22 June 2007

Popular Photography

No, not the magazine by that name. I'm talking about Nikon's brilliant marketing campaign, Picturetown. They gave 200 D40 digital cameras to 200 random people of Georgetown, South Carolina, to prove that anyone can take great pictures if they have the right camera. It doesn't completely invalidate the time-worn photographers' adage that it's not the camera, it's the photographer (which Michael Reichmann of The Luminous Landscape rightly points out is not really true anyway -- there are many factors, including the photographer and the camera). But Kodak's advertising sure attempts to blur the line between professionals and amateurs. Is there a line anyway? Or is it more a continuum?

Some of the photos showcased on that site are indeed quite nice and aesthetically composed. Others are very sharp and have good colors but are still just snapshots. Nothing wrong with "just snapshots," mind you -- in fact I think it's wonderful that more people can now take photos of their family members, pets, vacations, etc., that they are pleased with. It might take some business away from professional portrait photographers, but there is still room for us artsy types. And perhaps as good photography becomes even more accessible to the general public, more people will find the aesthetic element in it draws them to learn more and increase their skill, which I think will increase the joy they derive from doing it. That would be a good thing.

Some photographers might grumble at the thought of more competition. But when one views the process of doing art and the pleasure derived from it as half or more of the benefit of doing it (beyond the money you can earn or the positive reactions you get from other people viewing your results), then it's easier to have an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mentality. “People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to...rather than detracts from...our lives.” (Stephen Covey)

So how does my photo of the day (above left) compare to the dolphin shot (right) by "Picturetown" resident Mark Collins, who admits he's "pretty much a novice at this"? (The Picturetown site has a feature where you can download any of the photos there, so I'm sure I'm not doing anything illegal by reproducing it here; however, I'm giving credit to the photographer and a link to the original just to be sure. See the Picturetown site for a video containing Mark's comments on how he got the shot, which is where I got the quote about his self-assessment of his skills.) My photo is better, I think. I like that it's more saturated and shows the motion of the dolphins better. His is too bland and too static for my taste, however he does have a nice repetition of curves, and he caught the fin of the baby between the adults. And he was closer. Even though my photo is probably better, I'm not sure I really have enough of an edge over this novice with a free camera from Nikon to make much of a stink about "it's the photographer, not the camera." After all, I've got a better camera... ;-)

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