I was listening to the Camerosity podcast, which I enjoy. It’s a production by Mike Eckman, who has quite a few quality camera reviews online and whose site is a fun place to spend a few minutes when you want to read about cameras.
There’s an episode I highly recommend to folks interested in Nikon history. It really makes clear what a power force Nikon is even though they are tiny compared to the other camera manufacturers. Plus it delves into the history of their S Rangefinders and the way the Nikon F took the industry by storm.
And on that episode one of the guests said that regular people, meaning not photographers seeking to create photographs but just parents and partygoers and the majority of people who use cameras to make a picture but don’t care about photography, they just want the smallest easiest good-enough camera. That’s always been the case. That’s why there was the 110 camera. The 126 Instamatic. The digital point and shoot and now the phone camera. Regular people are not making photographs, they’re just making pictures.
And now that the phone is here, there will be no more point and shoots. There is no interest by the general public to pay for and carry anything bigger. They don’t want a big camera with lenses. What they’re getting with their phone is plenty good enough even if it is limited to being viewed on a small backlit screen and even if most of their photos will never be printed. Doesn’t matter. They’re content with the smallest possible pocketable thing and, besides, they don’t want prints, either.
Which got me to thinking: That’s not me, that’s not what I do at all. I carry multiple cameras wherever I go. I seek to create photographs for commercial and editorial clients, for photo projects, for street documentary work, for The Photo Game, and to photograph my family and friends to print and frame for their houses and mine. My world is filled with cameras and photography.
So, that means there are way fewer of us. Photographers. Compared to the many others. The masses. Regular people taking a simple picture of their friend, their meal, the sunset. And I suppose there always has been, but now it seems so more than ever.
When the Kodak Brownie arrived, George Eastman successfully put film photography in the hands of the masses, but that didn’t stop Berenice Abbott from continuing to make her artful portraits with her 8×10 camera. Or Irving Penn. Or Edward Steichen. Or every other photographer working who wasn’t looking for the smallest cheapest good-enough way to make a picture.
And just like how a photojournalist counts on an array of lenses and a quality camera to document history, there is a difference between the photographer and most people.
Why am I writing this? Because people often say “everyone’s a photographer nowadays” and this makes it clear that not only aren’t they, but that they don’t even want to be. They don’t aspire to make photographs, they’re just sending a picture of their lunch to a friend. They’re making a selfie with a friend to show who they ran into at the mall. That’s all.
They’re not making photography. We, the photographers, we’re making photography. We care about cameras and new technological developments, and which vintage lenses are best and are willing to pay for a Leica or Nikon rangefinder or the latest offering from Canon or Sony. We’re not like most people.
Everyone is not a photographer, nor do they want to be.
That’s a revelation, a realization that was made on the Cameraosity podcast that I’m sure every camera manufacturer is aware of, because it affects how they market cameras and to whom.
They’re marketing to us, the few. They’re staying in the game for us, the few. They’re not closing up shop because the phone won. They continue to make new cameras because, though our numbers may be significantly less, there are those of us who are photographers, who want to make photographs.
We are their market and need to support them with some purchases, too. Buy that Nikon FM3a and that Nikon S3 for a sweet deal used, but also a new Nikon D850 or Z9. They are made for us. We’re the Abbotts and Penns and Steichens of today.
Score a deal on that expired film, but also order some of the new film stocks that are coming out. Support Ilford, Kodak, Fuji, Polaroid and the others. They’re being made for us.