A recent article in the New York Times practically proclaimed the death of traditional professional photography. (The New York Times, March 29, 2010, “For Photographers, the Image of a Shrinking Path“, Stephanie Clifford)
First, I felt offended as I scanned the paragraphs. Then, I decided not to participate in that pessimistic frame of thought.
The story said, “There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting.” And, “Amateurs, happy to accept small checks for snapshots of children and sunsets… are underpricing professional photographers and leaving them with limited career options.”
Hmmm… true, true! Perhaps this is because the amateurs are keeping up with trends and technology better than many stiff-shirt, inflexible professionals. Hellllloooo…. the world is changing, and photography is changing along with most other crafts and arts. We all love iTunes, right? Wrong! The recording companies hated it. They lost money and had to scale back on out-dated, and obsolete methods. They were forced to adapt, and many of the forward-thinking will survive.
Look at other media industries which have gone through fundamental transformations:
- Book Publishing — books now available as downloads and “print-on-demand”
- Newspapers and magazines — now competing with free internet news
- Motion Pictures and Hollywood — now a cheap and fast download
- Television Networks — who even watches any more? Better content is faster and free on-line.
- Art — It seems like only yesterday that Andy Warhol was catching hell for painting “Campbell’s Soup Cans” so photo-realistically (1962). Now we can turn a photograph into painter-realistic!
Industries change, and the individuals who are most successful and profitable are those who adapt fastest to current trends and technologies. So as photographers we all have reason to embrace the current trends. The world is at our fingertips! We can now grab a camera and, with some basic computer skills, produce virtually any image that we can imagine in our own mind. We used to be limited by physical characteristics of film and cameras, but this is no longer the case. Our own creativity is the only limit. Today’s modern professional photographer has powerful tools that would boggle the mind just a decade ago.
Ahhh, and so do the amateurs… which is why some pros are feeling threatened.
Today’s professional photographers can continue to pay the bills; feed the family; find internal satisfaction; live an enviable lifestyle, and retire with a smile. Likewise, amateurs can earn extra money; have a blast; and continue to push us pros as they have done for the past few decades. So what is the issue? This is just a normal shake-up in an industry which was thrust completely and quickly into the digital age. Professional photography will not die — we pros will just continue to find new leaders, artists, teachers, and heros, as we keep a close eye on the amateurs who will push us to create new images and greater accomplishments.
Photography has been given a breath of new life — and for this I am thankful.