to be a photographer:

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by panchromatic, May 15, 2005.

  1. panchromatic

    panchromatic Member

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    For a long time, and up until recently when people asked if I was a photographer I always replied no that I was an "avid picture taker." Recently I have gone back on that and have called myself a photographer. I'm not exactly sure when I had the change of heart, but I think it had something to do with a lady "photographer" who came into my work (I work in a small camera store in southeastern PA) and complained that her camera wasn't focusing. When she handed the Nikon N65 to me (not a pro camera at all) I saw that she had it on manuel focus. I had an epifiany that this lady was NOT a photographer. She didn't know what the word emulsion was. It was then that I realized that I have an extremely large knowledge of photography (not in comparision to most APUGers) and since is was a hobby that I almost eat, sleep, and breath that I AM a photographer. Dont' get me wrong, I don't have a gallery, I've never had anything published, nor have I acutally ever sold a piece, and I am extremely hard on my own work (always critiquing it and trying to figure out what I could have improved)

    I wonder what people here consider the prerequisates to calling yourself a photographer? I think this should be an interesting discussion.

    PS>>>I, by no means call myself a professional.
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    You might want to ask yourself if someone with less technical knowledge than you could be a photographer. For me, the answer is yes. Even though you're taking only polaroid pictures with a snapshot camera, you may be a photographer.

    I guess it's the typical "how many sand grains to make a dune" question, because you won't find a threshold between being and not being one. A piano tuner has a much more in depth knowledge of acoustics, piano construction, best sounding practices, but he may not be a pianist either.

    I guess the definition of being a X, where the activity that defines X can equally be a hobby or a profession (e.g. photo, music), is bound to be solved out of a long-term regard on one's activity. Someone may pick up photo very avidly for a year or two and then drop it. Does that make him a photographer for these years? For me, being an X means showing that you've been engaged in a stable relationship with your medium of expression, and that you are contributing to it with your work. In other words, even if it's in a very insignificant way for future generations, if you keep photography alive by doing it, then you may be a photographer.
     
  3. shyguy

    shyguy Member

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    I come from the trades. I see the term Photographer as a title, similar to Chef, or Painter. It's what you do for a living. It's a job title.

    I would say that if you make a living taking pictures you are a photographer. If you are an accountant who takes pictures as a hobby then you are an account who enjoys photography.

    I do not wish to offend anyone here by what i said. I just interpret the term a bit literally.

    S.
     
  4. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Yeah, you're a photographer.

    Years ago, when I walked away from my newspaper photography job, one of my co-workers said (paraphrased, of course), "Whatever you do, you know you're always gonna be a photographer."

    ...And, of course, he was right.
     
  5. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    No offense taken and none intended here either...

    But, I think that a person can be many things in their lifetime. I may be labeled by the profession that I'm in, but that doesn't preclude me from being other things as well. I believe that I'm a golfer, even though I'm not very good at it. I'm a husband and father (with varying degrees of success there, too...). I also believe that I'm a photographer...just not a professional one. I'm an amatuer with maybe an intermediate level of ability and knowledge; who hopes to increase both with study, practice and a little rubbing elbows with the likes of my fellow APUGers...

    If you "compose" your shot and "see" photographs in everyday settings, then I think you're a photographer. The degree to which you are depends on you and how everyone else views your work.

    ...."Phew!...I think that calls for a beer!
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Photography has always been a strange one.

    Being a professional, it used to irk me when as the saying goes : when you own a camera you're a photographer.......... . When you see a guy with a wrench working on his car and ask if he is a mechanic (and he isn't) he will say no it's just a hobby, or something like that. You see a guy with a plumbers snake and you ask if he's a plumber, (if he isn't) he'll say no, just trying to save a few bucks. You see a guy in court objecting to a speeding ticket you ask if he's a lawyer and(if he isn't) he'll say, hell no can't afford one.

    The point is how did owning the camera transform it into a career or profession. I guess it's just an idiom of the language. That's why I guess it's necessary to differentiate photographer from professional photographer.

    You don't hear of professional plumbers, professional lawyers, professional teachers, professional mechanics. Weird huh.

    "Actually I'm an amateur doctor, now please slip off your clothes and lets have a look at you."

    It used to bug me but since I'm older and supposedly wiser, I really don't give a damn now, what people call themselves.

    Michael
     
  7. stark raving

    stark raving Member

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    I'm not a Photographer; photography is a hobby I enjoy (a lot). Although the day may come when I might sell a picture or two, earning income or even recognition through photography does not drive me. It's simply a recreation; I take pictures I like primarily for myself. I'm a Project Manager by title and occupation, but that is not how I self-identify. By identity, I'm a musician. This is the field I took a degree in, it's where my passion lives, though I earn less than 10% of my income through music these days. Music fires my soul, project management supports me, photography relaxes and soothes me.

    Clear as mud?
     
  8. BradS

    BradS Subscriber

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    There is a concept of "Who you are" and a concept of "What you do to earn a living".

    What I do to earn a living is only a small part of who I am.
     
  9. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    If working as a professional photographer or selling prints makes you a photographer, are you still a photographer when you give up the commercial side and do it for enjoyment?
     
  10. sparx

    sparx Member

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    I consider myself a photographer in the same way I consider myself a biker. I don't make a living out of either of these but they are both something I do, something I enjoy and they go towards making me what I am.

    If I owned a small bike that I used purely to go to work and back, never read the bike press, never followed the racing or kept track of the latest models then I wouldn't be a biker, i'd just be a 2 wheeled commuter. Same with the cameras. Someone who takes snaps purely to record juniors 1st Christmas or sis's 2nd wedding isn't a photographer, just someone using a camera.
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Funny ... I haven't met anyone who was really respected, that made a big fuss over the title. I remember one of the "Great Lights" (my description; he'd probably deck me for describing him like that) who was confronted by a guest at a Gallery Reception. The conversation went something like:

    Matronly Type: "Oh, Mr. AB... They are saying that you are the greatest photographer in the world!!"

    AB: (Glancing down and shuffling his feet): "Uh, well ... I take photographs. Every once in a while I guess I get a good one."

    To me that response was typical of the "Great Ones." They don't need artifical inflation, nor do they want it.

    Am I a "Photographer"? I'll choose his answer: Well, I take photographs. I guess, every once in a while, I get a good one.
     
  12. Dave Wooten

    Dave Wooten Subscriber

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    Where is your heart, and what is in your heart....what do you eat and dream and sleep...where is your creative spirit....you profession is not who you are...that is what you do for a living...

    one pursues his/art not because you are paid to do it...because you love it and you just have to do it....your expression is yours and not set by a set of rules by an organization etc....

    there are not many professional photographers in the world (those who derive their salary from being able to produce work for clients) that can actually live on the income from photographic work that they and only they choose to do....

    In this country we have bought into the idea that what we do to put bread on the table is actually who we are.....

    you are a photographer...
     
  13. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    Aha--a philosophy question. Prepare for a long-winded answer.

    There are people who enter grad school searching for the title. They want to be called "Dr." Most of those people wash out, in my experience.

    There are other people who go to learn. They find that a Ph.D. is not a title, but a recognition that you have learned something--and taught the world something--that wasn't known before.

    I feel safe stating that I am a student.

    I am a student of photography since I was 16. I have taken some long breaks, and I am just ramping up again, but I am a student.

    I am a student of music since I was 13. Again, I have taken some breaks (including right now), but I have at times followed this with a passion. I have made money at it.

    My business card says "Physicist". Are publications and patents accomplishments to hang on the wall? I prefer to think of them as a sign that I keep learning something new. I am extremely lucky to have a job that allows me to do this.

    All that said--I don't like titles. If I stop doing physics, am I a different person? If a photographer hangs up his camera, is he different?

    On the other side of the coin, I can get business cards right now, put an ad in the local papers and probably have some portrait and wedding jobs pretty quick. Would that make me a "photographer"?

    There are a lot of people on APUG whose primary job is not photography. I have a lot of respect for their knowledge and their images. Are they "photographers"?

    Matt
     
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  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Since probably 90% of the people on APUG are photography hobbiests you are looking at this question from one side of the coin.

    As I said previously that you can call yourself whatever you wish but I will try to put forth the argument of the other side- namely the professional photographer.

    Since most here a highly educated and have degrees probably in a number if fields I will slmply say that in your given field you probably have pecking orders of advancement. For example of you are a medical doctor you are very protective of a chiropractor or physical therapist calling themselves doctors. What the hell they all heal people. In fact the medical profession has been fighting chiropractors for years.

    If you took years out your live's to attain a level of proficiency at a profession you are protective of that profession being negatively impacted by people claiming to have the same expertise as you.

    I realize that there are amateur photographers who may often be able to take as good a picture as some pros, but as a pro having someone buy themselves a camera and start calling themselves what I am is, for some, tough to take.

    There are hundreds of thousands of professional photographers in the US alone. Portrait/wedding, commercial/fashion etc. Most belong to professional associations and try to advange their craft, practice, and ethics etc.

    To have an amateur pick up a camera and then claim to be a "photographer" is much the same as someone buying a set of law books and claiming to be a lawyer.

    Thats the other side.


    Michael
     
  16. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Quote:

    "To have an amateur pick up a camera and then claim to be a "photographer" is much the same as someone buying a set of law books and claiming to be a lawyer."

    Damn Michael does that mean that I can't take confessions from the hookers down on broadway any longer? I just bought the collar last week.
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Donald when you moved to Arizona I thought you were going to change your ways.

    Oh well, I'm sure the girls in your new town would love to tell their stories to a kindly old man wearing a collar and nothing else.


    Michael
     
  18. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Michael,

    I really tried to change my ways. But, alas, it is difficult for an old dog to quit chasing cats... Who knows I may even save a few souls...I will say that the white collar does go well with the newly acquired coat of tan.

    I did meet an interesting young thing the other evening while out and about preaching the gospel...I think that this was retribution of the greatest extent...She may have saved my soul...I swear heaven and earth moved...
     
  19. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    You know what--you are entirely correct.

    When I first read this, I frankly thought that you were incorrectly taking the title photographer to mean "professional photographer".

    Well, I looked it up (dictionary.com): Photographer = "someone who takes photographs professionally". Pro Photographer is redundant.

    Matt
     
  20. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    We all write. If we did not we would not be contributing to the discussions on this web site. But does that make us writers? In my experience, limited though it may be, no one dares call themselves a writer unless that is what they do all the time and even then, unless they are published (and not just with an article or two), they hesitate and probably won't call themselves writers. This is a sign of the respect they have for the medium of writing.

    With photography it is entirely different. It often appears that anyone who uses a camera with some degree of seriousness calls themselves a photographer. This is a sign of their disrespect for the medium of photography. To my way of thinking, someone is not a photographer unless it is something they do or think about all the time, or at least every spare minute. They may have another way of earning money, but photography is really the main activity in their life. Ralph Eugene Meatyard was a photographer (his fulll-time work was as an optician). Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams were poets, although their full-time work was as an insurance executive and as a doctor, respectively. So money making occupation is not the only answer, but surely it is one.

    Stieglitz was a photographer, although he was a gallery owner/director for his full-time work. What makes Stieglitz a photographer, while the thousands of others who made even more photographs than he did are not so considered?

    I think I would define it this way: If you consider photography to be your work (as opposed to your job, though it could include your job), you are a photographer.
     
  21. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    "I think I would define it this way: If you consider photography to be your work (as opposed to your job, though it could include your job), you are a photographer."

    Agreed. Well said.
     
  22. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    I'm still a little confused...

    So, Tiger Woods, when he won his first Green Jacket, was not a Golfer, because he was an amatuer???

    An individual who has his/her work shown in a gallery or other venue, but has not yet sold a photo, is not a photographer???

    My daughter's a REALLY good Whiner...but then again, but she can't be, 'cause I'll be damned if I'm gonna pay her for it...LOL

    Can't I be a Diesel Truck Mechanic AND a Photographer AND a Golfer AND a Court Jester??? If I'm good at them all of them(Which I'm not!) but I only get paid for being the Court Jester, why can't I be them all???
     
  23. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    One thing I am definitely NOT:

    Secretary/Typist...
     
  24. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    "Amateur" ... <French <Latin, amator, lover < amare, to love.

    One who does art or science for the love of doing it, rather than monetary gain.

    Not bad. I do not mind that label at all.
    Money is all right as well, - but not a PRIMARY concern.
     
  25. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

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    I am a photographer by Hobby

    That is how I postion myself at the moment. Photography is a creative release I need to exist, its my passion and its been therapy in dealing with my dad's death a few months ago. I have recieved compliments from friends and even my public relations professor at Ryerson University who is also an avid Leica fan and shoot film. I am not a pro and I don't pretend to be one but if I can make some extra cash to buy gear....well then titles are flexible.

    Bill
     
  26. Michael A. Smith

    Michael A. Smith Subscriber

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    Being a photographer has nothing necessarily to do with money. If you consider photography to be your work (your most serious work concern in your life) you are a photographer. Having an exhibit in a gallery does not necessarily make anyone a photographer any more than having an article published makes someone a writer. It is a function of the importance you place on it in your own life--something you emotionally do full-time, no matter how many hours you can actually put in.

    No you cannot be a golfer and a photographer unless each have equal and all-consuming importance in your life. And it would be an extremely rare person who could do both full-time, while also working at a job, or even without the necessity of having a job. If you occasionally golf or occasionally photograph you are someone who golfs and photographs. If, on the other hand, you think about golf or photography or one or the other every spare minute and some not spare minutes, if you keep up with the field--read the journals, read the books, keep tabs on exhibitions/events even if you are unable to go to them, know the history, care about the history, care about current trends (whether they find their way into your own work or not), and, of course, constantly make your own photographs and think about making them, then yes, you are probably a photographer. But if you do not devote that kind of time and phychic energy to it you are not a photographer.

    It comes down to a state of mind. As I said before, if you consider photography to be your work, with all that entails, whether or not you ever make a dime from it, you are a photographer.

    Amateurs can be photographers, of course. But usually they are just people who make photographs.

    Other thoughts: we all (or most of us probably) cook. Are we cooks? Most of us drive. Are we drivers? Yes, of course we are, but only in the most meaningless sense of the words cooks and drivers. Those who call themselves cooks or chefs are those that do it full time. Same with drivers. The same holds for photographers.