Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm not a real photographer

Paul Indigo asked an interesting question, "What makes a real photographer?", and tried to give an answer at his blog with a list of 11 items, starting with the requirement that a real photographer "produces work that is interesting and significantly different which gets him or her noticed", and ending with "succeeds in creating fantastic images again and again".

I evaluated myself on the 11 points, giving 0 or 1 as the grade, and came up with the grade of 1 out of 11. The only one I felt applied to me was "is driven to make images", and that does apply to quite a degree. In all else I fail miserably.

It is such a nice feeling to not to be a real photographer. Namely, if one were, there would be such a pressure to perform. What would happen is that instead of you owning things, the things (and ideas and so on) would own you.

Being a photographer is quite ok, if you avoid the situation where being a photographer ends up defining you. Then you are owned by those words.

I'm happy in my way of non-ownership. This is one aspect of zen which I really, really like: not define yourself by things and by accomplishments - which end up owning you. Instead, one aims for the gradual recognition of the dangerous things which have their hook on you. And sometimes one may even escape one of such traps.

Another thing: there will be a pause of a few days in the postings, which suits the idea of not being a real photographer here.


Paul Indigo said...

Thanks for contributing to the debate. I read your article with great interest.

I've always resisted conforming to formulas and fitting into definitions. Underlying the question of what makes a real photographer is of course the question - can you turn yourself into one by doing certain things (as on my list) or are you just a real photographer by being yourself (and you have no choice in the matter, it's an accident of nature or circumstance). I don't know the answer. Just by observing photographers I've laid down, intuitively, a few criteria. I was hoping for feedback and your's is great. Do you feel the criteria are incorrect and inside you know you're a real photographer but you don't want to be boxed into a formula? It's interesting. I'm no oracle, and my blog is the start of a debate, not the end.

By the way I really like your photography. Clean, interesting and visually pleasing.

All the best,

Juha Haataja said...

Thanks for the response!

This is something which I have difficulty to articulate, something beyond words.

Earlier I wrote some thoughts on this from the zen perspective, after reading the book The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori. But I'm still quite confused about the issue.

Markus Spring said...

Interesting debate, and parts of what I wanted to add was already said by Paul himself.

I would tend to the definition that a photographer is somebody who creates images by photographic means, and here the emphasis is on creating which more often than not is more than mere pointing and clicking. That drive to create (and here you can't exclude yourself with 100.000+ exposure and matching results in the last years) is part of the artistic calling. And then there is a wonderful great bandwith of how one can be a photographer...

Cedric said...

I have to wonder at the need to even define such a term as "real photographer". If there is a need for a definition then I would define the term as: one who makes a photo purely for its own sake, for the sheer joy of it.

Like you Juha, for me, defining it as I have done above, gives it an essence of non-ownership or non-attachment but defining it at all just seems unnecessary.

Juha Haataja said...

@Markus: I guess the is a wide scope for expression under the term "photographer".

@Cedric: That was an excellent way of putting it, taking photographs for the sheer joy of it.