Photographers are the scribes of our generation, and their artform: a candid representation of the era in which we live.

At one point or another, every elementary school art teacher has said it: There are no rules in art. 

Still, the “rules” of photography — things like good composition, proper exposure, and a well-chosen depth of field — not only exist, but are considered universal. 

Then, can photography be art?       

Defining what matters

Some people refer to the camera as a tool, something not unlike a paintbrush, that’s used by an artist in an effort to help convey their message, or art.

Others have said photographs can only be considered an art form when much time and consideration has been taken into account in order to achieve the correct lighting and staging—or in instances when a relationship with the subject has been established and is profoundly evident within the final product. 

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So, which is it?  Is the camera an artist’s mechanism or is photography simply not an art form at all?   

State of the arts

Today, when a twenty-something aims a smartphone equipped with an extension lens at anything unparticular, including (more often than not) themselves, some are prone to thinking that they’re a real and talented photographer. 

Youngsters (I can say that, I’m 33 and go to bed by 9 p.m. on weekends) sometimes even have the gall to update their social media profiles and statuses to regard themselves as such. 

I like to call this the monkey see, monkey do phenomenon: where people tend to mimic things they’ve seen done, and usually with little to no knowledge of the subject matter and/or concern or regard for the consequences of their actions.  For example, when everyone thinks they’re an instant standup comedian or professional fighter after having watched a comedy standup show or MMA/UFC bout. 

But, you and I know better: that this is very rarely, if never, the case.  Doing something well historically requires some practice and skill. 

While it’s true that the commercial photography industry is not what we’d once known it to be, and quality photographers are becoming more and more of a scarcity, photography is not dead.

Instead, it’s transformed into something else completely, due in part to the fast-changing world of evolving content which demands more from the profession (and for less).  Here’s one example…

DIGITAL WORLD

About twenty years ago, during the heyday of some of the nation’s most iconic print publications, like the late Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine (which sold almost six million copies in the U.S. in a month), professional photographers would make upward of $2,500 a day.

That’s a markedly stark contrast in comparison to the $250-500 per day rate that’s become more commonplace amongst the mainstay print monthlies of today.

As a culture, in the print realm in particular, it’s no secret the world’s gone digital.  Or, is it? 

Manbuns & the $6 latte

After being popularized by the millennial cohort, an unprecedented and unpredictable bunch, the relatively-new “support local” movement only continues to gain traction. 

Millennials have already proven their buying habits revolutionary, if not odd, but they seemingly band together in support of things the rest of us also can’t help but love: smaller retailers and restaurants, niche magazines (thanks, y’all), and local farmers’ markets. 

Shared sentiment for a more hyper-local mentality keeps growing and expanding, most recently, to include support for local art and artists—something we all can get behind.  #amiright?

But, as new doors open for those willing to create beyond what photography once was, the power of the camera — and its ability to shape life, define culture, people, and perceptions — remains.

Begging the question: Who’s stepping up to the challenge of reinventing Gillette photography? 

By: Stephanie L. Scarcliff for 82717
Photography by:
Adriana