Charles Basenga Kiyanda

From amateur to amateur

I’ve heard and read the rant (from pro and semi-pro photographers) that the “rise of the amateurs” will destroy photography. Photographers complaining about how flickr will destroy photography. Mostly, the rant is about stock photographers’ loss of a business model. The argument I’ve heard goes like so:

“Amateurs and enthusiast will take millions of pictures. Every once in a while, they will be lucky and get a good shot, which means that with so many amateurs, there will be still a lot of good enough images made. These amateurs don’t know how much images are worth, so they’re going to sell them for almost nothing. Buyers will get used to buying cheap images and will demand lower prices. Pro stock photographers will be out of a job and so there will be no photography left.” (It’s a generic argument, I can’t seem to find an example of someone actually blogging this, probably because they’ve been drowned in the sound of happy amateurs rejoicing about microstock agencies. Bear with me.)

This scenario may well happen one day. I’m not saying this will undoubtedly happen, only that’s it’s a possibility. The problem with the argument is obviously that it equates pro photographers with photography. If the doomsday scenario unfolds, there will be no professional photographers left, but there will still be plenty of photography being done. This scenario may also well not happen. For one thing, it’s hard to give a particular amateur a particular assignment and get an excellent picture out the end, which brings me to my point. How do you connect amateur artists with other amateur artists in a digital age such as ours? We have amateur musicians and amateur photograpers, both without much ressources. We also probably have more of both because new technologies have made it possible for more people to participate in the online environment. Are the “risen amateurs” doomed to fail, a passing trend, or is there a real way for amateur artists to interact with other amateur artists in order to create more?

Here comes a recent experience of mine.

I discovered the website pixish. It’s still in beta, but the concept is interesting. There are two classes of users (and you can be both). One publishes images, the other one posts assignments. So there I was a few days ago, looking at assignments, when I came across this (fairly typical) assignment for an aspiring musician, Andrew Combs.

Need album artwork for my record that will be recorded this summer. Was going to do it myself, but figured it might be interesting and fun to see what others have to offer.

My music is in the folk/americana genre, if that helps at all. I like photography, illustrations, or mixed media. Some other artists whose album artwork I find great would be Steve Earle (particularly the artwork of Tony Fitzpatrick), Bruce Robison, Sam Baker, Wilco, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, Elvis Costello, Glen Phillips, The Jayhawks, Josh Ritter, Buddy Miller, Lyle Lovett, and Neko Case. Im sure there are many more…

I also love holga photography.

You can listen to my music @

Maybe that will help or something.

The winner will receive $50.00 via paypal.

Andrew Combs

I actually went and listened to some of his songs on myspace, some of which I thought were pretty good. And I started getting an idea about an image that could make great cover art. I’ll try and find time to set it up and do it. It may not get picked. I may not even have enough time to do it. We’ll see. But the point is that I found an unlikely source of inspiration and a possible avenue for collaboration. An aspiring musician and an amateur photographer who, at first sight, have nothing in common and no way of meeting. Imagine for a second that I submit something for that assignment and that he accepts it. Not only do I make 50 bucks, but we, amateurs, will have created something more, art which didn’t exist before.

Even if all pros disappears, I don’t think the rise of amateurs will signify the end of art. The way artists interact and collaborate will change for sure. Art will change, but art will survive.

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