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Thread: Are photographers destined to be 'unknown'

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Are photographers destined to be 'unknown'

    Whilst many of us probably dream occasionally of getting 'the' shot. The one photo that for some reason propels us into the mass media, even if for a short time, are we destined to just be forgotten behind our work?

    Leonardo DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Raffael, Mozart, Wagner, Van Gogh are all names we know well, but with photography it could be said our photos are the famous ones, not the photographers.

    Who took the photo of the Chinese man standing defiant in front of tanks in Tienanmen Square, or the starving child in Africa with the vulture lurking in the background? The young vietnamese girl running naked down the road during the war? Or more recently the kissing couple in front of the riots in Toronto. All these are instantly recognisable photos, and many can say where they were taken as well, yet the photographers name often eludes us, by not being a 'household' name.

    What makes this so? Are photographers destined to be unknown?
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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Very timely post I reckon, another example of an image that has been seen by millions, but how many of the viewers even read the photographer's name let alone know it.
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    that photo was the very one that got me to thinking about this topic Andrew.

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    Strange isn't it. The photo I think of is this one... http://photography.nationalgeographi...irl-cover.html Very famous photo, but I couldn't tell you who took it (until I looked it up )

    it is probably even more pronounced for videographers. You just about never hear anything about the cameraman behind the footage.
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    I'd say one photo and the photos remembered. A lifetime of memorable photos and the photographers remembered
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    I thought we knew who took the picture of the staving African kid... I can't remember his name... though that might just be proving your point.

    I think that editorial photographers (even the accidental ones) are destined to be mostly unknown unless they make a huge song and dance to make sure that their name is associated with the image. I mean, ask anyone who Jerry Ghionis is and they'll go "He's that really popular/cool/obnoxious/expensive wedding photographer". Ask who Steve McCurry is and noone could really tell you what iconic shot he took.

    I love the "riot kiss" photo... and it's obvious that it is actually a kiss, the body language is all "let's snog!".
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    Kevin Carter took the photo of the African child
    Jeff Widener took the Tiananmen Square one
    Nick Ut was the photographer behind the naked Vietnamese girl
    and Rich Lam the kissing rioters

    Not really household names, even though through their work, that have made an impact on mankind, sometimes allowing humanity to act, something that the Mona Lisa cannot claim to have done, but Ms Lisa is more well known, along with her artist, than any of the above. Intriguing, eh?

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    Could it be that there is a tiny little stigma attached to the word " photographer " when used in the same text as an artist ? Are photographers not seen as true artists in the sense of the word ? I myself consider photography an art form, but I am sure that there are plenty that do not. Good thread Rick.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    I'd say one photo and the photos remembered. A lifetime of memorable photos and the photographers remembered
    Quite possibly, but often amongst photographer alone, even then. I wonder if you took an Anne Geddes, child in a bucket photo and put it on AP and asked who took it, most would likely know. Take the same photo down to your local shopping centre and the general public, my guess is that a lot would have no idea who took it, though probably recognise the photo and say something like "I have seen photos like this before" or similar.

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    Steve McCurry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghan_Girl

    But mostly people ignore by-lines.
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    oooh I know this

    Tanks in the Square - Jeff Widener
    Starving Child - Pulizter winner - Kevin Carter
    Napalmed girl Vietnam - another Pulizter winner - Nick Ut

    Riot couple - missed the news due to work - so havent seen that.

    For years I always thought Napamled girl was Don McCullins.

    It depends if people are interested in who took it (which is rare, and probably proves your point), or just thought that they could have done the same thing or better
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    I think being a news photographer or a photojournalist will tend to leave a better legacy than say, a wedding or portrait photographer, unless you are someone iconic such as Anie Leibovitz - but there is no one else like her.

    To me all these shots were about being in the right place at the right time. Back when I was studying for my Masters in Journalism one of the first things that got drilled into our heads is that people who hold the power to change and influence the world are......photographers and journalists! As we are able to convey our message or image across the globe - without the aforementioned photographs - would the world have stood up and took notice of Tiannanmen Square etc?

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    I think the problem lies with the perception of the beholder, Rick.

    Most people know that it takes true artistic talent to create one or more unforgettable paintings, sculptures, etc. by pushing the paint, colour, texture, shape, medium to where it is aesthetically pleasing.

    OTOH, most have used a camera at some time or other and don't see anything particularly special about photography, in an artistic sense, other than "being in the right place at the right time". "They" (collectively) see that as serendipity rather than artistic talent. Those of us who have seen terrific things and tried unsuccessfully to capture them at all, or at best captured them badly, know otherwise.

    I doubt that Rich Lam, on seeing the girl go down in the riot and her boyfriend coming to her aid, thought "I bet they're going to kiss"! I do think Rich Lam thought something like "I wonder where this will lead ... it's worth watching". THAT is the true artistic talent of the photographer IMHO. The ability to "see" a potentially prize-winning shot BEFORE it happens, or at the very least AS it happens, and capture it perfectly.

    It's a combination of both talent and experience, not simply good luck, but try to convince the "average punter" of that and you'd have a real battle on your hands. It's either "I could do that" or "It's been photoshopped"!
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    When i had a photo on the front page of the Australian last year my father in law noticed - cause that's the paper he reads.

    Did i get swamped with work offers no - but when i show my portfolio it certainly impresses..

    To answer your question - does it matter - The people in the know certainly knew who took those photos and i'm sure those photos opened doors for those photographers.
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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    Maybe being an Olympic gold medallist and presenting photographs particularly of your chosen sport is a recipe for recognition?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news...-1226078123056

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    Quote Originally Posted by I @ M View Post
    Maybe being an Olympic gold medallist and presenting photographs particularly of your chosen sport is a recipe for recognition?

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news...-1226078123056
    Or doing a bit of singing helps too, apparently.

    http://www.bryanadams.com/

    I think part of the issue in 'artistic' photography (as opposed to photojournalism et al) is that as soon as a photographer publishes something original there are lots of others who are quick to copy it, thus diluting the originality.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricktas View Post
    ... Are photographers destined to be unknown?
    No, I don't think so. I think mediocre photographers are destined to be unknown. As with anything.

    Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Bailey, Irving Penn, 'Robert Capa', Cecil Beaton, James Nachtwey?, Edward Steichen... all very well known by the non-photographic public.

    Carter and his shot of the kid and the vulture: he (and those he was shooting with) have had popular books, songs and movies written about their lives and work.

    Do something worth remembering, and people will remember it, and you.
    Last edited by James T; 20-06-2011 at 10:33am.

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    Quote Originally Posted by James T View Post
    Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson, David Bailey, Irving Penn, 'Robert Capa', Cecil Beaton, James Nachtwey?, Edward Steichen... all very well known by the non-photographic public.
    I seriously doubt that, if you stopped 10 random people in the street, more than 1 or 2 would be able to rattle off or recognize those names. However, I am sure that, in the same random group, 8 or 9 would know of van Gough, Michaelangelo, Namitjera (sic), Pro-hear or Ken Done.

    Perhaps the difference is the perceptions of talent vs equipment.

    Everyone can visualize themselves operating a camera and think that if they could possess the right equipment, they could do it too. Every event has an 'Uncle Arthur' who wants to photograph video the event - they can see themselves having the talent but, frustrated by not having the fancy equipment. Thus, the 'wow' is often reserved for the equipment - not the photographer. (we too often suffer from equipment envy - imagining the $10,000 body and $20,000 lens will forever solve our problems.

    Painters (artists), for example, have far less equipment to hide behind. You either can paint, or you can't. The public won't generally think, 'if only I had the new series 7 brushes, I could be famous.'

    Right or wrong, the camera tends to take the credit.

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    A few thoughts.

    One of the biggest problems with photography being seen as or deemed 'art' by the general public I think, is the longevity of the medium.

    Art collecters can collect scultpures, oil paintings and other works of art that are centuries old and enjoy them for a long time whilst they appreciate in value.

    Lots of people have or have seen photos fade, it's a hard hurdle for the average photographer to gain the trust of art collecters. I think thats why you're seeing some go the distance with
    certificates of the medium the photo was printed on, the ink etc and an expectation of the life of the photo (which is still a lot less than oil paint or marble sculpture).

    The ease of reprinting photos, limited 'runs', re-limited 'runs' ect don't do a lot to enthuse gallery owners or the public that they are purchasing something that unique.

    The other is what the public deem as the ease of taking the actual photo. Is pushing a button for a fraction of a second the same as a past great master? Lots of people just don't see photography as a true art form.
    They do see it as easy to produce and something that someone else can produce.
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    Member James T's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scotty72 View Post
    I seriously doubt that, if you stopped 10 random people in the street, more than 1 or 2 would be able to rattle off or recognize those names. However, I am sure that, in the same random group, 8 or 9 would know of van Gough, Michaelangelo, Namitjera (sic), Pro-hear or Ken Done.
    I disagree with you there Scotty. Maybe not all of them, but I bet if you stopped a bunch of people in the UK over about 20 years old, the overwhelming majority would tell you David Bailey was a photographer (or name him if you asked for a list of photographers). Adams and Leibovitz are known the world over by people with no interest in photography. For the younger generations, add in Terry Richardson or Mario Testino known as celebrities as much as photographers.

    I had no idea who Namatjira (I'm guessing from Google, why the sic quote?) Pro-Hart? (again a guess from Google) or Ken Done was. And I'd wager if I asked 200 people outside Australia, not many would know them either.

    Quote Originally Posted by Scotty72 View Post
    Perhaps the difference is the perceptions of talent vs equipment.

    Everyone can visualize themselves operating a camera and think that if they could possess the right equipment, they could do it too. Every event has an 'Uncle Arthur' who wants to photograph video the event - they can see themselves having the talent but, frustrated by not having the fancy equipment. Thus, the 'wow' is often reserved for the equipment - not the photographer. (we too often suffer from equipment envy - imagining the $10,000 body and $20,000 lens will forever solve our problems.

    Painters (artists), for example, have far less equipment to hide behind. You either can paint, or you can't. The public won't generally think, 'if only I had the new series 7 brushes, I could be famous.'

    Right or wrong, the camera tends to take the credit.

    Scotty
    True to a point, but I do think that's a point which photographers like to beat up. I don't think it's a wide concern for photographers at the top of the game.

    Granted, the most expensive photographs don't sell for anywhere near that of other artworks. But almost 4 million dollars isn't too bad. They wouldn't go for that much if people thought anyone could do it.
    Last edited by James T; 20-06-2011 at 1:02pm. Reason: grammar

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