Over the years I’ve tried to get better about reflecting on my work and life at the end of each year. Sure lots of people will claim to do this, but that usually just boils down to reviewing their Facebook page for a quick ego boost.
I’m talking about going in-depth. Go pull up those photos you loved at the beginning of the year and try looking at them again with a newly critical eye, do it when you’re free of the fresh-born-photo sentimentality all photographer’s (and really artists in general) suffer from. Try to figure out what went wrong in your failed work and what went right (purposefully or accidental) in the work that turned out good. Regardless of the conclusions you arrive at I can guarantee you’ll be a better photographer as a result.
It was during this yearly analysis that I realized it’s actually a pretty good time to be a photographer. While some may look over the glut of bad news from the past year and disagree with me, all I can say is, there will always be bad news. The only thing that really changes is how you take it. You can wallow in negativity or you can try to find the silver lining.
This year, I shook off the cynicism and tried to find the silver lining.
While we’ve generally been treated to overwhelmingly negative news in regards to the current state of film photography, this year we got treated to a few nuggets of joy.
There was the news of Lomography and Kodak Alaris teaming up to help keep film alive and even assist in finding a place to develop your film; if you’re shooting black and white and need some quality developing, you can now send it off to the new Ilford Photo Lab in California; and then there was the news that Italian film company Ferrania is getting back in the game.
If that isn’t enough, we were also lucky enough to find out that 35mm film may be involved in the lighting of the Olympic torch. That’s a pretty high honor, even if it does involve setting the film on fire in the process.
And while film will certainly continue to become more and more niche as a new generation grows up entirely digital, is that really such an awful thing?
I don’t think film photography will ever truly go away, and now it’s with the proper torchbearers: the enthusiasts who treat it with respect and are willing to spend the necessary amount of time to do it right. Essentially, all that has really happened to film photography is that it has trimmed the fat known as the consumer market.
Which brings me to the current state of the DSLR. For the first time in a long time DSLR sales have finally slowed this year with both Nikon and Canon cutting back on their sales estimates. Personally, I like to think of this as good news.
We’ve been blessed with a high interest level in DSLR photography over the past few years. While this has spawned a lot of sudden-photographer syndrome it has also blessed the industry with an influx of funding, research, and development. Large strides have been taken in the photography world over the past few years and we’re all better for it. But now we’re approaching the other side, where interest drops off and funding and development slow down.
While this may seem like bad news at first, I like to think we’ve just benefited from the best of both worlds. We got a rapid advancement in technology first, and now we have a consumer drop off that will allow professionals and prosumers to feel like they’ve gotten their space back.
Speaking of which, lets talk about jobs.
While news of photographer lay offs has sadly become the norm, this year seemed to finally reach a tipping point where people took notice. Be it Libération publishing a photo-less issue in support of news photographers, or the Chicago Sun-Times deciding to re-hire some of its photographers.
While the Chicago Sun-Times’ decision is admittedly a bit lackluster and kind of bittersweet since it follows close on the heels of them firing their entire photography staff and comes with a few significant catches, it at least demonstrates that they’re slowly starting to admit the importance of having professional photographers on staff.
So while the economy was a little rough publications made any cuts they could. Now the economy is slowly recovering and hopefully, as a result, the job market for photographers should begin to bounce back — especially if public interest in DSLR photography drops off a bit.
As for smartphone photography and the competition of user or viewer generated photos, I’ll let the quality of the photos prove my point for me. Or perhaps I’ll let this Denver news anchor’s rant do the talking. My point is, while there will definitely be temporary competition it will eventually fade as people realize the inherent value and importance of professional photographers.
Regarding the past few years — which have, admittedly, been rough on a lot of us — all I can say is that struggle is the road to inspiration. Some of the best ideas and innovations are birthed during the hardest times, and I don’t think these past few years have been any exception.
The few photographer friends I’ve talked to who have been a victim of layoffs have all managed to turn their job loss into exciting opportunities. Some have even benefited from finding a new calling in life and are much happier now.
Beyond that, just stop and look at some of the things we’ve seen in the past year. Every day we’re exposed to amazing photos and revolutionary new gadgets. Heck, we live in an age where one of the most popular forms of social media is photography based. Even if you’re not a fan of Instagram, it’s hard to deny that it has been an amazing asset for a number of photographers who are using it as a tool to share their photography and gain exposure. It’s both casual fun and practical marketing, what’s not to like?
And if you need any more examples of why we’re all lucky to be photographers in this day and age, just go check out Allen Murabayashi’s article where he did a great job compiling his ‘54 Reasons to Love Photography in 2013.’ Between the two posts, I’m sure you’ll be feeling better about the future almost immediately.