Monday, May 24, 2010

My take on the whole idea of the "Certified Photographer" - Certifiably Stupid.

A friend of mine, Bill Millios, and I discussed the idea of "Certification" of photographers briefly at dinner Sunday evening. He posted his thoughts on a forum and this is what I wrote as mine.

We are discussing this site:

"Well, as Bill and I discussed, the view I have of this is terribly dim. I find it distasteful and distracting and disingenuous on the surface, and insidiously destructive upon closer look.

1. It is a desperate, terribly transparent ploy to segregate the 'pros' from the amateurs who are kicking their collective fkn butts. And for good reason... them fkn amateurs and wannabees are busting ass to get better and present better and better images while too damn many 'pros' are embittered and 'entitled'.

2. The test that is a 'sample' shows just how behind the curve the 'establishment' is... ISO for family portraits? Are you fkn kidding me? What kind of light does a white umbrella make? That is terribly lame - terribly.
Sample Questionnaire here:

(These are terrible, stupid and lame questions. Film Filters? Are you kidding me? What kind of light to shoot jewelry? What - there is a "Right Light"? Seriously? Who the hell says?)

3. There simply is no way to determine what is 'good' in art. There are acceptable practices and there are 'outlaw' artists that break those acceptable practices and become influential trend makers. The thought that some lameass fat guy in Culver City is going to decide who gets to be 'certified' just makes me shiver. (NOTE: not that I am talking about anyone, just making a metaphorical attempt to portray someone with less taste than influence making decisions that affect other people's lives.)

4. I just flat out do not trust anyone who wants to start an exclusionary club that 'regulates' an 'established' set of artistic merits. That set of established rules just pisses me off, and someone who wants to regulate it just screams as being bitter and somewhat incapable of handling the reality of their own shortcomings. Sorry, but that is just how I feel.

5. It is art. And science. And magic and luck and perseverance and whimsy and serendipity and a fastass finger... God, we ain't talking about brain surgery here... it's photography. Next up "Certified Shake Makers" - "Certified Sculptors" - "Certified Writers"... where does it end.

6. Usually when something gets to the level where we find photography now, this comes up. It may prove to be the final chapter in a wonderful art form that never really lived up to its promise because of the incredible fallibility of the artists themselves... and an inexcusable ignorance of its own legacy and importance. "Shootin' chicks is cool" may work for some people, but it seems to be a terrible basis for an ongoing and consistently growing art.

Crying out for 'protection' is simply not engaging or attractive and seems to actually be pathetic.

7. When I hear the cry of "We have to protect the consumer" I go into a high level of inexplicable and hysterical laughter.

"Protect the consumer my ass..."

It is about protecting themselves from competition. Consumers are smart enough to know creative and excellent talent, and if they aren't who the fuck cares? I have no intention of proclaiming my work as 'worthy' and someone else's work as 'not worthy' - that is for my clients and associates to do. That is the free market. That is essential freedom. It reminds me of how lame it is to see a tweet from some photographer stating "I just shot an awesome photo today... it rocked!" Hey, emodude... we will decide if it is:

A - "Awesome"
B - "Rockin'"

You just shot a picture that you liked. Like millions of people do each day. But you don't automatically get a show at MOMA cause you liked it. Get it...

The same from the 'leaders' of some certification movement... what do they bring to any table except some ability to convene meetings and understand the Roberts Rules for group think... Unimpressed by such things.

So, yeah, put me in the mildly unconvinced column."

I really think there should be some hard liquor involved in many of these ideas.

--  don

Posted via email from Now This is Cool...


Steve Gray said...

You know, just this weekend, as I was setting up a shot, I started wondering if I should know what would happen if I moved clockwise around the color wheel. LOL

Jan Klier said...

Interesting. I wouldn't discount the concept, just the execution.

I've seen consumers getting a bad deal by a photographer not really thinking. Although the market will eventually handle that situations, some innocent bystanders will pay part of the price - both on the consumer and the photographer side of the equation. I really struggled in a recent incident whether I should tell a photographer not to take on a job I don't the photographer was really ready to handle.

On the other hand, as you pointed out, in a creative field like photography, you really can't make rules about what is right/wrong. What these rules were meant to flush out is whether the photographer has enough general command of the trade to be capable of creating a good product. That doesn't guarantee outcome, nor does it prevent anyone who breaks all the rules from creating cool images. It just makes the result slightly more predictable as a way of helping informed consumers to choose.

To get listed at the ASMP you have to be published and get two recommendations from accepted members. For the PPA you just have to pay your membership, and then you can put a MP or MP Cr behind your title if you win enough merits in juried competitions.

Generally I favor a peer review method as being more grounded in reality (it has served science and medicine very well), but it still has a risk of bias if the body of peers skews too heavily in one direction and turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As Darwin taught us, for healthy evolution, we need a diverse sample of specimen or we will face extinction by inbreeding.

I guess all that is a long way of saying that there would be merit in a system of peer review that was high in integrity, that had a high amount of transparency, but still left room for creativity and breaking the rules in constructive ways. But all attempts so far have fallen short of this promise and not really helped the consumer all that much. Just like politics.

So in the end we will leave it to the efficiency of the markets to sort it out instead. As they say - if someone wants to shoot himself in the foot, hand them another bullet and stay way back :-)

As always good discussion on your blog Don!