Photographer and artist Tyler Shields has announced in a short video that "celebrity photography is dead." No stranger to divisive statements, Shields is exploring the discussion around the democratization of photography and the implications of a new generation of celebrity photographers creating images of themselves and others. Of course, Shields is drawing us in with a clickbait title, but it's worth noting that he does this with a knowing sense of irony given that he is discussing the superficial world of celebrity. His capacity for self-publicity is as powerful as his photography (and that is in no way intended as a criticism).
Shields asks the question of how any photographer can compete with the level of access and intimacy that a celebrity with a smartphone has to their own lives. Shields knows that you can't, and perhaps his style of working is an indication of how photographers should adapt: creating images that are outlandish creative, provocative, and, at times, confrontational (or, some would argue, borrowing heavily from other artists).
Shields also touches on the jealousy within the photography industry in response to the rise of celebrities themselves becoming photographers. With the democratization of the image, photography as a traditional career is under threat and has been for some time. However, photographers sometimes forget that, despite their knowledge and access to cutting-edge technology, they do not have a privileged right to the photograph. As much as we like to think otherwise, photography is rarely a meritocracy; a large proportion of photographers achieve success through who they are rather than the quality of their work. It's worth keeping in mind that the means by which a photograph is produced is as much a factor as a photograph's visual content.