I liked this bit from an unusually downbeat post by Kirk Tuck after his usual daily wander to take photos around Austin, Texas:
Even the folks snapping away with their phones seemed less passionate about the endeavor yesterday. Almost as though we’ve all concluded that with the endless torrent of images being constantly shared everywhere that no individual shot or selection of shots matters anymore. Another drop in the ocean. Another futile attempt to carve out some sort of alternate viewpoint. A different visual perspective of a declining culture. Hello “The Americans” except that now everyone with a camera is a Robert Frank.
It’s almost as if we’ve become mini cover bands for famous rock groups sitting in dour suburban garages doing our paeans to the classics and the classical originators. Endlessly covering “Hey Jude” or “Tangled Up in Blue” but without the talent, or the advantage of being the first mover. The first person to see in a certain way. Now, seventy years after Robert Frank, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams and so many other pioneers we keep paying homage by trying to fit our tiny feet into the deep tracks they laid into the mud of our visual culture, so long ago. And doing so mostly unsuccessfully but in enormous quantity.
Taking photos often seems pretty pointless unless, perhaps, they’re of an unusual event or thing and you want to capture it for your memories.
Anywhere that many people have been will have had everything photographed many times. Even a rarer sight might only generate photos that are similar to those taken elsewhere. Your clever composition is unlikely to be that clever or original. And what are the chances that your photos are better than any previous ones, even if you’re unusually lucky with light or weather or some other random variable?
And yet thinking of being an “amateur photographer” as like being in a covers band could actually be a positive way of thinking about it. You know you’re never going to be [your favourite accomplished and successful musician] but you can still enjoy playing the music, and attempting to master your instrument, and maybe sharing the results with other people. No one says, “There’s no point playing any music unless it’s your own composition – otherwise you’re just copying things done before.”