• Jamie Hankin

Are Photographers aboard a sinking ship?

This is the title of an F-Stoppers FaceBook post written by Nicole York Photography, based in Colorado. Since I can't repost the article here without violating their copyright, I suggest you search for it on Google. Shouldn't be hard to find. Now for my answer.

Yes and no. I am not familiar with the author of this piece or her work, but judging by her website, she practices what she preaches, i.e., diversified business streams, while not doing something for nothing. Therefore, she has a vested interest in "teaching" photographers her methods (her lighting class is on "sale" for $400 per session) along with blogging (income). Yes, these are full time businesses, although not completely "photography". She is certainly a hustler, and I mean that in a good way.

On the other hand, is her work breaking any new ground? Doesn't she owe at least some of her success to the fact that technology has evened the playing field? And even if her images are stellar (a judgement I will leave to others), do we know, as potential students, that she is, in fact, what we would consider a commercial success, that she is a qualified mentor?

An old friend of mine once opined that the only way to make money in photography was to sell stuff to photographers. Photographers will buy any new gadget, any course or seminar, any computer software or social media forum that promises to put them at the front of the pack. By the time you spend your money to get there, however, the front of the pack has moved and you're right back in the middle, doing the same thing as everybody else.

I think that the devaluation of photography in society via technology is a hoax, a trick to get those of us who think our skill still has value to give up and let the dilettantes take over, relying on AI and algorithms to take them where they haven't the training or talent to go.

People lament that photography is a disposable commodity. This is not new. It has been thus, ever since George Eastman invented photography for the masses. How many millions or billions of snapshots and poorly exposed vacation pictures have ended up in landfills? How many billions of poorly conceived selfies and instagram images end up in an electronic virtual wasteland when technology advances and old cel phones are recycled for their rare earths? The best photographic artists in history have thrown away millions of images in order to keep the few that have lasting, cultural significance. Nobody hits a home run every time they step to the plate.

If the question is, is photography dead, my answer is no. If the question is, is photography a difficult way to make a living, my answer now is the same as what I found out 30 years ago. Yes, it is a difficult profession, requiring skill, dedication, talent and a whole lot of luck and good timing. That's the question today's photographers should be asking, the problem is, they don't want to hear the answer.

I could be wrong.


Opportunities in Photography

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