Photography is High Art?

By Xah Lee. Date:

Starting to take photographers out of my Google Plus circle.

As a class of human animals on this earth, with respect to my taste and propensities of academic and humanity issues, i find photographers — shallow. In particular, those loud on the blogsphere (e.g. [Trey Ratcliff]). And, there's also the googler photo community manager [Brian Rose]. On Google Plus, they are running the show. (note: if you are looking for photographers to add, just check out the above twain's posts. There are posts that collect all the pop photographers on Google Plus, each got a myriad followers.)

The word photographer is loaded. It is this quasi-artist type of folks, of which requires little imagination compared to a painter, and little skill compared to a craftsman, similar to “designer” class or other post-modernistic “artists”. If you have fingers, you are a photographer material to begin with. (contrast this with, say, pianist)

Photographers, like designers (e.g. typographer. Also, calligraphers), when successful (e.g. Annie Leibovitz), are heightened out of proportions, gilded with theories of esthetics, exhibited in art museums and galas. (you know? there are artistic charlatans that peddle the idea that a splash of paint on canvas is fine art, or randomly piled up cubes as sculpture, and there is a award-winning composer whose magnum opus is silence. It is this type of phenomenon, that made me despise the word photography as a art form. I wonder now whether there has been photographers who have propounded that a photo of a white wall constitute art)

I've always thought, that photographer as a profession is dying. Some 20 years ago, a pro photographer means you really need to have the equipment. Those bulky lenses carried on shoulders, with understanding of optics and technical know-how of complex optical equipment and film chemistry, and means of traveling, prop setup, etc. Today, all these fell by the wayside. On photo sites such as flickr, there are giga billions of photos, and a significant percent of them are great photography. These are done not by some professionals with years of training in photo school or under apprenticeship, but by “accident”. Google, with its Google Map, has taken a systematic approach where it runs cars around every road of major cities, with cameras that automatically take photos in all directions every few meters, producing a world of photos. These are functional photography, where you get to see things and people as they are, sans the artificial artistic touch, and it's really great and amazing, a real treasure to anthropology for the masses. (not that artistic touch is bad, just overvalued.)

If i were to spend 30 min a day gazing at photos, i'd rather goto Google Map's street photos of the world. If i were to spend time on visual art, i look for those whose production took a mastery of skill with imagination. If i were to look at photos of pretty faces, i have my porn collection.