Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Modern photography is rubbish

Modern photography is rubbish

Mostly, do let me continue…

During the latter stages of my MA photography degree earlier this year, I begin discussing how experience can hinder your creativity. By experience I mean experience of camera’s and equipment, of composition, exposure and editing, all of the things firmly placed in the professional photographer’s toolkit. Photography has become so obsessed with the camera, it has forgotten its creative roots, and this is clearly view-able in the work produced by the so called and often self-professed photographic elite. 

Remember when you were a kid, and the possibilities were endless, you know, before your parents, your teachers, life, money and greed got in your way and turned you into a capitalistic, photographic zombie...

'Usually the amateur is defined as an immature state of the artist; someone who cannot, or will not achieve the mastery of a profession. But in the field of photographic practice, it is the amateur, on the contrary, who is the assumption of the professional; for it is he who stands closer to the noeme of Photography'

Barthes (1980)

Simply put; when you don’t know enough, before you understand there are rules to break, before you acquire the ability to understand the formal elements, how to compose, to expose, to edit and over produce, you will approach making photographs in a much more innocent, natural and exploratory way.

Once you gained this higher knowledge, when you have gained the ‘professional toolkit’ and can finally purchase yourself a membership of an old boys club, you undoubtedly begin to approach photography in a much more tentative, micro managed and ego led way. Oh yes, your Ego will lead you, and it will also destroy your work.

‘I couldn’t take that shot because I haven’t got an X, Y, Zzzzzzzz….’ We have all been there …

This theory has been proven to me over the last few weeks. My fledgling photography students have begun discovering camera-less technology and the dark room. Reminiscent of bluebottle flies heading to the blue light, they have approached the technology of pinhole cameras and lumens prints with intrigue and amazement, without fear or care. They have fumbled with the technology, whilst creating the most interesting and wholly original imagery. Intriguing shapes and tones, images which their pure, untainted, none corrupt imagination has lead them to, made possible because they are not yet consumed with the boundaries which they will discover over the coming months.

A small selection of student work

There misunderstanding of process, their photographic immaturity and inexperience does not hinder them from creating some wondrous images! Any semblance of an understanding of ISO, shutter speed or aperture, all of the staples of the Professional photography toolkit are absent here, they are not required; they do not exist in the minds and imaginations of the students.

Pure, unskilled, almost entirely inexperienced photographers, producing much more interesting, creative and expansive work than many within the so called photographic elite ever have or ever will produce.

Photography breeds snobbery and elitism.

For over a decade I have closely studied the established photographic bodies, of which the only major benefit it seems is that being a member has the effect of elevating your ego to a place where you actually believe you are a better photographer than anyone who is not paying for the privilege of being encouraged to believe this. 

Nowhere within this elitism do I see any semblance of a free imagination, of independent creativity, of real exploration or of anything new. What I do see are carbon copies, 3D printed re-incarnations, flawed, inadequate versions of much greater image makers.

Think outside of the triangle...

I urge any creative photographer, a photographer who desires to create exciting, interesting and original work, to forget what photography has become, a stale, technology led process of snobbery.

Pack away that latest bit of kit you have re-mortgaged your house to acquire. Go to the cupboard, empty the Bisto gravy granules in to the bin, Paint the tub black, stick a pinhole in the bottom, buy some cheap photographic paper & chemicals from Ebay, Build a darkroom in your bathroom, and begin to make some original, exciting and creative photographs!

I guarantee you, having experienced this myself, in letting your imagination, not your knowledge guide you, you will begin to create something entirely new.

© lance burkitt 2017

Nicéphore Niépce; Retouched version of the earliest surviving camera photograph, 1826 or 1827, known as View from the Window at Le Gras

Failing that, get out your credit card and sign up to one of the old boys clubs, and give your ego a pat on the back!