I posted this to FaceBook one year ago and now seems as good a time as ever to post this here.
I was speaking last year at an event with a panel of photographers. There was a Q&A afterwards and someone asked me what I thought about this idea that “everyone is a photographer.” I told her I agreed. Everyone is a photographer.
My answer made her angry. Fear will do that to you.
You can’t have a conversation with so-called professionals these days, or spend much time on social media these days without hearing someone decry the fact that now that everyone has a camera everyone “thinks they’re a photographer.” Much agreement follows. Also grumbling. Then someone uses the word “faux-tographer” and someone else uses the word “Mom-tographer” with a sneer, and don’t even get me started on all these kids these days with their iPhones. Who do they think they are? Get off my lawn and get a real camera, kid!
When did we become so small? So fearful? When did we crank our hearts down to f/22, lest the light get in? When did we forget the moment we picked up our first cameras and felt the wonder of it? When did we forget the moment we nervously took our first paying gig, wondering what the hell we were doing and whether we’d just bitten off more than we could chew?
We have made too much of the word “photographer.” We have gilded it with gold. We have idolized it. We have stopped looking through the lens at the incredible world around us and the people that enrich our lives, and we’ve started looking in the mirror instead, polishing the brass badge that says “Photographer.” When did what we call ourselves become so f*cking important? We spend so much time looking at ourselves that we don’t have time to look at the photographs anymore. We compete with others, driven by jealously and fear, when we should be celebrating their work and letting it open our eyes.
When, in the desperate need to protect this new golden calf, did we decide we were the adjudicators, the ones who decide who is and who is not a photographer?
We can do better. We need to do better. Right now we risk getting stranded on the moral high ground, and I’m pretty sure the photographs coming out of frightened hearts aren’t the strongest ones to be made.
Let them be photographers. Let them make photographs with all their hearts, so you can go back to doing the same. I know, some of them might be terrible. Mine were terrible for years. Saying I’m a photographer doesn’t mean I’m a good photographer. And it doesn’t make you any less of one. Let them have this if they want it so badly. Remember when you did?
And if you’re genuinely scared by a landscape in which everyone is a photographer, remember that nothing you say or do will change that. The only thing that will grow your business (because that’s what most of this comes down to: money. And the fear of making less of it.) is you being a better photographer, a better storyteller, a better marketer, a better networker. But know this: no one wants to do business with bitter people whose gaze is more inward that outward, whose most creative work is the dubiously clever act of coming up with new words with which to trivialize and ridicule people who love photography as much as you once did.
Remember when photography opened our eyes and heart and mind instead of closing them?
Remember when this was fun?
Let’s go back to that.
For the Love of the Photograph,
PS – Want more like this? I send these articles out every two weeks to photographers around the world who want to improve their craft and explore their creativity and I’d love to include you. Tell me where to send it and I’ll send you a copy of my best-selling eBook Make Better Photographs, as well bi-weekly articles, first-glimpse monographs of my new work, and very occasional news of resources to help you keep moving forward in this craft we love.
“Each and every one of your emails inspire and motivate me to want to jump right out of my chair away from my computer and shoot for the love of it . Thank you David.” – Millie Brown