M1 Wk3: Rethinking Photographers

Forum: Re-thinking Photographers

The descriptor ‘professional’ provides plenty opportunity for discussion in itself, with many, varied angles already being aired here.  While I interpret a ‘professional’ literally, as someone who achieves the majority of their income from that pastime, where photography is concerned, I consider the level of competence and experience of infinitely greater importance than the financial status of the photographer (or their work).

As a schoolmaster in the field of science and technology, it is often my job to give answers, or more commonly, encourage others to find those answers for themselves.  Somewhat oddly, it seems commonplace in that profession to be viewed as the go-to person for everything working, non-working, living or dead… why anyone should feel that it is for me to deal with a dead rodent, I do not know!  Notwithstanding, I am considered the de facto ‘professional’ – it would seem that this is the way in school communities.  I have taught photography (as an extracurricular activity) for 25 years and as a result, in that field, by colleagues, students and their parents, I am considered to be a ‘professional’ in terms of my knowledge.  Indeed, I had to remind one of my former students, now a photojournalist, who ‘phoned me from an assignment in Syria, that he is the professional, not me!  I should point out that I have generated exactly £0 in those 25 years from my photographic work that has been used by the schools in which I have worked (for promotional, advertising and year-book entries), so by definition, I am not a ‘professional’.

I am reminded routinely of the complete lack of understanding by some (those ‘non-photographers’) about photography.  Highlighted so perfectly when I was asked to photograph a recent school drama production.  I pointed out that I would require about 90 minutes of duty-cover from a colleague in order to photograph the event (I intended to photography the technical rehearsal, dress rehearsal and 1st night), so requesting 90 of support to enable this seemed perfectly reasonable – particularly as this was going to be a free service from me.   The response: “…but we only need a couple photos – surely you can do that in 5 minutes?”.  I was sufficiently offended that I suggested the school looks elsewhere for a photographer.  Promptly a Professional Photographer was brought in who produced an abysmal set of photographs for the fee off several hundred pounds. This person was professional only in terms of his financial disposition.

Why is it that non-photographers believe that they can turn to a photographer to solve (free-of-charge) their image-capturing shortfall?  A point mooted numerously by others.  This is not unique to photography: many’s the occasion that I have been called to a friend’s house to resolve their computing problems and after several hours, with job done, I get no more than a thank you.  Perhaps I need to ask my green-fingered friends if they could spend an afternoon weeding my garden?!

It does seem that ‘non-photographers’ see ‘professionals’ as a useful resource and all too often struggle to realise that there is considerable time, effort, knowledge, care, consideration, expertise and money put into each and every photograph a ‘professional’ produces.


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