Thursday, March 28, 2013

Photography and Invisibility

You may or may not know this, but I teach at a college that has decided, for cost cutting reasons, to discontinue the photography program. There's a lot of directions that I could view this from, but for me, it goes back to the invisibility of photography. 

When I was in my teens, like most people I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course I'm still waiting to feel grown up, but that's another post. It was really just by chance that I stumbled into a job as a photographer at the University of Chicago Billings Hospital. I started as a projectionist (it's a teaching hospital) and the only way to get a pay raise was to become a photographer. Fortunately for me, the photographers there liked me and embarked on training me for the job. I learned how to do everything from photograph dead bodies to run a color line. I remember being surprised that a job didn't have to be something you were disconnected from. It opened my mind to understand the difference between having a job and a career. That you could find something that was interesting and fit who you were in life - that you felt really "you" when you were doing it. 

A few years later I moved back to Cali and decided to pursue photography and get a degree. I remember telling my grandmother I was going to college to learn photography and she looked at me...laughed...and said, "Why would you want to do that? Nobody needs to have their picture taken." About the only thing she could connect it to was the Sears Portrait Studio. She was surrounded by images, loved magazines and had tons of cookbooks...but the invisibility and ubiquity of photography made it invisible to her. It's a very sad truth that I heard this same reference last month...from an administrator at my school.

We have a son who works at a very large hotel chain in the bay area and he was telling me that one year they sent every hotel a really nice camera saying "from now on, you're taking your own photos." It was a complete disaster, not only for the fact that none of them knew how to operate the cameras, but the fact is cameras don't take pictures by themselves and amateurs usually take amateurish photographs in professional settings. 

So here we are in 2013 and we still face the same issue. Photography is completely embedded in the fiber of our being, so many of us use it and yet we don't understand there's more to it than the camera - or software. Taking an interesting image can happen in an instant - but making interesting images, day after day,  to meet specific needs on a deadline is a skill that takes years of training to develop (pun intended) and it's foolish to think otherwise.

Here's an interesting article from the NY Times on the rise of photography...too bad my school doesn't have the same vision...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ann, thank you for this perspective. As a society we have become enamored with technology. Hence the camera phone. Now EVERYONE thinks they are a photographer. I was walking at the Nature Center in LB which is located on Spring St. I had my gear because I was shooting as I always do. I walked by a young girl who had an expensive DSLR and this is what I heard her say to her friend: "What's the "P"mean? I said "Program" as I walked by and they didn't even flinch. I am SO grateful to have had the chance to study under the wonderful photographers at LBCC. You especially have done more for my education than a lot of other Chairs because you get what it means to have this wonderful medium to grow with. Photography has change my life. It is criminal that the Arts are tossed away in the name of money. It's disgusting. Art is what separates us from other species on this earth. Art is how stories are told, and how traditions are passed on between generations. I'd love to see our esteemed Trustees take on the task of photographing everything that needs to be photographed for the LBCC system while maintaining the high quality of work they have enjoyed. A narrow mind invites a narrow perspective. Judith Loniak