Photography, what does it mean to you?
The word Photography literally means ‘drawing with light’, which derives from the Greek photo, meaning light and graph, meaning to draw.
So, that’s the literal definition but what does it mean to photographers themselves and indeed lovers of photography, collectors and viewers. Well, with so many photographs produced every single day by everyone whom has some form of camera to capture an image, it is difficult to define what photography means to them because there is such a broad range of subject matter, genres and styles, interpreted by individuals in their own way!
Only one outcome is certain though, photography is a record of a moment in time regardless of the subject. Through my own experience as a self taught photographer, I’ll try and decipher what photography means to me and of course, what it means to others, without going too in depth.
Amateur v Professional
For Professional photographers, making imagery in our chosen genre(s) is our lifeblood, our passion and our everyday. In particular, it is our livelihood too as every image counts which puts us more in the spotlight both as photographers and people. Our work should be instinctively recognisable as being associated with our name when viewed, people should know whom it is by just by looking at the photograph, at least that is what we base our reputations upon. Personally, I get very agitated if I’m not engaging in some form of photography everyday, either making my own images or helping others hone and master their skills, specifically with abstract art photography. The image is our interpretation of the scene before us, as the artists we are conveying to the viewer and evoking the senses, drawing attention to the photograph in holding the viewer to look at the content for more than a minute and wanting to hang it on their wall, regardless of subject matter.
All this is true also of Amateur photographers, it’s just that they choose or not choose to have a day job, so to speak and not rely on photography as their sole income. Personally, I don’t like the term “amateur”, I feel it is somewhat derogatory, because and excuse me for labelling them as such, enthusiast or hobbyist photographers lets say, are equally capable in producing top level work and we all absolutely started off this way in trying to make a name for ourselves. Indeed, I know many amateur photographers that have won prestigious awards in the industry and still choose not to turn professional. This of course is absolutely fine, the same driving passion that both types of artist photographers share is unrivalled in making photography, albeit under different circumstances.
Collectors of Photography
There is no doubt that collectors of photography know their stuff too and will have done their homework, whether it be as individuals or as a collective outfit. The ultimate accolade for photographers of all capabilities is to be able to sell their work to people they do not personally know. To be recognised by prestigious organisations, win awards, to have their work published in magazines and books, to be exhibited at museums and galleries, also in having their personal work in private collections.
The recognition being the prize but not the reason why photographers produce the work that they do, just the same as many other artists in different types of media. The fire in the stomach and the passionate heart in pursuing and having the hunger and desire has to be there by the individual to produce the final intended imagery. First and foremost, the photographer will always produce the work for themselves and for their own satisfaction, with the exception of professionals whom are paid to produce work to a specific brief but still produce personal work in their own way. Again, I know and indeed it’s true of myself that professional photographers whose paid work is of a specific genre but really enjoy making and producing images in other genres and different subject matter and of course both amateur and professional for more specific commissioned work too. It’s all about the art!
This perhaps, would be true of collectors of photography, in having the same traits in searching and seeing photography that catches their eye and evokes their senses but themselves not necessarily associated with photography but share an interest, or perhaps are learning or wanting to learn photography themselves, or that they purely and simply just love and value the art.
This is definitely true of photographers collecting each others work too, there are many, for example, a landscape photographer may like a documentary scene by another photographer and vice versa, I have witnessed many such permutations myself, through both physical prints of work and now too in NFTs more and more, which is just as gratifying.
To finish up after all is said and done, photography, what does it mean to you?
It is really up to the individual and this is by no means a definitive answer, more of an interpretation based upon my own experience and everyday. Most of all we may of perfected our skills but there is always something new to learn. Since it’s invention, over 200 years ago, photography has come a long way to the present day through wet plates, film, digital and now web3 NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens). I feel that it’s important to embrace advances in new technology and ways of showing your photography, it means that you have so many more opportunities and outlets to get your work seen and in front of a diverse audience worldwide at any time of the day or night, thus allowing you to engage with like minded communities and markets that you may not be aware of or are yet to venture into. Food for thought!
Most of all, have fun in satisfying your photographic appetite and don’t be afraid to experiment!
Written on 20.04.2022 by Paul Hamilton, Focus Market Community Manager, London UK.