Let me here call attention to one of the most universally popular mistakes
that have to do with photography - that of classing supposedly excellent work
as professional, and using the term amateur to convey the idea of immature
productions and to excuse atrociously poor photographs. As a matter of fact
nearly all the greatest work is being, and has always been done, by those who
are following photography for the love of it, and not merely for financial
reasons. As the name implies, an amateur is one who works for love; and viewed
in this light the incorrectness of the popular classification is readily apparent.
-Alfred Stieglitz, in 1899
I love the work of Stieglitz. Not just his own photography but everything
he did as the father of modern photography to promote the art and its practitioners.
I stumbled upon this quote recently and it seems to demonstrate how little
has changed between 1899 and now. I've mentioned before how I hate the way amateur has
become an insult in today's culture where everything is measured in purely
For me photography is like running in my life. I have to run. That doesn't
mean I was a born athlete; quite the contrary. Often
I don't want to put on my running gear and go out. I could easily stop the
habit. I'm not a competitive runner anymore; I don't even run many of the
communal races I did back in my 20's. I don't do the miles I once did. I haven't
run a marathon in 5 years. If I stopped I probably wouldn't notice anything
missing tomorrow or the next day, but next week, or the week after that I'd
start to feel crappy. My weight wouldn't balloon or anything but I'd just start
to feel run down and incomplete.
Photography is like that for me too. Sometimes it feels like a chore to drag
my ass out of bed early on a Saturday morning to go and shoot something when
I want to be lying in. It can be a pain to sort through hundreds of shots to
find the handful I think are worth pursing and working on. It can be frustrating
trying to get the effect I want or an accurate print. But when I stop doing
it something is missing.
Like running, photography is its own reward. As a confirmed amateur in both
pursuits neither has anything to do with financial rewards. Both have everything
to do with quality of life.