Since 2001 I have been a resident artist ... actually, I dislike the term artist ... I'm a photographer, at The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. Having a studio in one of the premiere art centers in the U.S. has given me the honor and privilege to meet people from all over the world. What amazes me more than anything is how many "photographers" I meet. Everyone who owns a camera considers themselves a photographer. My wife and I at one time owned a piano, but we never considered ourselves pianists. Seriously, I am not trying to be sarcastic or cynical. Just trying to prove a point about what I see going on in photography. Everyone is a photographer!
These are exciting times when it comes to photography. Never before have so many people been making images. Finally, due to technological advances, photography and the image making process (i.e. digital cameras and printers) is accessible to the masses. This brings to mind a term from ECONOMICS 101 ... "barriers to entry." What this refers to are the obstacles that get in the way or obstruct a person or company from entering a specific market. For example, auto manufacturing has extremely high "barriers to entry" ... financial, engineering, ruglatory, etc. Not too many years ago, the "barriers to entry" in becoming a photographer were somewhat steep. There were equipment costs (4x5 to 35mm systems), owning a darkroom, working knowledge of photographic chemicals and film and of course the ability to make technically competent, well composed images. Today, most people own a computer, a digital camera and color printer ... bingo ... you're in business! Digital cameras have auto exposure, auto ISO, auto focus, face recognition and vibration reduction. Heck, you don't even need a tripod! As you can see, today the "barriers to entry" with respect to photography are relatively low.
Taking into account that just about everyone today has the ability to make images/art, this has created an unbelievable paradigm shift in photography and the arts. The amount of images being made today is mind boggling. We as photographers have only scratched the surface ... stay tuned!
Susan Sontag, in her 1977 book "On Photography" writes about photography's role in society from the perspective of the 1970s. She speaks of how photography has contributed to our becoming voyeurs due to the amount of images being made as of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as their genre. She also discusses photography's relationship to politics. "On Photography" is a heady read, but considering the book was written in the 70s, it is as relevant today as it was then, especially with respect to photography's impact on culture. Think about it ... from the moment we awaken we are bombarded with imagery, both print and electronic. I'm getting dizzy!
I want to leave you with a thought ... based on the principles of supply and demand, does photography have the same intrinsic value that it had prior to the digital revolution? Your comments are always welcomed.