What a set of changes has happened since, say, 1990! In 25-or-so years, we have gotten to a point where:
- Most first-world folks carry a camera with them at all times.
- The marginal cost of making an image is zero.
- The number of images exposed has skyrocketed.
- The quality of many of the ubiquitous cell-phone cameras is near the level near that of pre-WWII 35mm cameras and film. In some cases, it’s better.
- The ease of manipulating photographs has gotten to the point where it’s become the norm. (In order for this to be true, you have to accept that picking from options is manipulation. I do.)
- There is near-universal instant feedback about image quality right after the exposure.
- There are powerful, instantaneous options for sharing images worldwide, and they are available to all.
- As I pointed out here, the image editors are far more precise and capable than anything that was practical with chemicals.
With so many more folks photographing, doing it more, and using better tools, you’d think that the number of great photographers would have grown by many orders of magnitude. Some might think that it has. Don’t count me as one of those.
Yes, there are more and more people doing credible photography, so much so that the bottom has fallen out of the low (and middle) end of the professional event market, and photojournalists are beginning to seem like an endangered species.
Yes, there are more and more people making photographic art, and, by some measures, better art. There have been improvements both in the range of ideas expressed and in technique.
But we are not awash in talented photographers in either area. There is an unbelievable amount of dreck out there.
Why is that?
I think you get out of something what you put into it. I further think that it’s so easy to achieve colorful, well-exposed, in-focus images (maybe tarted up with pre-canned filters) that many people get to that point, think they’ve mastered photography, and stop growing.
When the photographic experience was at root difficult, people who seriously traveled the path to mastery knew that they were going to have to spend a long time at it, and knew how little they knew. I don’t think that attitude is anywhere near as prevalent now.
This is the second curmudgeonly post I’ve made in two days. I will try not ot make a habit of it.