As an older photographer I started in the days of film and prints. I wont go on about how these were “the good old days” or that we “valued photography more because not everyone could do it” but there is a grain of truth to these arguments. The printing and exhibiting of photographs in the home, office or gallery has never been easier in terms of the printing technology and paper available. Ink and paper is now as archival in most circumstances as film and silver halide and its a hell of a lot cheaper, just think what a one meter square black and white print would have cost back in the day and compare it to the same ink jet print now. When I actually had a darkroom the biggest practical print size would have been about sixty centimeters on the long side but now I can print that in my office with no chemistry and in comfortable daylight.
So if the print is easy and accessible and photography is more available than ever before why are we not seeing a flood of amazing imagery decorating of walls wherever we may be and why don’t we see a string of photographic galleries advertising exhibitions? The answer is in two parts and the first part is that we don’t value what we perceive as easy to do. When everyone is a photographer and we are bombarded by pictures there is no mystery left for the creator. Its interesting to see on set when clients comment on your equipment saying “I have a Nikon just like that” and you know they are questioning why they are paying for this when they could just go out and shoot it themselves. Shooting film used to be a skill and and a technically complex process best left to the professionals and so had an inherent value.
The other side of this is the snobbery we have here in Australia regarding photography as art. This question has been largely answered almost everywhere else in the world but here we are still obsessed with the medium and not the result. I can’t imagine Brett Whitley’s brand of paint was ever queried or which brushes he used or Margret Ollie was ever criticized because she used a certain brand of canvas but as photographers we are forever justifying our method of creation rather than the creation itself. While we are seen as “less than” painters, sculptors and other artists so will our work be relegated to the arts and crafts category.