This weekend I took my annual pilgrimage to the NEC for The Photography Show ( previously Focus on Imaging). Think car show for petrol heads and sweet shop convention for fat kids and you get the picture (no pun intended). The pixel peepers and lense lusters were definitely out in force salivating at the best the photographic industry has to offer. What was even more apparent than any other time was the availability of exceptional quality aimed at every day consumers. Software vendors promise within a few clicks your images will be outstanding and manufacturers present pocket sized point and shoot cameras querying the notion of lugging around an array of back breaking lenses and camera bodies. If photography is for all, it raises the questions of what value we put on it, and, if we do, what are you actually paying for?
I recently attended a conference on school photography, where in the opening address, the chairman bemoaned the current state of the market " where any Johnny come lately who had a digital camera for Christmas think they can do it". This he said was a state of de skilling the work of seasoned pros who are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. These arguments of de skilling can be found regularly in debates such as is the iPhone killing photography? However, I have very little sympathy for the protectionist, elitist view of photography being for the few and not the masses. It's hard to think of any other art form that promotes and fears mass participation in such a way. I wouldn't be persuing my love if it wasn't for the accessibility and advances in digital photography. Access to word processors, pens, note pads, oils and canvases are not questioned when people wish to write and paint. It is about ideas and their application that is key - not the tools themselves. After all, Salman Rushdie wrote the cream cake advert slogan " Naughty but nice" and the Booker prize winning Midnight's Children. It was never about what he wrote them on. For me,photography offers not only to create but also to explore the meaning of what it is to be human in the world ( sorry, I can't get rid of the Psychology student in me just yet..)
So, if you find yourself wishing to buy an image or the services of a photographer for a special occasion what are you buying? From a technical level you get someone that understands the capacity and quirks of their equipment; why that equipment is right for them; how to handle the light conditions and how the colours or tones of the final image will work. Countless hours will have gone in to answering a multitude of 'what if' scenarios before a single pose has been struck or a button clicked. Ultimately though, it's an ability to share a sense of their view of the world with you and create images that never lose the power to captivate. As the show proves technology will march on,making things easier than ever before. However, the real creativity will always be within the individual.
Till next time...