I know many of you hold Ken Rockwell in less than high regard but in the last five years of reading his stuff on his blog I can't recall a single time that what he says hasn't turned out to be pretty darn true. In a column a few days ago he went through his mailbox and answered a few questions for us. Most were along the lines of, "what camera should I use?" But this one had to do with this question:
3. Future of photography & photographer's role in it?
And I find his answer quite interesting and along the same lines as what I would say. That I agree with him doesn't mean that I'm personally depressed. Or that I am a "sore loser." Or that I need to get over myself. Or that I should be irrepressibly Pollyanna about the future. It only means that I dispassionatly agree with his assessment of the future of photography for money as we practice it today. If you click the title of the blog it will take you to Ken's site. Scroll down the page a bit to find this list of answers. Without belaboring it further, dig in:
(The following is from Ken Rockwell's blog. ©2010 Ken Rockwell. Don't pass it along without attribution, please!!)
3.) Downhill, and less of a role in it.
The future is downhill because photography, which is the art of seeing, has beendiluted into becoming a hobby for computer people, instead of an art practiced to excite the imagination of others.
Photographers will play less of a role in it, as most pro photographers will no longer be needed because today's cameras do all the technical stuff for which paying photography clients used to have pay someone with basic technical skills. These people with basic tech skills, but little to no vision, used to get by by calling themselves "photographers," even if they were simply camera jockeys who could wrangle a light meter, but had little ability to see the picture in something, or see it from a new angle. Now that anyone can snap a technically decent picture, only those with the ability to see the real image inside something will survive as photographers.
Photography is exactly like sculpture. When you start, you've got a big block of something that means nothing. The artist is the one who sees the final work living inside this big block. The final carving away of the unnecessary bits to release your vision into tangible form is simply the final mechanics, not the art. With photography, you're removing the irrelevant parts, leaving only what matters. It's seeing it in the first place that is photography or sculpture, not the carving or the snapping.
Tomorrow, all we will need are the real photographers with vision, while clients who don't need vision, but merely a decent record photograph, can do it themselves.
We've already seen this in stock. Guys no longer can pull in $30,000 every month through formal stock agencies renting out old slides of people standing in airports holding phones, or holding blank signs, or pointing to globes. Today, everyone can and does snap these same boring images and sells them via microstock online. (Hint: why not photos of hot girls holding phones? Why aren't those images sold as stock?)
Photography is the art of seeing. Photography is showing people things in ways that they didn't see for themselves. Photography is the art of seeing the picture that's already standing in front of you, but that no one else has noticed. Photography is the art of recognizing the hidden beauty in everyday things. Photography is the power of observation.
Photography has never been about cameras. The hard part about photography is seeing something. The trivial part is taking the picture of it once you've seen it.