I am an aspiring amateur photographer who sometimes wonders whether he wants to join a club that would have him as a member.
I am concerned at times about the current state of photography, professional or otherwise. On the one hand, I am awestruck by the talent demonstrated in some of the photos on Flickr – amazing shots that are scarily intimidating, as well as inspiring.
At the same time, I wonder about the qualities required to take good photos now digital cameras are everywhere. I picked up a copy of ‘The Digital Photography Book’ by Scott Kelby. What’s the first thing he says to do? Buy more equipment: the better the equipment, the better your photos will be. What started as the democratisation of photography (following its predecessor rock ‘n’ roll, made with home recording equipment) seems less democratic than ever.
There seems something disingenuous with this model because it appears to replace talent with technology (and concomitant economics). It needn’t apply, and doesn’t work for many things. There’s a joke on the golf course that the new guy: ‘Has a 400 dollar golf club and a ten dollar game’. As a novice (and even later) you can’t simply improve your game by buying a better club.
When technology does make a difference – you’ll find it easier, most likely, to write something on a computer where you can re-order, copy and paste, etc than you would with a pen – you are still left with a gnawing hole where the writing should be. I’m not sure this is a problem facing photographers, as the disciplines differ by degree.
Even if you struggle to point and click you can improve your efforts afterward to such a degree that they’re largely unrecognizable from the original. For example, as a novice you learn quickly that taking shots in RAW format (if you have a digital SLR camera capable of doing this) means you can radically change photos using tools such as Photoshop. So can you tell the difference between a ‘real’ (untouched by tools such as Photoshop) and a ‘fake’ photograph? Try the Pepsi challenge here.
I hope you did better than me. What was interesting was that so many people couldn’t spot the difference. Some were more obviously fake than others but often a photograph split opinion: you can see the results by completing the challenge.
But does it matter that the photo is real or fake? Here, the recent issue of Robert Capa’s ‘faking’ of his famous ‘Falling solider‘ photo is illustrative. It has since come to light that this shot was staged, taken outside of a combat zone according to newspaper reports. For years this has been considered a definitive statement on the personal horrors of war, a visceral reminder of the individual cost of combat.
Is the appreciation of Capa’s photo – and by extension, photography in general – any less real or fake since we failed its Pepsi challenge?
Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pepsi_Challenge.jpg