OK So as any working photojournalist knows… times are tough. And that the newest way corporations create an exclusive library of images for their own personal use is simply to hold a photographic competition.
Millions of ‘amateurs and talented hobbyists’ send in their best pictures to what now appears to be millions of photographic competitions (that often also have significant fees attached to them) in the hope that their picture makes it to the top of the pile and somehow ‘wins’ what ever prize is on offer.
Of course of the billions of card carrying amateur snappers out there, few ever progress to the ranks of the professional… the reason being? Professionals make their living out of their job…they don’t have another occupation from which they derive their living.
So how then are professional photographers meant to remain professional photographers if billions of amateur photographers keep giving their work away for free thus completely devaluing the economics of photography. I mean its great so many people can afford to buy expensive cameras but really how many are producing even half way decent images?
Now if you were to ask Usain Bolt how much work he put into becoming the fastest man in the world over 100 metres I can guarantee he would say that he had worked every minute of the last eight years to become the best. I would also hesitate a guess that running has been his only job for pretty much most of his life. Winning six Olympic gold medals over two Olympics is not only a mighty achievement it is a legendary one.
He is without doubt the standout star of the London 2012 Olympics.
So when Usain Bolt picks up a camera at the end of his record breaking 200 metre Olympic final and takes a few snapshots of his team mates and the surroundings in the Olympic stadium everyone in the world goes “Wow, they’re not bad photographs”… Even James Estrin of the New York Times Lens Blog agreed.
But if one of the assembled press photographers tried to change places with Usain Bolt on that 100 metre track I am sure the results would be absolutely laughable…
So why is it that anyone who picks up a camera believes that they can be the next World Press Photo winner? Why is it that millions of people world wide believe they can just press a shutter button and deliver the equivalent of Usain Bolt’s winning sprints? And do they realise that by deluding themselves sufficiently into believing that they could match the feats of a James Natchwey or Eugene Smith that they simply are playing into the hands of organisations that will use their images and unscrupulously manipulate the rights and therefore any possible income to be derived from such imagery?
At least Usain Bolt is realistic about his abilities as an athlete. And I am sure he is well aware that he will now receive the largess he truly deserves for his achievements.
Now I know a lot of great photographers. Some of them have won World Press Photo awards. Thats similar to winning a World Championship gold medal. Of course they have worked hard for the honour. And as far as I know its what most of them have done for a job for most of their lives.
Of course their work will be better than an amateur photographer… in much the same way Usain Bolt would annihilate an amateur sprinter that had none of the talent, training, dedication and drive necessary to reach the dizzying heights he has reached…. the work of those WPP winning photographers will outshine Usain Bolt’s photographs.
So the moral of todays post is simply this then… If Usain Bolt wants to become a photographer I would gladly give him some training on the finer points, but I promise I will stay off the 100 metres track so as not to clutter the path for the truly gifted…