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Drew 1 Hayley Drew Dr. DiSarro ENG101 - 05 2 April 2014 Killing Photography Within the past 20 years, the incline in amateur photography has caused a severe decrease in professional photography. In the 90’s a professional photographer could earn in the range of $30,000 and $50,000 within a year. Today, that approximation dropped a considerable amount to a number anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000 annually (Drew). Now that the general public has the ability to produce their own photos with ease, it has caused a large number of photographers and people in the photography business to have a major decrease in sales and clientele. Kodak, for example, a million dollar business that employed 40,000 people, has now been replaced with 12 people at Instagram (Jeffries 8). For some photographers, they see this as not a decrease in popularity, but an increase in laziness. The real argument boils down to: Is technology killing photography as a profession? I have seen the decline up close and personal and experienced the hard times professionals have been faced with through my mom, Colleen Drew. For 25 years she has studied and worked the photography field, owning a business in New York with her sister and now currently owning a business in Texas. Over the years her business and the business of her close friends has slowly declined. Most of them attribute the decline to the introduction of digital and the accessibility of cameras. In society today, there is a big discussion about the limited availability of jobs and the decline in the job market. They often talk about different fields that have seen this decline, yet none of them


Drew 2 seem to focus on Photography. It is important to note that with the decreased focus and need for a professional, it is not only a convenience to the public, but an injury to the professionals and their families. One of the first things to look at with the argument is how the Photography profession has declined and why it has declined so much. It is in part because now the camera has become so advanced to a point where ‘it’s so easy a caveman can do it’. The question comes up of why pay a professional at all when everything can be done without them. There are growing amounts of people who believe that the skill is all in the camera used. The reality of it is that just because someone goes out and buys a high quality, professional grade camera does not mean that they can get a professional grade photo. Dennis Yang explains it well in saying “A few decades ago, photography was dominated by film camera…only those truly dedicated to the craft were able to excel.” (Wilkinson par. 1). These skills, such as shutter speed, aperture, and light balance were essential to capturing a good photo, and those skills carry on from film onto digital it is still an important factor in using cameras today, if something goes wrong it will compromise the photo. The influences of technology have not only changed photography itself, but also the manner in which it is used. Geoffrey Batchen states that “photography is not only faced with two apparent crises, one technological (the introduction of computerized images) and one epistemological (having to do with broader changes in ethics, knowledge, and culture)” (para. 2). Photography is not only being changed by the increase in technology, but also by the change in culture. The addition of technology has caused a culture to take up a new hobby, photography. And with this new hobby “Professional photographers are starting to feel the


Drew 3 squeeze on all sides, and many are now struggling to make a living” (Yang par. 2). Now that people have taken this art up as a hobby, with most times having a steady job, will take it and use it to gain a little extra profit on the side. Matt Elch puts it best when he says “People that don’t have to make a living from photography and use it as a hobby, don’t feel the need to charge a reasonable rate,” (para. 4). and instead end up charging an extremely small amount for something that would normally cost an arm and a leg, but because it is not something they are in fact making a living out of, price is not a big deal to them due to the fact they just love taking pictures. This ends up taking away valuable customers from photographers who are actually doing what they do so that they can, not only enjoy it as something they love, but also use it as a way to make a living. One of the more prominent things that make it difficult for photographers to keep business, is today’s cultural need and obsession with capturing life’s every moments. It can be seen every day that people get too engrossed with capturing the moment, from concerts where views are blocked by the glow of a cell phone, to the crowd that surrounds the Mona Lisa painting. One of the most recent examples of this was a photo taken at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service of Helen Thorning-Schmidt taking a “Selfie” with David Cameron and Barack Obama. The photo of the three taking the “Selfie” went on to be the most reproduced photo that week (Jeffries para. 2).Instead of having the week of Nelson Mandela’s death have the most reproduced photo be of Nelson Mandela, it ended up being a photo of political figures taking a “Selfie.” Culture is so infatuated with capturing this moment that they do not live and "Snap happy onlookers taking pictures of tidal waves after a typhoon

experience what is going on around

them. This revolution in photography has made its reach around the world and award-winning,


Drew 4 London-based Mexican photographer, Antonio Almos has seen this first hand. “I used to be sent on assignment to Iraq, Afghanistan and to photograph the Intifada,” he says “partly because there weren’t any local photographers. Now thanks to digital technology, there are locals taking images at least as good as I can” (Jeffries para 8). Driving across the point that what was once a prestigious profession has now been taken over by the public and turned into something everyone can do. Another way to think about this is that technology and advancements are not destroying photography, but are advancing it. There is reason in the fact that dark rooms are no longer needed and there is less of a risk in poisoning from the toxic chemicals and their fumes that were emitted during the film development process. Wellesley College conducted a study to find out the dangers of dark room chemicals. Their tests concluded that both Silver and Bromine were found in the air of a dark room (Knight & Moricz pg. 1). These are commonly found on photographic paper that consists of a silver bromide emulsion on a paper base. The study warned that when these chemicals are breathed in for long periods of time they could cause breathing problems. The silver causes lung and throat irritation and stomach pains, while Bromine, which is toxic by skin contact, may be a severe irritant to the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and lungs. Both substances are extremely dangerous and can cause severe poisoning (Knight & Moricz pg. 1). Decades ago, photographers would spend hours upon hours in dark rooms, breathing in the different chemicals that could have done serious damage.


Drew 5 The same thing that is happening with photography also happened to paintings, maybe it is just the camera’s turn. When photography was invented in 1839, it was said that from then on out, painting would be dead. And in a way this is true. We can see, by studying art history, that the main form used to capture a scene or a portrait, until the camera invention, was done in some sort of paint. Today, we still have the same type of images being produced of things such as landscapes, portraits, and still-life’s, but instead of being done on a canvas, it is captured digitally and put on some form of a computer. But, as Batchen explains it, “Like a ghost, this photographic apparition will continue to surprise us with its presence, long after its original manifestation is supposed to have departed from the scene” (para. 11). Photography, while it may be diminishing from popular culture and turning into quick snap-shots that no one really looks at, there will always be a presence of it, similar in the way to paintings. We still hear of people who are painters and artists that are not in different genres. So, it might be, in fact, that photography is not in itself dying all together, but being put into the recesses of the artistic and professional world. People are evolving photography “AS an emerging art form, Photography was embraced by many, and as more and more enthusiasts pushed the envelope, it created a demand for the technology to improve and develop,” similar to other types of expression that have in the past been put aside to make way for new, inventive means of expression (Moonshadow para. 4). There are both strong arguments that support the fact that there photography as a profession is slowly dying as well as arguments dismissing it. It can be seen that through the ease of use, the overuse, and the need to capture every moment that it is slowly becoming a general activity that anyone can partake in, therefore limiting the need of professionals. There


Drew 6 is also evidence supporting the argument that it is not killing photography, merely broadening it and making it safer and better quality by getting rid of darkrooms and advancing technologically. Every argument has a side, either being for or against, but sometimes there can be a middle ground where both sides can be understood and agreed on in different aspect. With this particular argument there seems to be more evidence pointing to the decline of photography as a profession, but only time can tell.


Drew 7 Works Cited Batchen, Geoffrey. "Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography." Phantasm. 1.1 n. page. Print. Drew, Colleen. Telephone Interview. 10 4 2014. Jeffries, Stuart. "The death of photography: are camera phones destroying an art form?". Guardian. 13 12 2013: n. page. Print. Moonshadow, AlyZen. "Is Photography dead? No, it's simply evolving.." Mobile Photography Art & Design. 15 1 2014: 1-2. Print. Pickerell, Jim. "Sorry, Photography Students, But It's Time to Find Something Else to Do." Black Star Rising. 10 2 2014: n. page. Print. Wilkinson, Matthew Bridge. "Is Photography a Dying Profession?" Photo Creative 365. 17 3 2011: n. page. Print. Yang, Dennis. "If Amateur Photographers Are As Good As Professionals, Then We Can All Be Professional Photographers." Bleeding Edge. 31 3 2010: 1-1. Print.


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