Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Am Not a Photographer

Ambrotype, Summer 2009

In the strictest sense, given both the historic and modern perspectives, I am far from being a photographer. The above genuine Ambrotype of Kathy and I at the Sherbrooke Historic Village provides the historic perspective, when going to a Photographer was a lot like going to the Dentist. Ambrotype photography was a craft in which a coated glass plate was exposed in the camera, and then development of the picture was done chemically on the same plate using a liquid bath of Collodion and Silver-Nitrate. The photographer was a learned professional who had to be in control of the entire process of making a photograph, from the exposure through to development with these extremely toxic chemicals. Sherbrooke Village, located well down the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia is the last place in Canada where this technique is still being used in it's historic professional setting, we were told. After dressing up and posing in front of the huge antique wooden view camera (exposure time was 20 seconds during which we had to remain perfectly still - only natural lighting was used), the Photographer immediately went to work on the glass plate, and an hour later, we went back and paid her the $50 and it was ours - a thoroughly authentic wet-plate photograph done up exactly in the same way as it would've been circa - 1890! Talk about your One Hour Photo!

Many technical developments began taking place, as wet plate gave way to film and paper, with small negatives and enlarged prints. The Photographic profession kept on throughout the 20th Century, and the technology of photographic film in portable cameras allowed these professionals to branch out, from strictly studio portraiture,  into photojournalism, family event photography, art and landscape magazine photography, fashion and glamour photography, sport and event photography, war photography and so on. The media professions of newspapers and periodicals were all very image hungry, and professional photography was the supplier of these images. It was a noble profession. Personally, I have never engaged in any of these branches of the photographic profession. I dabble in the arts of painting and art photography, but solely for my own enjoyment - it's a hobby. One could say I'm an amateur photographer, but to this, I say "no I'm not". To say so is being too presumptuous.

I have come up with my own ways of making pictures with various cameras, but this makes me little more than a "Tinkerer". I sometimes find myself in the company of true amateur photographers, and they are a lot more like professionals. I quickly realized I am not like them. They have a drive to move forward that I don't have, nor do I want. They want to explore and fully learn all of the contemporary, and sometimes historic methods behind their chosen craft. I simply want to enjoy my retirement with cameras.

Don't get me wrong - I've learned a whole lot about Photography over the past five years or so, and for a year now, I've shared much of what I've learned through these pages. But now I want to share something very extraordinary with you - something through which I can truly say "I'm Not a Photographer" and I'm glad about it.

Here goes - you may disagree, but this is the way I see it. Photography, whether amateur or professional, requires consumers - people who want to view the images that Photographers create. Over the past ten years or so, these consumers have drifted away from the still image - everybody is consuming video now. I've become all too aware of this since last week when I had the latest fibre optic internet and television service installed in my house - I suddenly became a major consumer of video! Then it dawned on me - this is what most people are now doing with their spare time - watching video. It is the single biggest media profession on earth now. More and more "awards" events are popping up everywhere. Video has become the newly crowned king of visual art. This hasn't just happened overnight. As usual, I am simply late in noticing it. National Geographic magazine, although it still exists, now gets far more wealth from National Geographic Television - and that's just one example. There are specialty channels now for everything, and the LCD / LED TV is now the dominant force in most households, along with clever new ways of delivering the same video content to small handheld devices that ere once referred to as "telephones".

Finally, in the world of advances in photographic equipment, more and more, a camera's capabilities in creating high definition video are now more important than the device's still image performance.

As or me, I've become a major couch potato consumer of video. But am I interested in creating video, to join the latest trend of photography? not on your life... not now anyway. I am a late, late adopter. I am not "on-trend' and therefore, from Ambrotype to Digital Video, I am not a "Photographer".

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