A few years ago a friend sent me this email:
“SUBJECT: Compliments to the…
A photographer was invited to a dinner and took along a few photos. The hostess looked at his work and said, ‘these are very good. You must have an excellent camera.’ After the meal, the man said to the hostess, ‘that was delicious. You must have some excellent pots and pans.’”
One of the things I have always truly adored about photography is its democratic nature; that is, just about anyone can pick up a camera, figure out what to do with it and then take pictures! Unlike painting or ceramics or glass blowing, it’s a relatively simple medium to learn. Back when I had my gallery, I would often hear comments like, “Oh, you know, Uncle Harry took pictures just like these!” or “My kids can make pictures like these.” I loved that, and I hated that, too.
I loved that people felt photography was so accessible. I hated that viewers discounted the years of study, the completed bodies of work, the nature of the creative process itself, the endeavor on the part of the artist to look beyond mere reproduction, the various movements in the history of the medium and the consistency of success from one piece to the next when surveying images by any given photographer.
“As early as 1888 George Eastman, the founder of Kodak, was promoting the notion that taking a picture was an utterly straightforward task. When he invented the Kodak towards the end of the nineteenth century, a small, easy-to-use camera, which contained one hundred pictures on a dry gelatin roll, the advertising slogan read, ‘You push a button and we do the rest.’ With that, Eastman lay down the foundation for making photography available to everyone.
As cameras have become ever smaller and easier to use in the wake of the digital revolution, we have perhaps reached an apex of effortlessness when it comes to taking pictures. Due to the immediacy of the medium, and its automatic qualities, the element at the heart of photography – light – has for the most part been forgotten.
Hence the message of the Kodak slogan, even if we were unaware of it, is now most certainly instilled in us. Moreover, in an era of endless print media, on-demand TV viewing and mobile-phone photography, our eyes have become so accustomed to the daily onslaught of images, that we are no longer able to look at them with a discerning eye.” – Anne-Celine Jaeger from Image Makers. Image Takers
Ansel Adams was known for saying, “You don’t take a photograph. You make it.”
“Photography and seeing has evolved tremendously since its birth. Nevertheless, the notion of an instamatic image seems to be stuck in our collective consciousness. No matter how well versed we think we are in photography, no matter how talented, we should always strive for a deeper level of understanding. Because unlike Kodak’s 1888 catch-phrase suggested, great photography is anything but straightforward. Perhaps a better slogan would be: ‘It’s not what you click, but how you tick.’” – Anne-Celine Jaeger