I’d like you to look around and take a mental poll of all the famous photographers you know. Off the top of your head, how did you find out about them?
Chances are you found videos they made, where they talked about some aspect of photography or some other thing, and showed you some of their photographs, or at the very least, had links in the video description or on-screen to their portfolios or websites. What likely didn’t happen is you didn’t see one of their photographs in a publication somewhere, then you looked them up online, found their website, read their bio and looked at their portfolio.
When you step back and look at this whole cockamamie situation, and by that I mean that you get a bit of historical perspective on it, you begin to see how bonkers things have become. You can blame it on social media, you can blame it on the newer generations who grow up mugging for the camera almost every moment of the day, whining about this and that, publishing private thoughts out on the internet for anyone to see (whereas those things were confined to the privacy of their journals in years past), you can blame it on a loosening of the underpinnings of society as a whole… I don’t know what to blame it on, and yet I see how ridiculous things have become for those of us who are passionate about photography.
It used to be that if you got your photos published, you were an established photographer. People got to know you through your photographs and that was enough. Maybe they met you at an art gallery or at a seminar, but by and large, your contact with the public was limited. If you were really famous, there might be the odd TV interview with you that could be seen here or there, but mostly, there were your photographs, that could be enjoyed in magazines, books, prints and maybe postcards, and that was enough, and it was right, because it should be about the photographs.
Nowadays, getting your photos published means absolutely nothing in the eyes of the “public”. As a matter of fact, good luck trying to sell a book of your photographs, even if you’re a good photographer. No, what matters today is whether you (who are typically behind the camera), stick a camera in your face and you mug at it as often as possible, gesticulating and yelling about some thing related to photography, trying to look cool while begging people to subscribe to your video channel and to like your videos and to give you money on Patreon.
I find the whole situation repulsive. It’s not only because you’re forced to make videos about your photography, and you’re forced to brag, directly or indirectly, about your photography, and you’re forced to beg for likes and shares and other crap online currency — but also because so many of the “photographers” that are well known today aren’t really good at photography. What they’re good at is running their mouth off in front of the camera, often as close as possible to the lens, so they’re right in your face as you watch the video, with cameras behind them or in their hands, because they have to appear to be photographers. More often than not, they’re ridiculously young, too young to be expert photographers, yet they have no problem posing as experts and selling the “public” courses on photography or presets or some other shit product that copies what everyone else is doing. These ninnies have no problems modifying the integrity of their images to make them more pallatable to the “public”, to the point where replacing entire skies has become common place. Sure, let’s “add a moon”, “add some stars here and there”, let’s “add some more trees”, let’s “take out this building and add a lawn instead”, let’s “take out these people because they’re ruining the composition”, let’s “replace this whole sunset with another one” because why not, software makes it easy, let’s smooth out this woman’s skin to the point where it looks artificial, let’s take out all the wrinkles, change the color of her eyes, maker her thinner, never mind that it barely looks like her anymore, etc. This is no longer photography. Go ahead, look up the definition of “photography” in the dictionary! Whatever happened to proper composition, to taking the time to set up an important shot, to waiting to press the shutter button until the moment is just right? Whatever happened to capturing the image in-camera, as it is presented to the lens, honestly, realistically, but artistically?
It’s so ridiculous that a photographer would need to spend more time in front of the camera, making videos, instead of making photographs, just to keep up with these times, because that’s what’s expected of him or her. You’re not even safe out in nature, where you go to be by yourself, to eliminate everything but your focus on photography. You’re expected to bring back how-to videos and vlogs and making-of videos and jeebus… this crap just goes on and on, doesn’t it? It’s no longer about the photographs! It’s no longer about the art, about capturing that fleeting moment that moves you, it’s about mugging for the camera! It’d be pretty safe to call this new generation of video-photographers “muggers”, in the real sense of the word, because they’re stealing the focus from what matters, from the photographs, and they’re keeping it instead on their mugs, while they blather on and on, throwing a link here and there to some course or a set of presets for you to buy.