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Author Topic: How good exactly were the good old days?  (Read 14233 times)
ronkruger
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« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2010, 01:29:12 AM »
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This is an interesting thread to old timers like me.
While I still miss Kodachrome 25 a bit, I love the instant preview, processing control, convience and costs of shooting digital.
But digital technology is a double-edged sword. The best part about being a photographer in the "good old days," was the wide gap between the experienced pro and the average snapshooter. Advanced technology and sophisticated auto everything makes what it took me decades to learn less of an edge and less important with each equipment upgrade. What we once called "idiot cameras" now have become genius cameras.
But I do sorely miss the way it was, the way society was, the general integrety, mutual respect, oath of a firm handshake and a work ethic that seems now like some vague daydream. Most of all I miss a time when democracy wasn't for sale, when most people said what they meant and meant what they said; when nothing had hidden charges and very few business were deceptive. Sad to say, but this isn't the America I grew up in. The American Dream is turning into the American Scream. Unless you are a billionaire, your are "disinfranchised" to some degree.
But my truck always starts and my camera takes good pictures. It ain't all bad, but for an old timer like me, the rest of it seems a little hollow and distant.
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Rob C
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« Reply #21 on: December 18, 2010, 03:44:45 AM »
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Another thing I'd like to point out, though many seem to have understood already, is that my own, personal, idea about 'good olde times' refers specifically to photography, professional photography.

For others, even the aftermath of WW2 was a godsend: reconstructiuon, town planning, factories starting to produce domestic products again... it became boom time all over. Many in Britain write about the depressing 50s; well, I was there and it was anything but depressing - I had my first bike (droop handlebars Raleigh Lenton in metallic red!) long  before UK cars ever used metallic paints.

I met in school the girl I eventually had the great fortune to marry; magazines abounded and my appetites for art and photography were allowed to grow and flourish.

You want misery? Look at today's people. probably exactly the same ones, cursed with the same mindset, that lived miserable lives as long as there have been people.

So what's different today? I believe that people have been led to believe, and to expect, that there is always going to be, should always be, a state-sponsored security  blanket that prevents the feckless from falling victim to their own uselessness. In other words, somebody else is going to do your work for you. The experience of self-employment would be a delightful, short, sharp course from which such minds would benefit greatly.

But hey, it's only 10.38am and the first coffee is getting cold.

Rob C
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Joe Behar
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« Reply #22 on: December 18, 2010, 07:38:34 AM »
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When equipment was expensive and exclusive, it probably meant that those few who had access to it was talented and genuinely interested. Not all of them, but a large percentage.

When The Beatles did their recordings, record companies and making a record was still a major thing, and you could not do it unless the people in power really believed in your work. Today, anyone with a CD-burner can make a record, and anyone with an internet connection can spread it to the world. There might be a few geniuses that benefit from the increased availablility of good gear to make fantastic art that they would never have been able to 50 years ago. But I subscribe to the idea that the number of geniuses in each generation is fairly constant, and when you increase the number of artists, most of that increase will be "noise".

-h

That noise you see and hear is that of ordinary people with an interest or a passion that now have a way of expressing themselves for everyone to see.

Its also the noise of people exchanging ideas, spreading knowledge and exposing us to things we might never have been aware of.

Sorry to be blunt but I say, f**k the geniuses...lets do everything we can to open possibilities to the 99.999% of the rest of us
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« Reply #23 on: December 18, 2010, 08:03:40 AM »
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That noise you see and hear is that of ordinary people with an interest or a passion that now have a way of expressing themselves for everyone to see.

Its also the noise of people exchanging ideas, spreading knowledge and exposing us to things we might never have been aware of.

Sorry to be blunt but I say, f**k the geniuses...lets do everything we can to open possibilities to the 99.999% of the rest of us

I'm 100% with Joe here. It's sad to see elitism is still so prevalent in (pro) photography circles. Technology has democratized photography, just like many other industries. You no longer have to spend several months' pay to buy a pro-level camera, years learning the minutiae of exposure, development and printing, and hours upon hours to produce a passable end product. There's no turning back and I'm thrilled that's the case.

Today the barrier to entry into photography is in skill and talent, rather than secondary and peripheral aspects of equipment, capital investment and most technical aspects of the craft. There's still a big factor of cost in some niches of photography, but those are being eroded as sensors and lighting become better and cheaper. If a pro photographer really feels the pressure of competition from the millions of amateurs or snap shooters, they should take a hard look at what level their own photography is.
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Justan
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« Reply #24 on: December 18, 2010, 09:45:46 AM »
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Most consider “the good ol' days” as a entirely personal and 100% subjective view of a better time in their life, their community, or work.

Culture and most industries improve through synergy and time, while people’s lives have ups and downs. Culture has progressed considerably in the US. Due to this there has never been a time when talent has so many opportunities to find success, in nearly every field.

Yet if someone was a productive person 10 years ago and their life changed so that they are no longer productive or *as* productive, no amount of facts about society will ever convince them that today is a better time than some point in the past.

In the end, “the good ol' days” is often a way of expressing a lament due to a personal downward trend.

Photography currently offers far more opportunity to far more people than was possible in the past.
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2010, 11:28:57 AM »
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Am I allowed to mourn the good old days when we could buy Polaroid T55?  Smiley
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ronkruger
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« Reply #26 on: December 18, 2010, 12:18:50 PM »
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"If a pro photographer really feels the pressure of competition from the millions of amateurs or snap shooters, they should take a hard look at what level their own photography is."

There may be some truth in this, but from my perspective of freelance photography these are the things that hurt my business the most:
During just the past few years, at least four of the magazines that once bought my images have gone out of business, and one of them was successful for over 50 years.
A couple of publications that once bought cover shots from me, now just run "photo contests," either openly or clandestinely. Even Nat Geo runs photo contests.
One of the designed artists for a magazine that uses a lot of my stuff told me the technology has advanced so much he now can get a usable image from a cell phone.
I personally sold two cover shots this past year from an underwater $150 P&S (the first I've owned in almost four decades of doing this).
Rates for images in my markets haven't risen since the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Twice during the past two months, I have been contacted by established companies (one of them a multi-billion dollar company) wanting to use the images they saw on my website for "direct mail promotions." They sent a contract, which included everything from displays to billboards, before they even mentioned compensation. When I asked what they intended to pay, they went fishing elsewhere. It's just business. Why should they pay a pro, when they know with a little fishing, they can get it for free, without usage restrictions?

None of these things have much, or anything, to do with the level of my photography. Through increased effort at composition tricks and marketing, I sold three times as many images this year as I did just a few years ago, and at least 10 times as many covers, yet my bottom line after expenses has plummeted, while the cost of bread has more than doubled.
We can pat each other on the backs and preach to the each other about our "superior" quality, and while that may be true, it is overkill for most--I stress most--reproduction purposes. When I look at the thousands upon thousands of images posted on the internet, I must admit that many of them are simply stunning. They may have had to shift through a thousand rapid-fire images to get that one stunning, full-auto image, but there are millions of them doing that, and nearly every one of them would gladly give it away just to have their name published.
To ignore all this is to put one's head in the sand, because it is only going to increase with each equipment upgrade.
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« Reply #27 on: December 18, 2010, 12:50:44 PM »
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"If a pro photographer really feels the pressure of competition from the millions of amateurs or snap shooters, they should take a hard look at what level their own photography is."

There may be some truth in this, but from my perspective of freelance photography these are the things that hurt my business the most:
During just the past few years, at least four of the magazines that once bought my images have gone out of business, and one of them was successful for over 50 years.
A couple of publications that once bought cover shots from me, now just run "photo contests," either openly or clandestinely. Even Nat Geo runs photo contests.
One of the designed artists for a magazine that uses a lot of my stuff told me the technology has advanced so much he now can get a usable image from a cell phone.
I personally sold two cover shots this past year from an underwater $150 P&S (the first I've owned in almost four decades of doing this).
Rates for images in my markets haven't risen since the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Twice during the past two months, I have been contacted by established companies (one of them a multi-billion dollar company) wanting to use the images they saw on my website for "direct mail promotions." They sent a contract, which included everything from displays to billboards, before they even mentioned compensation. When I asked what they intended to pay, they went fishing elsewhere. It's just business. Why should they pay a pro, when they know with a little fishing, they can get it for free, without usage restrictions?

None of these things have much, or anything, to do with the level of my photography. Through increased effort at composition tricks and marketing, I sold three times as many images this year as I did just a few years ago, and at least 10 times as many covers, yet my bottom line after expenses has plummeted, while the cost of bread has more than doubled.
We can pat each other on the backs and preach to the each other about our "superior" quality, and while that may be true, it is overkill for most--I stress most--reproduction purposes. When I look at the thousands upon thousands of images posted on the internet, I must admit that many of them are simply stunning. They may have had to shift through a thousand rapid-fire images to get that one stunning, full-auto image, but there are millions of them doing that, and nearly every one of them would gladly give it away just to have their name published.
To ignore all this is to put one's head in the sand, because it is only going to increase with each equipment upgrade.

Your views echo that of many others I've seen here over the years: many photographers imply there is some inalienable right for them to make a living out of photography in perpetuity. This is not the case; to use a cliche, when cars came along, buggy whip manufacturers went out of business. There are still a few around, but it's a very different business than it was before technology made them obsolete.

Photographers are experiencing what the hundreds of millions of workers went through who have been replaced by machines, computers and robots. We're not going to turn back time, so it is pointless to lament; the energy would be better spent to find a profitable niche, or move to another vocation.

And I was hoping the thread would limit whining...
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ronkruger
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« Reply #28 on: December 18, 2010, 01:11:57 PM »
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I'm not whining, just giving a pragmatic reply to an implied slight. And you are exactly right, robotic technology is replacing the need for professional photography. That's really my point.
I'm retiring, but will continue to sell some shots on a part-time basis. I've had a good run for decades, doing the things I love about the things I love. It's never been very lucrative, but I have pursued and combined passionate pastimes into a profession. As a long-time friend put it when being inducted into a Hall Of Fame: I have the best job in the world--I sell fun. It doesn't get much better than that. Money isn't everything. But it's becoming almost impossible to make a full-time living at it these days.
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Rob C
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« Reply #29 on: December 18, 2010, 02:11:51 PM »
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Forget it Ron; those who have never been full-time pros simply can't get the meaning of the points you make. I share them all. It has bugger all to do with 'divine rights of pros' and everything to do with running a business, paying taxes on what your camera earns you etc. etc. and the dislike for the shamateur is all within that financial package which the real guy has to suppoort whilst the fake just ignores.

Neither has it anything to do with photographic skill: there are indeed thousands of very talented amateurs just as there are many thousands of dud professional shooters. The difference with the latter group is that they fight their fight on the level playing field of open business; they don't suck the blood out of a market from the shadows of untaxed earnings.

But, I've said all this here before, and it's never taken at face value - if it registers at all; it gets called whining.

A plague on all their houses.

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #30 on: December 18, 2010, 02:16:56 PM »
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Most consider “the good ol' days” as a entirely personal and 100% subjective view of a better time in their life, their community, or work.

Culture and most industries improve through synergy and time, while people’s lives have ups and downs. Culture has progressed considerably in the US. Due to this there has never been a time when talent has so many opportunities to find success, in nearly every field.

Yet if someone was a productive person 10 years ago and their life changed so that they are no longer productive or *as* productive, no amount of facts about society will ever convince them that today is a better time than some point in the past.

In the end, “the good ol' days” is often a way of expressing a lament due to a personal downward trend.

Photography currently offers far more opportunity to far more people than was possible in the past.


This will come as a surprise to many pros watching their customer base and business go down the tubes. I would love to see the last sentence expanded into the invisible advantages for pros.

Rob C
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jeremypayne
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« Reply #31 on: December 18, 2010, 03:56:46 PM »
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This will come as a surprise to many pros watching their customer base and business go down the tubes. I would love to see the last sentence expanded into the invisible advantages for pros.

Rob C

Q.E.D.
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bill t.
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« Reply #32 on: December 18, 2010, 06:21:42 PM »
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Come back in 30 years and THESE will be the good old days.  You know, before the Machines took over.

I clearly remember a high school photo instructor lamenting how those Nikons and Leicas were undermining the impeccable quality of journalistic photography as achieved with 4x5 equipment.  If you wanted to be a Pro, 4x5 was mandatory.

Go to a used book store (remember books?) and look through some old US Camera etc annuals.  Wow, some pretty schlock stuff there, with the faintest dusting of pearls!  It would not take me long to come up with a superior set of new photographs from an internet photo site.  So maybe mankind has honed a slightly better eye as the result of photo democratization.  Or maybe not.

In ancient times only the scribes knew how to read and write, now everybody's doing it.  The written noise level rose a din, especially on those internet forums!

From Wikipedia...A golden age is a period in a field of endeavour when great tasks were accomplished. The term originated from early Greek and Roman poets who used to refer to a time when mankind lived in a better time and was pure.

Purity, that's me all over.
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Justinr
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« Reply #33 on: December 18, 2010, 06:37:45 PM »
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Quote
Photography currently offers far more opportunity to far more people than was possible in the past.

In a way that is quite correct. Before moving over here I did mainly wedding, school and editorial work and made  a reasonable sum of money on the side. I never took up the chance of doing it full time simply because the day job paid so much better. Since then my work has probably been viewed by a lot more people via the web than was the case via print but the money earned has been far far less. So I think it's fair to say that there are many more opportunities for photographers nowdays, it's just that making money isn't one of them.
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Rob C
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« Reply #34 on: December 19, 2010, 03:10:24 AM »
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In a way that is quite correct. Before moving over here I did mainly wedding, school and editorial work and made  a reasonable sum of money on the side. I never took up the chance of doing it full time simply because the day job paid so much better. Since then my work has probably been viewed by a lot more people via the web than was the case via print but the money earned has been far far less. So I think it's fair to say that there are many more opportunities for photographers nowdays, it's just that making money isn't one of them.



I just love understatement, especially when so focused!

(I ask again, where has Mr P gone these days past? Dark, are you still out there?)

Rob C
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« Reply #35 on: December 19, 2010, 07:47:58 AM »
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I have a hunch Steve McCurry isn't going to be out of a job as a professional any time soon. Why? Because his photographs aren't the kind of photographs you see on most magazine covers pitched to "consumers," and they aren't the kind of cliches you see when you peer through the windows of the local photographer's shop: stiff portraits, kids in cute poses, dancers jumping, brides glowing. These are photographs almost any amateur can make nowadays with a point and shoot. But when you look at Steve's pictures you realize he actually sees his subjects as people.

Cartier-Bresson said "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything," and perhaps the reason HCB was the most influential photographer of the twentieth century is that instead of spending his time in a darkroom he spent his time out there looking. He understood that the play of human history unfolding before him was what made photographs with lasting interest, not the range of mid-tones in the shot or the beauty of the hills toward the sun. Leica Users' Forum to the contrary notwithstanding, HCB would have loved digital cameras.

Then there's Gene Smith, whose post-processing was very extensive and who insisted on making his own prints. But if you look carefully at Gene's photographs you realize that somewhere along the line he'd experienced the same revelation HCB and McCurry experienced. People in their environment, acting among their artifacts, are subjects that produce images of lasting value. Gene would have loved digital cameras and, especially, Photoshop.

I don't agree with Ron's statement that robotic technology is replacing the need for professional photography. Robotic technology is only replacing the robotic part of professional photography: the grunt work. Computers have taken over that part, just as they've taken over the kind of robotic assembly work I used to do in the auto plants during my summers when I was in college. The important part, looking, hasn't been taken over by equipment because equipment can't look.

I know it's hard to accept the fact that there's no longer much money in weddings and portraits, but professional photography is a long way from dying.
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michswiss
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« Reply #36 on: December 19, 2010, 08:23:46 AM »
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I know it's hard to accept the fact that there's no longer much money in weddings and portraits, but professional photography is a long way from dying.


I won't comment on the "good old days" as I don't think I've had mine yet despite reaching late-middle age and coming to the potential end of my first career.  What I am curious about is which aspects of professional photography you think are not in decline or potentially in ascendency.
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« Reply #37 on: December 19, 2010, 09:31:41 AM »
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I won't comment on the "good old days" as I don't think I've had mine yet despite reaching late-middle age and coming to the potential end of my first career.  What I am curious about is which aspects of professional photography you think are not in decline or potentially in ascendency.

Jennifer,

When people talk about "professional" photographers they usually think of the gal down town with the studio who does portraits, graduation pictures, and weddings, or the guy with a truckload of lights who does fashion shoots for the glossy magazines. They also might include someone like a friend of mine who, (in the good old days, meaning about four years ago) in addition to weddings, shot annual company gatherings at places like Cancun, all expenses paid.

But when people talk about photographers like Cartier-Bresson or Steve McCurry they don't call them "professional photographers," they call them "photojournalists," and when they talk about photographers like Robert Frank they call them "artists." Even though Life and Look magazines are long gone, both of these professional photographic categories still exist and show no signs of dying. Anyone who doesn't believe that needs to go to his local Barnes & Noble and look in the photography section.

But unless you're a member of Magnum you're not going to make much money in photojournalism. Even if you belong to Magnum you'll have to take your cameras to places you'd probably rather not visit. And if you read about the lives of the photographers we call artists you'll find that most of them spent a lot of time as starving artists.

So, my answer to your question is a question: When you talk about aspects of professional photography not in "decline," are you talking about money or are you talking an opportunity to do what you love to do? I suspect there are very few professional photographers making big bucks any more, but there are more than a few making a sometimes marginal living doing what really turns them on.
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Rob C
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« Reply #38 on: December 19, 2010, 10:48:03 AM »
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Well, yes and no, Russ.

There are many big names still getting attention and, I would imagine, money from that; but your definition of professional only goes to show how wide or diverse such a definition can be!

I wouldn't count wedding and portrait 'main street' people as professional, even though they make their bread - sometimes a lot of it - via that work I consider them jobbing tradesmen, as I would the local thousand-a-week plumber or electrician: essential people but not within my idea of the word.

Photojournalists: I think they are a hard squeeze too for the definition of pros. I see them far more as journalists with incidental cameras. W. Eugene S, on the other hand, some see as the consumate, addicted pj; I see him as an artist in depth. It's all so subjective a call. So what do I see as professional? Very few groups, and those groups would include advertising people, car and architectural shooters, folks who are actually consulted by clients who are themselves in some form of professional practice. Fashion photographers, if they make their main money with that, I'd allow into the little group, but I sometimes wonder about that too: where would you put the Richardson pair? What about King Mario? Photographer or playboy, or can you possibly be both at the same time?

I suppose the easiest definition is the old one: anyone whose main income is derived from photography. But that is more a legalistic kind of definition, something to offer the IR; but as individuals, I think we probably all have our personal notion of what constitutes professional, whether photographer, painter (artist), painter (of buildings) or most anything else. It's the season to be charitable; I'm having a hard time. Must be all these Christmas songs going down. How about Elvis: Blue, blue, Christmas...

;-(

Rob C
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« Reply #39 on: December 19, 2010, 01:03:06 PM »
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This will come as a surprise to many pros watching their customer base and business go down the tubes.
Rob C

Change comes to every profession. Some rise to meet the challenges of the day while others let opportunity, their customers, and their career slip away. . . .
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