When famous photographer Annie Leibovitz was recently asked by UK based paper The Guardian about her thoughts on the future of still photography, I was relieved to hear what she had to say. Not only was I just relieved, she made an interesting point that in one sentence solidified my future as a working professional photographer. Before I get into what her reply was I want to preface this by saying, I am NOT in the same caliber of photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, I am, however, a photographer that while I do shoot commercial and editorial work, my main specialty is fine art weddings and portraits. I feel her take on the future of photography definitely applies to the professional photographer no matter what level and genre. In my industry, I am constantly hearing about the worry of the possible endangerment of the still image and the loss of jobs to the professional photographer. Given this fast-paced world we are in of smart-phone photography and instagram with all of it’s “filters”, you can snap an image on your phone, apply a filter to it, and BOOM, you’re “amazing” work is posted to the internet with people commenting, “Wow! Great pic!” Now granted, I Instagram and snap away just like the next guy, but there’s a huge distinction between someone who knows how to work “magic” on their mobile pics and the professional photographer. Obviously you say? Yes, but sub-consiously, I feel that in this world of instant gratification, society is SLOWLY losing respect for the art-form. I presume the reporter at The Guardian who was asking Annie this question was coming from the space that in this fast-paced digital era, the perception of value of the professional photographer has lessened. This mixed with the economy, photographers are losing more and more jobs to the less expensive “amateur photographer” so clients could save on their budgets. Now, before I go any further, I am not speaking for all photographers and I am aware that there are exceptions to the rule. This is my opinion based off of my 19 years of photography experience, 10 of which as a professional photographer. But Annie Leibovitz made a good point, one that rises above the whispers of worry throughout the photography industry. And this is what she said:
“I think that those of us who are photographers, the difference between us and everyone else is we take what we do very seriously…In this day and age, of things moving so, so fast, we still long for things to stop. And we love the still image. We still, as a society, love the still image, and you know, any time there’s some, God forbid, horrible disaster, or terrible moment or a great moment, we remember the stills. As things move faster, as things go faster, we long for the stills.” – Annie Leibovitz
Good point. And while her response could be looked at as sugar-coated, I can’t help but agree. There’s something about the still image that provokes a sense of emotion whether it be an image from a horrible tragedy or an inspiring triumph. People often ask if I do video and while I considered it for a short while, I say no. For me, concentrating on capturing the moment before me consumes my every thought. I have grown up with photography being a part of me. I fell in LOVE with the still image and it’s timelessness. I have always been an admirer of Annie Leibovitz’s work. So much that I made it my life’s dream to be a professional photographer. After graduating from SCAD, I interned at photography agency Art+Commerce in NYC who at the time, represented Annie Leibovitz. Her work has inspired me ever since I discovered photography at the young age of 13. At the time, my parent’s were going through a bad divorce, life was chaotic and confusing. I was coming into my own as a young woman and everything that I knew as stable in my life all of the sudden was turned upside down. It was the Summer of 1994, that I took my first photography class and walked into my first darkroom. In all of this chaos and turmoil, I was drawn to the STILLNESS of the photograph. Seeing the image slowly appear from the developer tray, I admired the one second in time that I could cherish and look back on. The photograph wouldn’t change, it wouldn’t change it’s mind, it wouldn’t disappear. The moment was forever encapsulated. Honestly, now at 32, looking back I believe this experience is the reason of WHY I am a professional photographer today. It hit home for me, it became the security and stability that I was so needing. The world could be falling apart around me, but I could escape by picking up my camera and shooting what I wanted to see. There’s something very powerful in the photograph. I think that is why I am drawn to shooting weddings. I have the opportunity to create the nostaligic moments that I value so much and stop them in time. Always still and never changing. So, to conculde, I agree with Annie Leibovitz’s positive outlook on the future of photography. Amongst all of the chaos, constant push notifications, and social media, we as the human race still LONG for stillness and peace at the end of the day. And I can guarantee that photography as a medium will always be relevant, as I still feel the same way as I did when I was that little 13 year old girl.
I would LOVE to hear your feedback on this subject! Feel free to leave a comment so we can discuss!
xoxo – Abby