Positions and Practice - Rethinking Photographers
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
This week's study gave me chance to look at the way photographers are perceived by others. Whether this be in film, television or the way goods are marketed to us. However the process also gave me chance to look at myself, as summed up in the image opposite and question how I am viewed as a photographer. In addition what do I want to achieve with my practice going forward.
Historically there was a degree of glamour associated with photography. An almost elite band of professionals surrounded by beautiful people, using the latest technology. Almost performing magic as they developed their images from a little black box of tricks.
Fast forward to today's world and nearly everyone has a camera attached to their smartphone, taking images with the aid of filters, which remove a degree of the magic and mystery surrounding the profession. In fact many photographers now producing their large DSLRs and big zoom lenses in public are adding to the less attractive perception some people have with regards to our voyeuristic behaviour. Something which was brought to life in a number of films such as 'Peeping Tom' and 'Nightcrawler'. Having been challenged and stopped a number of times by security guards in public spaces with the 'offending DSLR' in my hands, I can testify these guards have almost certainly watched both films.
Whilst the advent of smartphones and filters can be seen as a threat to the 'art of photography.' Many photographers, including Damon Winter, have embraced this technology, as we saw in his award winning series of photographs of US troops, all shot on an iPhone with the Hipstamatic App. The discreet look and feel of a smartphone versus the larger camera enabled him to capture shots and emotions that would rarely be possible with a DSLR. We must accept the fact people, including US troops, will act differently when they know they are being photographed.
Walker Evans took this a step further in photographing the subway. Fully concealing his camera beneath his clothing and activating it with a shutter release cable he certainly captured an array of natural images of the unsuspecting public. Whilst this can be seen as a positive approach in terms of the final image, I guess it does play back to the public's perception in respect of voyeurism.
As each new smartphone is launched and the accompanying marketing emphasises even more camera related features, it is easy to think that photography, as we know it, may have a limited shelf life. However I was encouraged by Damon Winter's summary that, despite his use of his iPhone and App, the same fundamentals of composition, information, moment, emotion and connection all need to exist in a photograph to make it right. You still need the artistic photographer to see these things before the shot is taken.
Whilst I will continue to capture the majority of my images via my DSLR camera, I do intend to explore and embrace the use of smaller compact camera systems and smartphones to add a more natural feel to some of my urban shots... security guards permitting of course!
Long may great photography continue to be created by us all, whatever the vehicle we use to capture it.