I recently joined an enthusiast’s, hobbyists photo group Facebook page. It’s a refreshing place to be. My previous experience of a professional page was not as pleasant. The enthusiast’s page is non-judgemental and supportive filled with images created purely for the enjoyment of doing so.
Photography for no reason other than pleasure and a desire to improve. Some images are very good, some not so, but that doesn’t matter, it’s not the point of the page. We all have a competitive gene within us, but there seems to be little sense of competition in the posts I have seen. A sense of validation, yes, but not a need to be liked. All of this adds up to a feeling of community. I should add that it is a closed group, but there is no need to prove yourself through a website or career profile to join.
The professional page was also a closed page and has members supportive of their fellow members to a point. However, that support was mainly information based allowing the members to show their knowledge of equipment and problem solving to their compatriots. At times this was helpful, but too often it became a list of contradictory beliefs presented as fact. When challenged some members quickly turned to negative and aggressive comments as a form of defense.
What does this say about the professional photographic community?
I think it may illustrate a deep sense of anger, frustration, fear, resentment and disconnect amongst photographers struggling to make a living from a medium they previously understood and profited from. These feelings are understandable, but inappropriate resultant actions are not excusable. Working photographers need to adapt and that is proving tough for many.
Meanwhile, the enthusiasts have no such concerns. Sure, they may get a little too involved in the importance of equipment and software package solutions but they are enjoying their photography. They are experimenting with subject matter and approach documenting their passions and interests just as I recommend students to do.
Maybe the professional could learn from the enthusiast in this respect and make more images just for fun, releasing themselves from whatever self-imposed shackles they may have applied. I am painting with a broad brush here, and that can often be dangerous, and inaccurate. However, as with everything I write the opinions expressed here are based upon factual observation.
There is nothing worse than being told to ‘lighten up!’ so I have no intention of making that suggestion, but I do believe that photography benefits from an occasional sense of light hearted enjoyment. Surely, that’s where we all started with making photographs.
The pressure that comes with having to earn a living from photography can skew your view of the medium you once loved. A love relationship can easily become a love/hate relationship and finally a hate/hate ball and chain. My suggestion to any photographer, whatever their level is always to have fun! If that means as a professional photographer regaining that fun by reassessing your expectations of photography, then that may force you to reconsider your relationship with the medium. Photography may have to become your enthusiasm or hobby once again, rather than a profession or perhaps evolve into a hybrid career, only you will know the correct choice, but regaining a sense of fun has to be the end game.
Dr. Grant Scott is 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. He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.
© Grant Scott 2022