As I was walking down the street in Manhattan yesterday, avoiding other busy pedestrians thinking about work, I noticed a bumper sticker I had never seen before. On a red background, it read: “Save the Mountains.” Not sure if it was a serious one but regardless, it made me wonder. How come we haven’t seen a “Save Photography” or “Save Photographers” sticker yet? After all, the industry is in more danger than mountains.
Here are a few reasons:
Overcrowding. Like anything that we human beings like too much, we tend to use it and abuse it until there is nothing left. We are over-fishing, over-farming, over-driving, and in the process, killing everything associated. Photography, thanks partially to Flickr, but also digital, is not only everywhere, but done by everyone. Boundaries between pros and amateurs are melting faster than the polar ice and everyone who used to have a job directly related to photography is in more danger than polar bears.
It is not just photographers bearing the weight of the overcrowding of this field. Photo editors are also being laid off as magazines or newspapers are either shrinking or shutting down. Photo agencies will soon also suffer from the saturated market and will start reducing staff as they will not be able to sustain their growth. After all, if photographers are seeing less commission, you can be sure that agencies are making less revenue.
Technology. No one needs a photo editor at Flickr. Why? Because Flickr edits itself. Newspaper Web sites are shrinking down and more and more relying on wire service feeds. Just post the feed as it comes in, or automate it. Not very hard to do. No one really needs so many photographers either anymore. Remote control cameras now cover what actual photographers used to — and they don’t complain. Amateurs are shooting as well, and can now very easily contribute. It would not be difficult to envision an agency entirely made up of amateurs. Heck, you could get the Olympics or the conventions well covered by amateurs, if you organized yourself well. Thousands of eyes in every different position possible. Imagine the possibilities.
Intellectualism. Some of our best publications have been taken over by over-thinking. In a desperate effort to differentiate themselves from the commons, they have been taken over either by “new” photojournalism or “new” fine art. Nouveau Photojournalism, we have spoken about. Holga-happy reporters who seem happiest in images where you see less. Nouveau Fine Art has taken the opposite approach and is hyper-realist. Closeup images of uncooked eggs, deserted parking lots at nightfall with heavy greenish tungsten light, snapshot-looking photography with visible flash effects — anything that looks desperately real and slightly unappealing is in fashion. Both agree that if the image disturbs you in any manner, it must be good. Especially if you think it is a bad photograph. Then, it is probably genius.
Microsoft. It was a good world when Microsoft did not care about photography. We were all left to build our own digital world with whatever tools we wanted. For a while, we had to deal with Adobe’s monopoly on photo editing, but that was disappearing. However, recently, the big Redmond giant has been working its way into the field. And we all know what that means. Nothing will ever be the same anymore. No need to explain more (Corbis anyone?).
Blogs and opinions. Everywhere and everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. Everything and nothing is written about photography. It is exhausting. It is all over the place and nowhere. Someone should regulate it. For one thing, all the old farts who have been teaching photography in colleges for more than 20 years should be forced to retire and certainly not allowed to blog. They are frightening. Anyone that has not sold or licensed images for a living should not be quoted on professional blogs because they try to take pictures in places where it is not allowed. It is pathetic.
All these blogs are screaming for attention and readership, and will write about almost anything as long as they do it every day. Including publishing boring press releases on the size of a collection. It’s obscene. Stop it. It is okay not to write anything if there is nothing to say or not to publish a press release because it is stupid. (Yes, I know — I do not have to read them.)
These are all reasons to start a “Save Photography” movement. We could have fundraising parties with Karl Lagerfeld as our keynote speaker and dance the night away. Have cool hats and T-shirts with our logo, and finally, make bumper stickers that I could stick on my car … if I had a car.
Who is with me?