“Everyone’s a photographer nowadays.” How many times have you heard this phrase? This video from Erik Wahlstrom addresses it, and deals with one question I’ve been thinking a lot – in this era when photography’s so available, what makes a photographer? If “everyone is a photographer,” is anyone?
This question has been on my mind a lot, and I never came up with a straightforward answer. I’m sure I’m a person some photographers would scoff at and say the phrase above. On the other hand, I think the same for some camera owners who present themselves as photographers. Everyone’s taking photos today, that’s for sure. But who, among all these people, can call themselves a photographer?
Joe Edelman addressed a similar issue in his excellent video “What does it mean to be a professional photographer.” While he focuses on professionals, Erik goes wider and focuses on photographers in general. As a hobbyist, this is what concerns me more and this is what I tend to think about more often.
The fact is that photography has become more available than ever. On the one hand, the very gear has become more easily accessible to everyone, considering that even phones can take photos of pretty good quality. On the other hand, it’s easier than ever to share your work, find the like-minded people and attract the audience. All this results in a vast amount of photos and those who take them. And in this sea of photos and people with cameras, does the word “photographer” still mean something?
As Erik says, he feels in his guts that it does. For example, you won’t call your aunt with her cat snapshots a photographer. Or a friend who shares stylish shots of his dinners on Instagram. But these are the extremes, and in reality – the line between a photographer and a camera owner is sometomes blurred.
So, is it a skill that makes you a photographer? Your knowledge of the craft, the willingness to learn, artistic expression, or something else? I believe it’s all of these things and more. I think it’s also the love you feel for the process of taking (creating) photos, rather than a need to shoot something just so you can post it on Instagram.
The bottom line is, according to Erik, that it all boils down to the perception. If you think of yourself as a photographer, it probably means you are one. Maybe it sounds simplified, but really, it all comes down to this. This sentence got me the closest to the answer I’ve been looking for.
I studied the English language. I make a living from one of the things I love most – writing. As for photography, I don’t live from it. There’s a ton of things I still haven’t tried in this field, and I still make rookie mistakes from time to time, even after all these years. But do I see myself as a photographer? Yes, I do.
With all my mistakes and slow learning, it’s one of the things that I believe defines me as a person. It’s something I couldn’t imagine my life without, no matter how cliché it may sound. In my case, I believe it’s the love for photography, constant learning and the artistic vision that make me a photographer (although I don’t see myself as a great one).
And what do you think? What separates a camera owner from a photographer? And what do you think makes you a photographer? Share your thoughts in the comments.
[What Makes a Photographer? | Erik Wahlstrom]