Posts Tagged ‘photographer’

We are at a crossroads, now more than ever.  At first it was just digital technology as a new way to capture light and make a picture. We all embraced it because it was no cost, no worry, shoot shoot shoot and delete later, or don’t. (Because let’s face it, we don’t delete, we just get more hard drives or up our iCloud plan.) There, done!

Then we filled computers with images like there was no tomorrow.  Thousands of photos downloaded from our digital cameras.  DSLRs.  Point and shoots.  All kinds of cameras shooting more and more megapixels.  Win!

More is more.  More is good.

Then phones got really good at shooting and sending a pic, and even if the form factor wasn’t very good, and the photo wasn’t as good as a camera, ah well, so what, it was good enough, and it had the added perk that it fit in our pocket and we could be sent now.  No need to download to our computers. Score!

Sure, the phone manufacturers charged quite a bit for these, not to mention that computer or laptop upgrade, hard drive purchases and Photoshop software licenses, but we still felt like it was free. Yay!

And we became video producers at concerts, shooting and posting whole songs to whole shows so our friends could hear Elton sing, too. Because we can.  And look where we are. Too bad for the people behind us–we’re working here. Impressive!

More is more. More is good.

And then we got computers to compute.  Computational photography, we can make everything work, and everything perfect.  We can fake blur the background in ‘portrait’ mode, no need for a real photographer. It’s not like they do anything more than our phones–good thing Avedon isn’t working today, that chump would be out of a job.  Loser!

We can even fake videos and make it look like people saying things they never said.  We have technology.  We win again!

It used to be the news was a good source if information, but then we got the internet and things got a bit cloudy, lines were blurred.  News outlets and not-so-trustworthy news outlets  We have fake truths, alternative facts.  No one knows what to believe anymore.  Sucks!

So, this crossroads we’re at. Which way do we go, now?  Keep heading down the same road we’ve been on since we stopped shooting film and making actual photographs? You know, those paper representations of the pictures on our phones.


The ones of grandma and grandpa that don’t need a computer to enjoy? The ones that are authentic, storytelling.  That aren’t digitally altered and perfected, but just…  Real!

We used to have fewer pics and we enjoyed them more.  Now we have more and, oh no…

More isn’t more.  More isn’t better.

We have become inundated with images that they don’t even matter.  They don’t matter! Who cares? It’s not like we look at them for more than a half-second anyway. Instagram double tap–scroll, scroll, scroll, double tap, scroll, scroll.  That’s what photography is now.  Lame!

Phones are note-takers, and notes don’t need to be saved.  Photographs used to be historical family documents, not anymore.  Now, it’s where we ate, where we parked, what we drank and never see them again.  Sucks!

Professionals don’t make our portraits anymore. We shoot everything ourselves, even for our businesses, since we’ve adopted a mentality that good enough is good enough.  Even if it’s not, it is.  Because it doesn’t cost us anything.  Cheap!

What will it take to hire a pro to photograph our family?  Maybe they do have something to offer that we can’t do ourselves.  But the lure of free is so strong.  Why pay for anything? We can put that money into more cloud storage and new phones.  Score!

We’re standing at the crossroads.  Which way we go will very seriously impact what photography is, what value it holds and purpose it serves.  It may be the biggest challenge in its history, what it will be for. Decisions!

I know which way I’m headed–I’m photographing my family and friends on film, printing their photographs and living with them on the shelves of my home.  Call me old school, I know where my photographs are and I get to see them for more than a swipe-second.  Dinorsaur!

Maybe, but maybe it’s the digital photos that that will go extinct.  Gone!

I’ve started a podcast, Kenneth Wajda’s Daily Photography Blog Podcast.  You can subscribe to it at and find it on your favorite podcast app–just search for Kenneth Wajda Daily Photography Blog.

I put out a new episode every morning, so tune in.  They’re short, to a point and feature techniques, photographers, current topics and more.  It’s fun and inspiring for photographers!


Please take a look.  Comments are welcome.  It features my commercial portraiture and editorial work.  If you are an art director or a photo editor, or if you know of someone who is, I would appreciate a chance to say hello.  Thank you.

Unless they can see the difference.

Many people cannot see the difference.

So, many people don’t care what camera you use.

The camera doesn’t define you, or make your work.  You do!

You define your work.  Here’s proof.  This photographer shot 100 different cameras, and yet the work all looks similar.  Because it’s not the camera.  It’s the vision.  It’s the person behind the camera.

Photographers tell us as much about themselves as they do the subject they are showing.  For essentially they are saying, “This is what I photographed, this is what I made.  This is what I like, what I value.”

Look at the photos, ideally on a big monitor and hit full screen at lower right.  It’s such a great display.

When I show my street photographs, they are a reflection of what I see and think are storytelling images.  To you, they may mean something entirely different or nothing at all, based on your life experiences, what you like and what you relate with.

We all get to finish the art for ourselves.

At a talk about a book, someone commented to the author their take on what the book meant to them, and the author corrected them, saying that’s not correct.  The person commenting protested, “Who are you to say what it means just because you wrote it?”

Another good collection of photographs is by Jason Lee, who I recently found out about online.  I knew him as an actor from My Name is Earl, but not as a photographer.  He shoots several types of film, from 35mm up to large Polaroids.


From the work I see, I’d suggest he’s a romantic, into nostalgia, and maybe a bit of a historian.  He likes things that are incongruous.  The work certainly has a theme.  Many of the images share a similar look–do you agree?

I see a big difference in the look of film versus the look of digital.  And I get lulled at times to just use the Nikon DSLR and a 20mm–I feel I can do anything with that, it’s quick and easy.  It’s always ready to make an image.

Except it can’t make film images.

And what I make–that also defines me.  And you.

This spring, I will be shooting more film than I have been this winter.  Both 120 and 4×5. Because that’s what I like.  That’s something about me.  And you’ll be able to notice that about me in the work.

Or maybe you won’t.  But I will.  And some will.   Regardless, it all comes down to the story I’m telling–what is it I did with that film medium.  Photography is a vehicle to take someone somewhere.

We have to take them somewhere interesting, while revealing a bit about ourselves.

I live in Colorado, and while nature is pretty and mountains are beautiful, I’m not drawn to photographing trees, lakes and landscapes.

I like people.  It’s because I’ve been a photojournalist my whole life, and for me it’s much more exciting to photograph a spirited interaction between a couple, a kiss, a funny face, a human storytelling moment, than it is to catch an eagle in flight.  Both take lightning quick reflexes, but for me, the street offers one-of-a-kind photographs that can’t be planned or predicted.

It’s wild life, not wildlife.

And it’s full of so many expressions and stories,  For me, life in the street is where I like to go.  Plus, I get exercise while trekking down the sidewalks, working the street (which is why good shoes are one of a street photographer’s greatest piece of gear).  Sure, you get exercise hiking into a location, but to me, the ever-changing scene, the unknown around the next corner, the human story that might be unfolding, that is what fuels me to keep going out.

Not to the summit.  But the next block.

Like a barefoot woman running across 10th Street in Boulder.

What is a photograph? An actual photograph?

What are those compared to phone notes?  (For surely, images made on a phone for instant sharing, while quick, aren’t photographs.)

Sarah Meister, curator in the photography department of the Museum of Modern Art, made this distinction and I quite agree with her–a digital image is one that exists, but is different from a photograph, which is physical.  A photograph can be held in the hands and displayed in a gallery or museum.  She said she seeks photographs for MOMA, not images.

So, what is a photographer?  Simple: One who makes photographs.

Who does that anymore?  Where are all these photographs that people are making?  I suspect they don’t exist.

So, then, neither are these folks photographers.  The world of digital imaging made a new platform for showing photos: the internet.  It is certainly a viable way to see a picture, but it is not a photograph.

It would be like calling a PDF file a book.  Or an email a birthday card.  They’re just not.  They’re something completely different.

Related imageI was looking at a book of photographs of Norma Jeane Baker (before she was Marilyn Monroe) made by Hungarian photographer Andre de Dienes starting in 1945, and the photographs are spectacular.  It appears he was using both 6x6cm and 4×5 view cameras.  The images are technically and aesthetically amazing (and I don’t use that word very often to describe things, as I find most things less than amazing and the word overused.  These are not.)

His photographs have been exhibited in gallery shows.  What has been exhibited?  Photographs.  Printed photographs displayed in frames that you can see and touch and hold.

Image result for Andre de Dienes beach book

It’s what a photograph is.

Which got me thinking: What is a photographer nowadays?  In this high-tech, digital world.

For me, photography doesn’t stop at the making of the image on a recording medium–film or digital.  A negative that isn’t printed is not a photograph.  A slide is not a photograph–it’s a slide, of course.

And likewise, a phone image or even one made with a DSLR, isn’t a photograph unless it’s printed.

Which again, as far as my circle of friends and family, no one is doing.

EXCEPT…  Except the film photographers–because they know that they are working to make a negative in camera, and without a print, they don’t have a photograph.  They are expecting to take their negative to the next step, the positive print.

So, I would posit that only people using film to make photographs are photographers (assuming they print their work.)  And digital shooters could be photographers, if they print their images.

The rest?  Call them: 1) imagers, 2) digishooters, 3) capturers, 4) screeners, 5) phoners–I know, 6) pixelographers.

Just don’t call them photographers.  It’s the wrong word for what they do.

Why does this matter, what they’re called, or if it’s incorrect?  Why do we care if they’re mislabeled?  Because words matter.

It would be like interchanging the words chef and cook.  There’s a difference.

A person with a garden hose isn’t a firefighter.   So, a person with a camera isn’t a photographer.

I am a photographer.  Even when shooting digitally, I make photographs, including this gallery for a client, made up of images created at their events over the past 10 years.  It’s a physical gallery of nine framed photographs.


Likewise, I delivered photographs of a senior portrait session to a client today.  I include photographic prints with all my packages because it’s important that photographs made today are printed and kept for future generations.

And I gift photographs all the time.  Small framed photographs of the people I meet and photograph.

Because photographs matter.  They are our history.

And words matter.  They are precise for a reason.  I am a photographer.  Not everyone is.

My work more resembles Andre de Dienes’  than the latest photoshopped, Instagram-filtered sensation of the week.  Andre was a photographer.

The other name, whatever we decide, is not a bad word.  It’s just the accurate description of what is going on today in the image-taking world–pixels captured, and images shared on screens.

Wim Wenders, a renowned photographer and filmmaker (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club, Paris Texas) recently made a similar point.  “The trouble with iPhone pictures is nobody sees them,” he said in a recent BBC interview. “Even the people who take them don’t look at them anymore, and they certainly don’t make prints.”

Wenders says that though he uses a phone to make record shots and selfies, “I’m in search of a new word for this new activity that looks so much like photography but isn’t photography anymore,” he said.

I can cook dinner.  I am not a chef.

Lots of people are making images, in record numbers today.  Call them: 1) imagers, 2) digishooters, 3) capturers, 4) screeners, 5) phoners, 6) pixelographers.

Just don’t call them photographers.

Hey, street photographers.  I have a new series for you.  So get outside and get shooting!  But first, take a look at my videos–new episode every Saturday.  You are encouraged to participate, too!

YouTube – Kenneth Wajda’s Street Photography Channel

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