Who Exactly Is a Photographer?

There’s an interesting conversation
going on
at Lightstalkers. Matthias Bruggmann writes that he’s been working with the curatorial team at Musee de l’Elysie in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the “We Are All Photographers Now!” exhibit.

“We Are All Photographers Now! The rapid mutation of amateur photography in the digital age” is being shown from Feb. 2 through May 20 and seeks to answer the questions:

  • Does the digital shift constitute a revolution, or merely an evolution?
  • Does the shift represent a real democratization of photography?
  • Is citizen photojournalism worthy of its name?
  • Does the shift threaten the livelihood of professional photographers in fundamental ways?
  • Does the shift represent a shift towards more authenticity or truthfulness or less?
  • Is a true Casual Capture (a term proposed by Hewlett-Packard engineers that refers to a future ideal of effortless picture-taking) on the horizon?
  • If you’d like to participate in this exhibit, go to the image upload form. One hundred images, chosen at random, will be displayed for an entire week and subsequently archived in the permanent collection of the Musee de l’Elysie.

    Noting the name of the exhibit, Andy Levin writes,

    My own opinion is that the title is mistaken. It should be “We All Have Cameras Now,” rather than “We Are All Photographers.”

    I play piano, I am not a musician. A person will a cell-phone takes pictures, they might be, but are not necessarily photographers. People use pens, they are not awarded the title of writers.

    In some cases of tremendous events, like a Katrina, or a Grozny, any picture by any means is usually a meaningful document. But the idea that that makes someone who clicks a cellphone a “photographer” is in my opinion a miss-use of the word that contributes to the situation that we had with Reuters, where of course, the untrained stringers were manipulating images, and possibly setting up pictures as well.

    Bruggmann replies:

    we think there’s a shift going on. what we realized while doing the show is that it maybe isn’t as clear-cut as we’d like to think.

    No one i spoke to which took part in getting this up is naove enough to think we’re bringing any answers. But i do think we’re asking a certain number of interesting questions.

    Bob Black adds:

    for me, the distinquishing features between “pros” and “amateurs” have always been not only nebulous but, for the most part, pretty empty and superficial. For me, a great image is a great image and this is the result always of a strange serendipitous alchemy of collision: the luck of the moment married, often, to the skill/training/awareness of the camera bearer. pros make great significant photos and also amateurs make great stuff, pros make derivative shit and so do most.

    we all are becoming photographers, maybe maybe not, but we all increasingly experience life as somehow hollow without the availability of the photo, camera, etc

    So the question is, who may call themselves a photographer, and who decides? What do you think?

    [tags]photography, photo blog, bruggmann, citizen photojournalism, andrea weckerle[/tags]

    One Response to “Who Exactly Is a Photographer?”

    1. Sorry Bob,

      But the distinction has not always been "nebulous."
      An amateur can sometimes obtain a number of "lucky shots" while a true pro should and does produce consistent and professional results time after time! It is not "derivative shit!" If anything is such, it is your comment!

    Leave a Reply