world but also shedding a light mindfully and directly on the photographer. You can see a part of the photographer in every photograph they take (whether they like it or not). The photographer sees things in the everyday world differently and shows them in a different light. These photographs can say a lot about the artist/ photographer. More technology might change the equipment and the access to equipment but it will never change the real photographer’s eye and creativity.
In addition, I don’t believe the rise in technology is bad for photographers at all. On the contrary, I believe the more art there is in the world, the richer the world becomes. It’s not a bad thing that technology has made art more accessible and allowed photographers to expand their practice. If it is, why are there so many organizations with missions to make art accessible to everyone? Maybe someone who would have never become an artist will now become one. Maybe someone, like me, who fell into art, will add incredible value to the art world. This is why it is such a tragedy that art is often removed from schools here in the US. Taking a picture on your camera phone, applying a built-in filter and posting to social media is easy. Being a photographer is not easy. It takes hard-work, mental strength, objectivity, creativity, passion and much more. And in doing so, differentiates the two. “Photography” and “the photographer” are not disappearing just because photographic technology is mainstream. Great contemporary painters have not disappeared because watercolors can now be bought at the drugstore.
I am currently working on a project (my Contemporary Series) using images taken with my iPhone. Similarly, the artwork I have included here have come from film SLRs, DSLRs, analog cameras, and even my iPhone. Some of my pieces have been extensively digitally altered; some have only had slight digital alterations, while others have not been digitally altered at all. My art/ photography practice continues to challenge and inspire me. I continually become more passionate about my style and my art, and enjoy experimenting with new technology. And that is what I love about art and photography; it is always changing. Photographing and creating art makes me happy. Can everyone who picks up a camera [phone] say that? We will always be able to see who is taking pictures and who is creating art. This is not the death of the “Photographer” but the photography world’s opportunity for growth and expansion; I believe we should embrace it.