четвъртък, 13 юли 2017 г.

What's in a name? Who is a professional photographer?

I didn't call myself photographer when I started out. In fact, it took me years to even think of myself as one. I remember one of the first times when I was impressed by the way 'professionals' behaved: it was on that memorable trip to Crete.

Actually, it was on the Acropolis in Athens - then, I remember, it was crowded with photographers using gear of all kinds. They were all standing at one and the same spot - where the best view is. I went up there and was amazed that all those 'pros' with 'big black professional cameras' made room for me and even showed me the place where I can photograph the best view. That was the first time I noticed something like that.
One of the images I created back then. I have some amazing images from Crete BUT these are not one of the great ones. As you can see the weather was nowhere near spectacular and nothing looks interesting on the pic. Still, I was able to do this only BECAUSE the pros made some room for me and my compact camera.
When I got my DSLR, I still didn't call myself a photographer. To outsiders, seeing the big black thing, it was absolutely obvious that I WAS, in fact, a professional (why else, carry that heavy scary thing around?). When asked, I said 'yes' laughing. It took me 3 years to really start claiming with confidence that, yes, I am a photographer. A professional. And it took me another year to start demanding the respect owed to such.
These days I have to edit some images created by a colleague - I call him a colleague BUT he still calls himself a 'hobby-photographer'. Truth is that the guy does photo-shoots with models and so on BUT he is still reluctant to state (especially to me) that he is a professional photographer.  Still, since we happened to work together for some time - he has an eye for people shots.

That's me - one of the images that colleague of mine created while we worked together.
This made me think - who has, after all, the right to call himself/herself a photographer? So I decided to conduct a bit of research.

The first place I went to is the website of the association of professional photographers in Bulgaria (link to their website can be found at the end of this post), where it is said that a professional photographer is:

A) getting more than half of his/her income from photography

B) studying photography as a degree at some university or college

Still, I think that this is not enough to define the whole process of calling oneself a 'pro' - I've met countless people who have a BA in photography but are terrible at it. This doesn't make them 'professionals'. I've also met wonderful talents that take pictures in their spare time and are better than most 'pros'. There is something mystical in the whole idea of calling oneself a photographer - as if that gives you some kind of mystical, even mythical status of 'the person who creates masterpieces with one click of the camera'.

So I decided to search the net and see what the great minds of the past have to say about photography. I searched through various quotes about photography but couldn't find a single one about 'professional' photography said by the famous photographers of the past. Somehow these people didn't think that you need to earn this and this and that to call oneself a photographer. You need to see the world in a certain way, you need the 'eye for detail'.

Money comes when there is talent. If there is talent or people who are willing to pay. Or both. Being a professional in what you do comes BEFORE getting money for it, that's what I think. Somehow the photographers of the past have seen it, unlike us, who try to divide into groups: pros and amateurs, those having a degree and those who are self-taught, even to landscapers and wedding photographers.

A degree can only hone the skills you already have but it alone will not make you a professional photographer. Talent alone will help you create something no one else has done (or just very few have thought of doing) but without the knowledge it would take a lot of time (trust me, I know that).

Being a professional is a feeling, a state of mind, not a degree. It takes some time (and some bravery) to state it out loud.

References:

https://petapixel.com/2014/03/11/50-photography-quotes-inspire/ 

https://petapixel.com/2014/05/29/70-inspirational-quotes-photographers/