Last Updated on 09/14/2023 by Chris Gampat
The other day on the street, a man stopped me and asked if I was a photographer because I was carrying around a camera. I told him that I’m a journalist and that we review cameras, lenses, etc. He then asked if I had a YouTube channel, but I instead pointed him to our app after telling him that we’re an online magazine. I didn’t feel like talking to him because the need to educate new photographers is an exhausting task equivalent to trying to help an addict recover from a vice. And obviously, it doesn’t make me want to give up on photography. But it reminds me that we don’t instill the idea of art vs. content enough.
To be a content creator, you either need to be a snake oil salesperson or an incredibly attractive one. But to be an artist, you really just have to create for yourself and learn marketing skills to become sustainable and not have to constantly create to please an algorithm. And the two, creating content vs. art, are not at all the same things.
Besides creating photography for myself, I’m also, obviously, a writer. Earlier this year, I wanted to write a poem every single day. But then I realized that this isn’t sustainable, and instead, it feeds more into the idea of making monotony every single day instead of putting out something really good a bit less frequently.
It’s also why I’ve never done a 365 photography project — the idea is daunting as I realistically don’t have enough time to do something like that. Though I commend the photographers who have done it and have done it exceptionally well. That’s why I commend photographers Sasha O and Bill Wadman, who have done it so incredibly well over the past few years.
The diffraction of community: It was more than just covid
The idea that photography is part of content creation has happened because of several reasons. We, as a community, dove really deep into the idea of everything just being online. We forgot how to speak to one another and that we should meet up. Instead, we speak to one another behind screens in groups, in comments, etc. The communities moved online, and therefore so too did the idea of the photographs. And because of that, we stopped printing. The photograph became something that everyone could do with their phones, and we stopped trying to teach people about what makes a photograph artistic.
That, too, has had to evolve beyond what the old masters did.
COVID-19 made the diffraction of communities even larger as we had no reason to meet up in person anymore.
In some ways, the online communities were great because they were very democratic. In-person meetups tend to feature a particular shade — and that has changed as the knowledge has been passed on.
Only understanding what you see online
There’s a much bigger problem with only ever getting those communities and information online: and a lot of it has to do with vetting. I’m not speaking about gatekeeping information but instead about finding credible sources. People often don’t know or think to check the information that they’ve gotten. That’s a real problem because it breeds misinformation that can often be quelled a bit more when you’re in person or checking credible sources. And more importantly, it’s a problem with new photographers.
We’re forgetting about the importance of the print
The biggest thing on this list, though, is that there isn’t enough of an emphasis on simply looking at the images. Instead, there’s the idea of blazing through them — and that’s not how art photography is really supposed to be consumed. We’re supposed to be very introspective about the photos and you get better and better at glancing over them as time goes on because you’ve learned how to think about the images. With that said, your mind starts to evolve and change from there.
The photograph can be content. But it can also be art. And we don’t teach enough of the less exploitative side of art.