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Photographic Memory

Once upon a time I was a photographer.
Semi-professional.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

I bought the fancy camera. I had the lenses, the filters, the lighting. I set up a professional studio. I spent a fortune on editing software and printers. Business cards were created, scrapped, and recreated. Tens of thousands of dollars were spent to make a name for myself.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

After three failed portrait sessions, I realized clients were too high maintenance for the little pay they would reluctantly offer. It was no great loss. My passion was nature anyway.

I had a photo picked up by CNN. There were a few published in magazines, and one in a book. I won half a dozen awards or so. My photos were starting to sell.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

The more people who saw my photos, however, the more I started to hate them. As I spent more time at art shows and in galleries with my work and the work of others, I came to a haunting realization. Any person with a digital camera could take a photo just like mine.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

It didn’t matter that I had spent years honing my craft. It didn’t matter that I had spent countless hours in classes and in darkrooms to learn the technical aspect of photography. It didn’t matter that I had spent a small fortune to reach my goals. It mattered least that I could consistently produce good work.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

I learned quickly the true meaning of the proverb that claims even a blind pig kicks an apple once in a while. No one wants to spend $150 on professional work when they can reproduce the work on their own time. Suddenly, everybody and their brother was a fauxtographer. Suddenly, I couldn’t bear to pick up my camera.

Perhaps I am jealous. Maybe I am bitter. I am, without a doubt, pissed off.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

I trained myself as a photographer. I taught myself how to consistently produce quality work. A fauxtographer picks up a camera and might snap a “quality” shot every 100 images or so. Yet, they can turn around and sell that one photo for the same price as my well thought out one.

InnatelyKait Photography
InnatelyKait Photography

I can pick up my camera no longer. It sits discarded in a corner of my office. Occasionally I will come across it and I look at it in disgust before pushing it aside once more. Sometimes I think I should sell it. Other times I want to slam it into the concrete and watch it explode into the broken shards of a million dreams.

More often than not, though, I just try to forget.

By InnatelyKait

I am an art history student extraordinaire doing research on Hellenistic Sculpture in Ancient Greece. I also moonlight as a multitasking office assistant. Yes, I am really that awesome. In a past life (or career really) I was a photographer.

Chocolate and ugly baby animals keep me from being as awesome as I could be. I know all the names of the cats in my building (but not the names of their humans) so I guess I am the crazy cat neighbor.

6 replies on “Photographic Memory”

I understand your frustration a little bit. I’m a journalist. I have the education, the internships, the experiences.
Everyone who can write in a cute way about the right(/needed) subject can be taken on by whatever medium you can think of. Niche magazines don’t even want journalists, but people from their niche with ‘a nice pen’.

Not to be dismissive of your frustration at the lack of professional discernment in your field, but I am really not wild about the term “fauxtographer.” Honestly, hobbyist amateurs are no less photographers than the pros. And photography is a probably the number one most accessible visual fine arts field. It requires some equipment, an eye for composition, and an understanding of how to optimize your equipment. Just about every other form of the visual arts requires manual dexterity training that makes photography’s intuitive happy accidents impossible.

Don’t get me wrong. I payed for four years of art school only to realize that if I did art as a carrier it would mean doing art in a way that I found about as fulfilling as my stupid retail job. I know how it feels to be disenchanted with professional art, but taking potshots at amateur artists seems very poor taste to me.

I was glad to see this, because I was reminded by this article of how the art world has be cruel to great successes like Jack Vettriano simply because he’s self-taught. It seems to, among other things, undermine that concept that art is open to everyone, otherwise.

Maybe I’m a little sensitive, because I am a hobby photographer who shoots experimental analogue, so I rely on shooting craptons of film to get a few good shots. Still I can’t get behind the idea that armatures are ruining it for professionals. The couple who asks cousin Jim with the DSLR to take pictures of their wedding was never going to hire a professional, and in a gallery show with open admission each piece is judged on its own merits, not on the artist’s body of work, and a good gallery won’t let anyone undersell their work.

I probably should have clarified. When I say “fauxtographer” I’m talking about the person who takes semi-decent to blurred photos and over-edits in Photoshop and other programs and then proceeds to charge large sums of money for terrible photos.

I was actually one of those photographers myself before I went to school. I am not saying that self-educated photographers are bad. I had be business for about 5 years before I obtained my education. I fully support those who teach themselves. I was speaking more about those who have no training, no education, and just one day start charging folks for snapshots,

Perhaps a follow-up article is in order.

I have a friend who feels the same way. She has gone to school, taken the training, put in the time and money and people don’t want to pay for that quality or ability. I cannot recreate or take the amazing photos you take. I wish I could. I see similar problems in many of the creative arts….like cakes. Everyone and their brother thanks to pinterst thinks they can create the amazing work of arts that many cakes can be. I wish you well.

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