I read a couple of articles recently that opened up on this question in one way or another. Many articles in the media of late refer to people who take pictures as photographers (usually it seems when they are doing something bad). Are all these people ‘photographers’?
Camera use used to be limited to a narrow section of society that could be bothered with the highly technical operation of a this instrument and thus the term photographer referred to those people.
These days however, everyone (almost) has a camera that they use on a regular basis (in the form of a phone) and a huge number have a fairly sophisticated camera that they use on vacations etc. Do these people qualify to be called photographers? Is the term photographer a special tag for a certain type of camera user?
It’s a difficult question in my opinion as I don’t think it was ever reserved like Doctor or Electrician where someone had to pass a certain level of qualification. Maybe it should?
I don’t consider myself a carpenter just because I cut some wood occasionally or call myself a lumberjack because I have felled a tree. In fact I don’t think I referred to myself as a photographer until recently when others have called me that and I rarely actually use it to describe my own situation even then. In my mind ‘Photographer’ has meant someone who does it in some form of professional manner. Or I would have used it to refer to someone who has there images published. That has changed a little and I acknowledge that there are photographers and professional photographers. Also, the term ‘publishing’ is now way open with the availability of the internet so that still leaves the question; What is a photographer?
Is ‘writer’ in the same situation? Am I a writer just because I am writing this blog? I would tend to disagree. Are we dumb-ing down a section of skilled people and skills in certain fields just because anyone can now do it to some degree? Did we miss the boat in securing specialist status on these occupations before they became more widely available to the untrained?
I believe a photographer is more than just a Camera Operator/User or someone who takes photographs. Perhaps it should refer to someone who has a formal qualification in Photography(?) That would certainly exclude me as I am not qualified (not that that is a problem for me) however that would also exclude some of the great photographers in history who learned their trade by experimentation and mentor-ship and may never got a ‘qualification’. Maybe qualification is not the right thing, maybe some sort of structured education in photography is the definition; though that is a loose description still.
I’m not sure I have the answer but I do know that grouping a large section of society under certain terms based upon an activity they may be doing tends to upset the smaller section of society that would use the term to describe an exclusive group who are skilled in that activity (sorry that was a very wordy sentence).
It’s easy for the press to use these terms loosely to identify a number of people that satisfy the premise of their article but it pigeon holes people in a way they may not want to be. It always surprises me that in newspaper articles the reporter often refers to someone by one thing that person does such as “Mr Jones, a Barman, was caught speeding” and I never understood why they did that, ‘Barman’ may not have defined what Mr Jones was; he was probably many things and stating his current job title has nothing to do with who he was.
I for instance may be a Project Manager, an IT professional, Photographer, a Cyclist, a Father, a Son, a Brother, a Divorcee, a Fiancee, a Car Driver, a Pedestrian, a Walker, a Hiker, a Gardener, a Decorator, a Swimmer, a Snorkeler, a Martial Artist, a cleaner, a drinker, a steersman. I am/do many things and sometimes I wonder, if I am ever noted in a newspaper or journalistic article, what they would pigeon hole as; when really I’m just a man.
Anyway I have drifted off the subject terribly, sorry about that.
Here’s my definition of a photographer for what it’s worth.
A Photographer is someone who has been recognized by a relevant organisation or body or another photographer as being so.
It’s not perfect and there are probably holes in it and it won’t really solve anything but it was bothering me and now I can let it go.