I mentioned the violin proverb
If you buy a violin, you own a violin; if you buy a camera, you are a photographer.
to a violinist on the DPR MF forum, and attributed it to a friend who is both a musician and a photographer.
I thought that what the violinist wrote back was dead on, and beautifully put to boot. So I asked and received permission to quote it here:
I think the difference is that, upon picking up a violin, no one thinks they can play it, and the rest of the world is in unanimous agreement. The same cannot be said for people picking up today’s cameras.
I think it is no easier to make art on one than the other though. I live for a few musical moments out of the year, when something comes together in a way that gets to me in a way that nothing else does. Half a dozen meaningful photographs in a year is doing well, but it takes more than that to make a living, so we are not really talking about Art. We are talking about getting up and going to work. Much of what I do as an orchestral musician is making things fit together in an imperfect performance that is going, in some or many ways, not the way I might wish it was going. It’s like installing new plumbing in an old house. Do your job, make it work, do it competently, be professional. But when it is right, well, that’s why I do it.
Referring to another recent discussion on this forum, I have a photographer friend who for 3 years did nothing but product shots of white pvc pipe fittings on medium format transparency film. Just one catalog after another. We are talking about white on white, and every shape and facet had to be clearly visible, so no two were lit exactly the same. I went with him to the lab after approving a clip test on one of a dozen rolls that day, and when he spread them out on the light table, and every exposure, lighting on every facet, every frame was perfect, and in a white on white way, it was breathtaking in its competence.
Not art, but definitely good, and definitely professional.
If your art, competence or people skills allow you to differentiate yourself from the rest of the world in the minds of enough customers to pay you a living you are willing to accept, you get to be a professional. In a field where ownership of a camera allows one to take adequately competent pictures for a large number of customers’ uses, I can understand the bitterness in your friend’s saying.
As for my being a photographer, well I know photographers, I’ve worked with photographers, and I, sir, am no photographer, but I do own a camera, and aspire to be a photographer. I know the difference, but not everyone does.
By the way, here is more on the subject straight from the source.