I was born into an analog world. Fortunately the peak of my photographic career overlapped with the advent of digital, so I have been gifted with a strong foundation in both worlds. So much so, that my personal workflow generally mixes the use of film and a computer for even the simplest of projects. I am very much of the mindset that there is a right tool for every job and it is my imperative to understand not only which is which, but how to utilize that tool as well. That being understood may lay a foundation for the rant to follow.
Much has been said how the industry has changed as computerized imagemaking quickly replaced traditional methods. No need to rehash old news, but it is safe to say that there has been a major swelling of ranks in the “professional” photography marketplace. In the old days there were a small number of old wise men who had fingernails stained black by developer or who perpetually wore a loupe like a priest wears a cross; masters of the medium of whom I was lucky enough to learn from prior to them becoming an endangered species. The further I develop in the world of photography: the marketplace, industry and the populous as a whole, I find that the bulk of the industry consists of photographers who have been shooting for less than seven years. Traditional hotspots like New York City are bloated with a million wanna-be’s that have suffocated most of the real photogs out there. Do you ever wonder why shooters like David Vestal, Ctein, and Joe McNally seem to earn the bulk of their income from communicating about photography via writing and workshops rather than actually being paid to produce photographs?
I miss mature photographs. Ones that had real impact, not manufactured. I don’t think the current photographic world could ever produce something as powerful and genuine as the Family of Man – one of my photographic bibles. Certainly not without the sponsorship of Redbull and Trojan condoms, backed by a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. I look at the new and emerging PDN virtual trade show or NY Photo Festival and compare to the persistently renamed, and ever-shrinking annual photo expo at the Javitz center in New York. It is marketed to the same bunch of geeks, has-beens, and gadget coveters. And thus the torch is passed. The fat, sweaty, middle-aged dweebs who used to sprint from booth to booth at trade shows collecting breath mints and brochures are being replaced by tweens and hipster gallery-hoppers who think everything their Holga produces is worthy of hanging the Louvre.
You can send to me all the Flickr gallery links you like – to me they all look like a “Your Best Shot” submission from Popular Photography, or the results of a photo competition advertised in the classifieds – and in case the text is too subtle, that is not a compliment. The photographic world has gone low-brow joining all of the other art mediums in their darkest hour. When the Guggenheim exhibits motorcycles and fur coats and overindulgent doodles appear on the walls of the hippest galleries instead of on the front cover of a high-school student’s notebook, there is a real problem. I can’t wait to see the resurgence of the thinking-man (or woman’s) artist as I know that it will help me emerge from the shell I have created, surrounding me and my work until this era is over and done with.
In the meantime, I’ll take a page out of the old-timer’s book and focus more on communicating to my audience, however vast or minute it may be. As photography seeks to re-invent itself, I will continue to do so as well, placing my faith in Darwin’s notions. As I have mentioned before, this site is in a beta-stage, but when it is complete, there will be an arena for a mature and discerning audience of wanders, sages, and adventurers who just so happen to love photography, or vice-versa. Have faith.