After living through several deaths of photography, I see that it has finally come. Oh, woe is us.

Photograph taken on an iPhone of my beloved Nikon Df in a little restaurant in Bisbee, Arizona. I took it because that is what I do. I am a photographer. I plan on keeping that status.

The first time I read about the death of photography was in an article I read in one of the many photography magazines that I perused daily back in the mid-70s.

It dealt with the earlier death of photography (let’s just call it DOP so I don’t have to type “death of photography” so many bloody times).

It was about the Kodak Brownie camera that was introduced in 1900.

The Brownie was the first low-cost camera designed for consumers. Buy the camera, shoot the images, send the camera back to Kodak, and they send you back another camera, all loaded up and eager to capture those Model T auto races.

Professionals hated it.

Photography was a pastime of the elite and well-off. It was expensive, and one had to learn arcane chemistry in order to make a photograph.

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the filthy unwashed.

First introduced in the 1920s, the 35mm format was considered a photography killer due to the small size of the film and another lowered boundary. Now consumers didn’t have to send the whole camera in to be processed, they could send in the film canister only.

This made the professionals even madder.

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the filthy unwashed.

These were before my time, but I had my share of the DOP as I grew up as a commercial shooter in a small western city.

The incredible terribleness of a built-in light meter.

Oh Lord, this REALLY pissed off the current professionals.

They had their handheld meters, you see. They had learned how to calculate and formulate, and it was all so esoteric, and now the damned meter was there in the camera… WTF?

Now anyone could be a photographer!

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the filthy unwashed.

Auto. Focus.

Oh, the horror of this.

Another DOP moment for sure. This was surely the end of professional photography. It made the taking of sharp and in-focus images easier for those laypeople, who were probably unbathed in their squalor.

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the filthy unwashed.

There were several times along the way when technology upended the traditional roots of photographers, and they ran screaming into the night with hair afire and drooling great buckets of… uh… drool.

After being a photographer for going on six decades, I have witnessed far too many photographers be intimidated by new stuff.

(I owned an ad agency in the early 1990s. We offered to build websites for photographers, but many of them scoffed at the silliness of the web. Yep, they nailed that right.)

This next DOP moment was the absolute end. Photography was snafu!

DDTD!

Dead Due To Digital.

Digital didn’t require a darkroom.

Digital didn’t require chemistry, or snip-tests, or endless Polaroids, or trips to the lab, back to the studio, back to the lab to see snips, back to the studio, back to the lab to get the film… you know, that stuff that separated the true professionals from the squalid amateurs.

(Consider that I lived in Long Beach, and my lab was in Orange. Twenty-nine miles away. Do the math. I spent a good portion of my life on the 405, baby.)

Digital gave people without expensive darkrooms, or the cash to buy film by the brick the opportunity to make photographs!

The last vestiges of the elitism of the medium were gone. Anyone who could afford a Rebel, a card, and some software could make professional-looking photographs.

Of course, professional looking is not enough, but you get my drift.

And the industry of photography went apoplectic.

THE ABSOLUTE DEATH OF PHOTOGRAPHY AS A CAREER…

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the filthy unwashed.

Mini DOP moment was, of course, the invention of the camera phone.

“Now everyone can be a photographer” was stated over and over again on social media. Not aware that the same utterances were used back in 1900 about the Kodak Brownie.

A lot of handwringing and tears and whining,

Oh my god, the whining. Incessant and brutally obnoxious.

Yes. Anyone today with a modern cameraphone can make a decent photograph. Some see that as a problem, but I welcome it as an incredible opportunity to have more opportunities for being surprised and delighted.

(I used to wonder about those misgivings. Perhaps you need to step up your game a little if a mom and an iPhone were to challenge you as a photographer. Ya know! Think about it.)

You see, photography was supposed to be hard, and now it has been brought into the homes of the… well, everyone with a phone.

And that brings us to today.

AI photography.

Which isn’t photography at all. It is illustration. It is composite work at a macro level. The term photography has a meaning. The word HAS a fixed and clear definition, and AI does not represent that definition at all. With AI there is no painting WITH light, as “photograph” means. There is the painting of light — illustrators, painters, sketches, collage… all of that. And that is cool.

But now we have arrived at the newest Death Of Photography moment… ain’t it grand?

As unbelievably stupid as any of the before-mentioned DOP moments, but grand nonetheless.

We fought through all the previous DOP moments. Gallantly, I would say.

But now we have finally reached the end, according to a whole passel of Medium authors, tech writers, magazines, and TikTok influencers.

We’re done.

Wrapped.

Stick a fork in us.

So here’s the plan for all the photographers out there whining and complaining and sweating out this new extinction-level event.

QUIT.

If your commitment to your craft is so shallow that you are defeated by a shitty-looking Goth bear wearing a tutu on Mars, then quit.

If your deeply held commitment is to simply throw in the towel, now is the time to throw it.

If you are so intimidated by something new — whether it be a mail-in camera, or a built-in meter, or an SD card instead of a freezer full of Porta—just quit.

If that is what photography was to you, perhaps this is a blessing.

Get a real job.

We photographers have heard that line before, and maybe now the time is here.

I can write HTML!

(Checks job prospects… damn.)

UNFORTUNATELY… this brings up the terrible environmental issue of what to do with all of your cameras, lenses, and cool Profoto stuff.

Send it to me. Yes, me.

I am standing by at this time of urgency to help you divest yourselves of all those environmentally unsafe metals and ground glass. That stuff is dangerous, you know.

Think of the children, man, the children!

As for me, I recognize that AI is not the best solution for every photographic or visual need and that photography and I will be around for a lot longer than ya’ll think.

And I will continue to nurture the photographers around me into working WITH AI instead of running away from it, hair on fire, and, you know, drooling.

While I may never serve a prompt to Midjourney or any of those things, I DGAF if anyone else does. You do you.

I am a happy photographer.

I make snapshots that amuse me.

And I don’t drool.

Mostly.

Read More