Race Blog
Mexico 2015

Everyone's a photographer

“I have seized the light and arrested its flight! The sun itself shall draw my pictures!”

Prophetic words indeed. When, in 1839, the pioneering French photographer Louis Daguerre uttered these arresting truisms he – whether they knew it or not – spoke for all future artists of the lens. Spot-on then as now, nothing has changed and yet everything is different.

Can you imagine what Daguerre, his English competitor Henry Fox-Talbot, and the like would make of modern-day photography?!

If I may be allowed to hazard a guess, I’d imagine they’d need a good moment or three to get their heads around this digital age and the wonders of modern image-capturing technology, but – quickly I feel – our two intrepid pioneers would marvel at the democratisation of the art and science that, in their day, was the pursuit of a well-monied few.

“Everyone’s a photographer!” A favourite maxim of mine – which my wife is bored with hearing! – perfectly sums up this picture-taking age.

Got a mobile phone? You’re just a click away from exposing to the world a ‘celebrity’s’ indiscretion, a politician’s faux pas, a news event worthy of recording, or of course that vacuous obsession of so many millions, the ‘selfie’.

This is all good I hear you – and our 19th century geniuses – cry. That may well be so, but not all is rosy in the photographers’ garden.

A world in which the once highly respected career choice of being paid to take pictures has, in recent years, taken something of a knock.

Now I don’t write that in pursuit of a sympathetic sigh or a friendly hug, no, merely to enlighten you as to the realities of life as a professional photographer.

As each and every one of you has happily discovered the joys of taking pictures, the attitude to the art as a whole has irreversibly changed. Digital technology has reduced forever the perceived ‘value’ of the craft, and as a result the money on offer to pay for it.

Allow me to explain. I’m not the oldest snapper on the block but I have been around for a fair few years, and as such am possibly a little set in my ways. Maybe it’s an age thing. Learning my craft while shooting roll upon roll of Kodak, Ilford and Fuji film surely taught good discipline – my mother’s oft-repeated quote to her snap-happy son of “remember every picture costs money” has stayed with me to this day, but while accurately apt back when, today it no longer rings true. Buy a digital camera, load yer’ memory card, and away you go. Picture-taking is free!

What naturally follows, therefore, is a lack of perceived value for the pictures produced.

F1 itself faces leaner times, for the days of multi-million-dollar nicotine-fuelled F1 sponsorship budgets have long gone. Finances for almost all photography are on the floor, assisted in that direction by some of the largest picture agencies in the world offering their imagery for free – agencies which, as a result of their flawed and ignorant business models, face almost certain bankruptcy. I definitely wouldn’t want to be starting out on a photographic career now...

Being ‘creative’ has been affected too. While properly ‘creative’ older lensmen often dismissed, for example, cloud and sky-colouring graduated filters, today those techniques are being embraced by a new and unaffected crowd who (naively perhaps) believe them to be fresh and forward-thinking. Take a look at the picture-‘enhancing’ filters available on the simplest of photo editing software and you’ll see what I mean.

None of what I’ve written – apart, of course, from the declining remuneration – is meant to be negative. On the contrary I think long and hard about ways to move with the times while remaining true to my standards and ideals. Failure to do so has seen many a well-respected photographer – both within and without the F1 paddock – fall rapidly by the wayside.

So if, while you enjoy my grand prix picture galleries, you see a strangely tinted sky, an overly contrasty portrait, a blur of colourful lights, a just-left-photo-college feel achieved with wild ‘n’ crazy post-shoot processing, please cut me some slack. I’m simply trying to stay relevant, dismissing my – sometimes – old-skool mindset, trying to keep pace with this fast-forward picture-taking world.

As Pablo Picasso once famously remarked, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”

Everyone’s a photographer!


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