Saturday, 9 May 2015

Is it right, wrong or naive to give away a unique image ?

The Guardian has an interesting story following on from the well publicised image of a Kingfisher with a Weasel on its back. I reproduce it here as the image was given away by the photographer, Mr Martin Le-May.

Here is The Guardian story

The photograph in question was made as a result of luck. Being in the right place at the right time with the right equipment to see something that probably has only ever happened a handful of times in all of history (my guess, no way of knowing) is akin to winning the lottery. So, you have the image, you know its rare (if you don't then Google it) and then you give it away by putting it on the internet. The action of a philanthropist or that of a photographer breaking the rules. Some say the amateur photographer has wreaked havoc for the professional, especially in the world of wildlife images. The article tells the story of some of the UK's best wildlife photographers and how cheap images have impacted their lives. Or have they. Some are moving into new areas of the industry, mainly teaching on field trips to places where good photographic opportunities exist. This then is them using their field craft, an often overlooked and difficult tool in the wildlife photographers toolbox. If you know where to find a Long Eared Owl by reference to knowing their habitat preferences etc. then you wont need a guide, but if you don't then you will.

My wildlife photography will never be of much interest to anyone. I enjoy just being there and being part of the countryside to much to sit for long hours in a hide with my eye glued to the eyepiece. When I have done it and the special specimen turns up I am generally so shocked and struck by its rarity or whatever I don't get the shot. Not very professional I am afraid. The few images I have made I enjoyed making but you need more than special equipment (underwater, drones, traps etc.) today to be at the top of the tree (no pun intended). If I were to get the unique shot would I give it away?. Answer I am afraid is No. The same would occur with anything that was unique because we know how wide the market would be. I say "we" thinking of people who know anything about photography as a business.

If therefore we want to have images that cant be taken by the iPhone we need to be working on projects that exclude the millions who can. After making a list the one that stands out as the most promising is the one that is the most satisfying is Fine Art Photography. It can be achieved with the iPhone but the more esoteric work certainly cannot. Is it time for the Fine Art Photographer to batten down the hatches, learn new methods and post processing techniques and keep them hidden. If you develop a new workflow that needs 6 cameras, a laser and a ton of cement, keep it hidden. I don't suppose BMW tell Ford how they make their engines and I don't suppose Chelsea tell Manchester United how they will organise themselves before their next game of football. Maybe the internet, the all knowing blogger and You Tube have made the knowledge too widely available and the lucky along with the savvy have now caught up. Photography is no longer a artisan activity. There are no chemicals (well I know there are some but here I am looking at a general view), no darkened room, no black cloths. In fact looking back the whole process was almost witchcraft with all the perceived attachments.

Fine Art work can be commercial and if any of us want to make some money then we have to be careful. I know there would be an instant roar of disapproval if I were to write this on the OCA website. Money, Commercialisation, Commodification of art is seen as an anathema to the academic world, but that is mostly from those who have achieved status and a good income from academia rather than those at the front line of making art for a living.

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