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“Profession Photographer” by Thierry Maindrault

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Thierry’s chronicle.

The photographic technique has an incredible number of tools to allow time and space to be frozen with the help of light. Obviously the tools of this technique have found a considerable number of uses. It is thus that quite naturally a number of important jobs have developed in which the mastery, partial or total, of these tools of photography were required. For example as with medicine, the neighbourhood photographer (with a storefront) was the general photographers who solved all the small local problems of photography, from identity pictures to mortuary photography, from school photography to local life, without forgetting the exceptional achievements of his neighbouring craftsmen: clog maker or tailor. And more, there were all the great specialists in architecture or anthropometric portraits, scientific experiments or ethnography, reportage or fashion, and again industry or portraits of celebrities, landscapes or crimes, zoology or advertising, etc. Most of them were great professionals of whom we have outstanding pictures left over after more than a century. It must be said that the symbiosis of the trilogy was the rule: a subject well understood, a sharp technological mastery and a sense of adapted creative thought.

What remains of all these professionals deeply rooted in all aspects of the economic, scientific and cultural worlds? Let’s be direct, there are not many people left. How to explain this quick disappearance in two or three decades? As the globalised planet produces, consumes and destroys images by the hundreds of millions every day.

I do not claim to be exhaustive, but I like to find the origin based on the evolutions of the movements of society.

Undoubtedly, as in a lot of other technologies, the transition from analogue reproduction systems to the self-management of digital processes is one of the essential pillars for changing behavior. Knowledge is no longer transmitted from one person to another, the hardware maker have you believe you know how to do everything: therefore you are competent. At least that is what  the seller of the equipment makes you believe. Let your intelligence doze off quietly at home since artificial intelligence takes care of everything. Photography is at the forefront since now the programmed equipment press on the shutter for us, after having decided which part of the image should be sharp, which part should remain blurred, always for us, and if the background color should be modified, still for us. The camera decides also the good time for the “exit of the bird” from the device and if it wants to bring out several (birds!) It is again the same box which chooses the good image it retains and destroys the others. There is no more work for the photographer. It should be noted that this is the same for the laboratory (that we now call post production and touching up).

And then, with the administrative, social and legal complexity, nothing is possible, everything is regulated. After finishing school where I graduated,  I was happy to work for one year as a volunteer assistant to the great Monsieur Lafortune, this is no longer legally possible! Ditto, it was not necessary to set in motion ten elevators and a lot of safety nets to make the photograph of a crack in a wall. It was not required to have two secretaries, a press officer and an “artistic” manager to find some work. For shots, the biggest stars  were not themselves surrounded by a band of bodyguards, nice atmosphere to achieve the portrait that will go well.

Finally, the pseudo professional democratization which allows everyone to believe that they are very competent as musician, photographer, electrician or cook (long live the robot cooker). A small franchise here, a small associative training there and you have become an outstanding stylist, an unforgettable disc jockey or an inimitable “Cartier Bresson”. No one will remember your accomplishments six months later; but, what importance since you will already have changed profession. Finally, everything is not lost … especially for the smart ones who find a few millions on the stock market to be able to take a substantial tithe on each photographic thing that you will have undertaken.

I told you about the trilogy that made a myriad of good professional photographers in an almost endless range of activities, I just laid out  the deadly trilogy of the photographic professions. Because all of them disappear one after the other, all of them, even the paparazzi since the “people” themselves take their dubious little picture which will flood the evil network of digital communications. The engineer, the cook, the teacher, the farmer, the truck driver, the scientist, all take their own photographs, which will be allright. Isn’t that wonderful? Especially since the only standard which still makes the difference: the quality, nobody cares about.

So what remains of our loves for photography? There is still photographic Creation, everyone talks about it, everyone talks to me about it all the time. Today, everybody is an Artist and they must almost all think it because we hear them assert that very clearly, supported by a lot of fans in no way disinterested. Photography supports Creation, even if it is not yet Art, it is obvious. But that will be another story.

October 12, 2020

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