Has anyone noticed that photography seems to be in fashion these days? I just got off the weekly family Skype meeting, and my brothers were talking about which (fairly expensive) cameras they were thinking about buying and what they had been taking pictures of. Also, online I see people posting pictures they have taken of things like plants, wildlife or clouds, and talking about them as though they were semi-professional. Everyone seems to think they are a photographer these days.
I suppose that’s fair enough: due to things like cameraphones, photography is now more accessible than ever. Yet what these guys don’t seem to realise is that there is more to photography as an art form than just snapping pictures. There is an entire body of theory about how the greatest photographs ‘speak’ to the viewer; they can reveal a form of hidden truth through details which leap out of the image. Roland Barthes called this the Punctum. True photographers familiar with this background discourse know how to achieve this profound effect; otherwise you’re just an amateur with a camera. Photography isn’t as simple as just taking photos. Not only does it require extensive knowledge of things like lighting and framing, but deep, profound knowledge about how a picture can say something about the reality it depicts, which takes years to acquire.