Do You Even Have to Own a Camera to Be a Photographer Anymore?


I just posted the photo up above on Flickr, Google+ and Facebook. It’s a diptych that I made with photos that I found on Google Street view. I really like the way it came out. I like the message that the random word spells out in the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite. “Prepare.” It’s part of a longer message, Prepare to Slow I think, but in this context it means to prepare yourself for what you are about to witness immediately when you exit the valley side of the tunnel. One of the most famous and spectacular views in all the world. Of course a random photographer is photographing it — from sun up to sun down a camera is constantly on this view 365 days of the year.

In this photograph “Prepare” also has a secondary meaning of preparing for a new world of photography. A world of photography that is no longer bound by technical mastery or even a camera. A new more modern aesthetic of photography far, far away from the burning and dodging that Ansel Adams once did to perfection over hours spent in the darkroom. The new aesthetic is faux film as defined by Instagram, their new filters and mobile photography. An aesthetic where flaws are celebrated in photography. The purposeful broken Holga that lets the beautiful random light leak in. An aesthetic that has been made simpler with drag and drop technology, where algorithms quickly create your latest masterpiece.

Personally I’m excited about this new world of photography and art. I love it when artists push bounderies. Richard Prince pushed boundaries in photography and art by rephotographing Marlboro billboards and making the work his own. William Eggleston pushed boundaries by presenting fine art photography in color and exhibiting the mundane. Gregory Crewdson stopped pressing the shutter himself when he created his masterpieces, much to the chagrin of many a Nikon D800 weekend warrior. Andy Warhol had someone else sign his own work.

And what inspired me to create the dyptich above?

It’s the amazing work I’ve recently discovered by Jon Rafman. For those of you who are unfamilar with Rafman’s work, he is building a body of photography created entirely from Google Street View (exhibiting at Saatchi no less) — and these are some of the most creative and brillant photographs I’ve seen in some time (warning, prepare to spend a ton of time floating through Rafman’s images, there are many with and endless scroll).

I suppose the point of this article is to celebrate this new vision of photography where a camera isn’t even required any more. A new vision that is a great equalizer and the next step in the democracy of photography. A new vision that emphasizes the creative process over the tools and technique.

6 Replies to “Do You Even Have to Own a Camera to Be a Photographer Anymore?”

  1. The whole democratization of photography/future of photogrsphy thing is a subject that fascinates me. I wrote a short essay about a year and a half ago on the topic and it ties in pretty neatly with what you have to say here.

    Honestly I never normally post self serving links in comment sections of blogs but this is a conversation that I want to see happening among as many photographers and interested parties as possible.

  2. That was an awesome Candid Camera type tour with no soft edges….thanks for sharing!

  3. Cameras don’t take pictures photographers do. A lot of cameras out there, more than ever. Instagram, it’s d’mode just that i think.
    But, you always can take any image from anywhere and make something good, but is realy diferente to see it, imagine that picture, take your camera and produce by yourself, and anyone can take a photo but no everybody can do art of it.

    PS: i’m wonder, just thinking, if masification really means “democratization”. And sorry for my writing, english is not my language 😉

  4. Really, are you on something? Unless you actually pick up a camera and take a picture then you are not a photographer. What you are is a thief and a poser.

  5. A camera is only as good as the person behind it. You may think its easy to take great photos but it takes years of practice and making mistakes to get it right.. I commend everyone on the time and effort they put into learning to be a great photographer

    advanced digital photographytips and tricks

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