What a Lifelong Photographer Has to Say About What Makes a True Photographer

The vast proliferation of cameraphones and even the digital age itself have created an explosion in the sheer number of pictures taken and shared with the world, and for many, that has blurred the line of where snapshots end and photography begins. This interesting video segment features one photographer as he gives his opinion on what a photographer is in the age of inescapable and omnipresent images. 

If you've never seen Ken Van Sickle's work, I highly recommend you check it out. It has a fantastic and imaginative quality to it, and yet, it retains a stunning immediacy that connects the viewer on a deep level with its subjects. In this great segment with PBS Newshour, he gives a quick walkthrough of a few of his photos, then gives his stance on what photography is in the modern world, and I think what he says is well worth internalizing, as we often focus on gear or wonder how to distinguish ourselves amongst the veritable onslaught of imagery: "technology doesn't change the way photography is; it just makes it available to more people." I think he gets at something really important here, that even as the methods and mechanisms evolve and proliferate at a breakneck pace, the core of what photography is remains unchanged. 

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12 Comments

Terry Henson's picture

Thanks for sharing Alex. :)

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

Thanks, that was very nice. The photos shown on his website are lovely as well.

Vincent Alongi's picture

First off, in this clip he's 83. He could pass for his mid-50s and he's vibrant. Not only a grand photographer, but he apparently found the fountain of youth in his travels...

His works are exceptional. It seems the more you dig looking for the masters of this art, the more you're astonished at what people capture. Thanks for putting this up, Alex...

"I'm not trying to prove anything politically or otherwise. I'm interested in beauty and the, sort of the, subtle moments of everyday life."
My kind of photographer! :-)

Vincent Alongi's picture

Bingo. While creating a scene, it's about documenting and not necessarily influencing.

very nice, and those images are incredible

Jesse Ababio's picture

Thanks Alex, very helpful

Ken Flanagan's picture

What a beautiful thing this is.

Vincent Alongi's picture

I'll put this out there, as I think about what you've said.

Today's photography (and technology) is by-and-by predicated on sharing and social media. I'm probably talking more to the amateur / enthusiast, as professionals are shooting for a client and not likes or a gathering. If you're around here, Facebook, Instagram, 500px, etc., you're exposed to countless images that no doubt influence your next shot in that you see something and want to replicate it, it's style or technique. That's today, when I can lay in bed before I wake up and rifle through countless pictures.

Days of film, and thinking of Mr. Van Sickle, that didn't exist. Just the pure art of photography. They'd develop their images (they had to!), rinse and repeat. Obviously there were shows, galleries and clubs to see what other people were doing. But there wasn't the sheer volume of people with cameras (and cell phone cameras). No internet to blast their stuff out into the world.

It's not even the same world that Van Sickle came up through. His works are genuine, gorgeous and thought provoking. The patience that was required, we can't appreciate now. Bob's point above about content, composition- that's the art of it all. Good stuff. Even if we all put down our digital cameras and went film to stem the instant gratification, we can still scour the 'net.

I love the grainy look. It's gorgeous with the right shot.

Anonymous's picture

Ironically it's not cell phones that are killing photography it's post processing. The feel of photography has become remarkably similar and that feel is unrealistic and very commercial, even, or should I say especially the landscapes. Cell phones on the other hand are more grounded in actual recording of events and reality. I sometimes feel many of today's photographers are at war with reality and I linger more and more in pre-digital collections for genuine satisfaction.

Nice feature

Dana Goldstein's picture

Thanks, Alex. Would love to see more of these discussions and points of view.