“People are crazy, times are strange, I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range, I used to care, but things have changed.” Bob Dylan: Things Have Changed.
I do still care, but Bob is right, people are crazy, times are strange and things have changed. Let me explain. The economic global climate and constant prophesying of the gloom that is to come is having a detrimental affect on people’s mental health across the globe. For the first time in many decades those with secure careers, incomes and businesses are feeling insecure. Anxiety and insecurity have become regular aspects of our daily lives.
Photographers rarely if ever know security in their careers, and anxiety is present in all elements of photographic practice. This was before the recent pandemic, but now times are even more difficult for the freelance photographer. I would never use the word crazy in relation to people suffering wellbeing issues, but it is an appropriate description of how some photographers are behaving as a response to the pressures they feel.
I read recently that comedians are struggling with audiences that have forgotten how to behave at a live event. Actors are also complaining about the behaviour of audiences in theatres. People have been talking, eating, walking around and shouting at the performers on stage. I am also aware of teachers commenting about the behaviour of pupils unaware or not interested in the classroom etiquette of learning. I have seen photographers demonstrate a lack of respect for others within the photo community and industry, fellow photographers, creatives and the people they are photographing.
We have long heard of the ‘Me Generation’ but this seems to be different.
These reports and observations seem to point to an underlying sense of anger and resentment. When you feel your voice isn’t being heard there is a temptation to shout louder and more vociferously than those around you. When you feel forgotten there is a temptation to place yourself into the centre of the conversation, situation or action to show that you exist. Has COVID intensified these feelings for many? I think so.
The need for balance in all things provides a number of dichotomies for the photographer. Photography can be a lonely practice, a solo journey, but it also requires a sense of collaboration, sociability and confidence. The photographer is required to be a marketeer, researcher, maker and distributor, skills that come naturally to some, but which have to be learnt by others. Two years of isolation does not help with this.
The lives of the photographer’s clients have been similarly affected. Many creatives have remained working from home and will never return to an office environment. They too have become isolated and are building new ways of working within their organizations and with freelance creatives.
We are in a phase of readjustment, a time of change and how we choose to act at this point will dictate our futures. It is therefore, essential to build bridges rather than negate possibilities, to make friends rather than vent anger against those you have never met and acting unethically must be replaced with empathy and respect. Experimenting with new ways of thinking and working as a response to new situations is essential. These are the actions required to remain relevant in the 21st Century as a photographer.
Dr. Grant Scott is the the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 www.donotbendfilm.com
© Grant Scott 2022