We have all heard the phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words.
When I asked Marcus Doyle, a professional photographer and professor in Azusa Pacific’s department of art, what he thought of that statement, he paused. After gathering his thoughts, he simply said, “I think it’s probably worth more.”
While that statement rings true, the world of photography has undergone a radical transformation within the last decade, thanks to the internet. The rise of social media has saturated the artistic world of photography and APU’s most promising photographers and professors of art alike have felt this change first hand.
Nowadays, smartphones come with impressive photo-taking capabilities which have granted each user the authority to call themselves photographers. As a result, the market has become flooded with amateur photographers, each of whom have social media profiles and audiences that previous generations of photographers never had access to. The saturated market has also made it increasingly difficult for people who take the craft seriously, such as Doyle, to get their voice heard and their art seen.
“Although I don’t think that social media will destroy the art of photography, I do think that it has been very damaging to the attitudes towards photography,” Doyle admitted.
This “attitude” shift wrongly asserts that point-and-shoot smartphone photography and technical DSLR or mirrorless camera work are in the same stratosphere when it comes to the end photograph’s quality.
“Nothing [is] wrong with iPhone photography; that is still art,” said Kylie Govichuk, junior public relations major and photographer. “But it cannot be compared to someone who truly understands their camera…it’s just not the same thing.”
Govichuck began her photography career by taking awkward high schooler’s senior photos. She has since started her own business, photographing portraits, couples and even weddings. Each facet of her photography must be of the utmost quality, demanding that she knows her camera well. Clearly, an iPhone isn’t going to cut it.
What lured Govichuck into photography were colors, which are “the reason I started doing it.”
Her creative eye does not go unnoticed — perhaps because of her social media presence. In order to showcase her work and expand her clientele, she uses social media to communicate and advertise her work.
While social media helps her expand her clientele, it simultaneously creates a paradoxical effect. On the one hand, it is a platform that can help photographers garner people’s attention. On the other, photography is an art form in a saturated market where the work of individuals such as Govichuck’s is being drowned among millions of others who are doing the same thing: posting pictures.
Photography as an art form
Megan Tasaki, a senior allied health major and photographer, was about nine years old when she began taking photographs.
“I remember taking photos with my first camera on our family road trip and then accidentally deleting all of them,” Tasaki said. “My dad tells me that I cried for a very long time and that I was absolutely devastated.”
“As I developed, photography has meant capturing the beauty and light that exists in others. I believe a photo brings out more than capturing the surface and has the power to deeply impact people. It also has the power to build confidence in people and to help them recognize the beauty others see in them.”
This passion for capturing moments in time is pure. Having pure motives, according to Doyle, is crucial to keeping integrity alive in the photography industry. As an example, he gave the hypothetical scenario of a person traveling to the Grand Canyon and taking a selfie. He explains that once that picture is snapped and uploaded, the focus is then on the amount of likes and comments that the photo garners, which often has no relation to the quality of the photo itself.
“Therein lies the problem: people wanting that instant gratification. Not really caring about photography,” Doyle said.
Choosing to take a picture for its “Instagramable” capacities versus capturing a moment in time, a personality or a moving landscape, is significant for photography.
“I have this theory that the longer you take over an image,” says Doyle, “the longer that people will look at that image.” He chuckled as he admitted that the theory does not always work.
Artists like these curate their work and take the necessary time to produce art that they are proud of. As they are always working towards improving their work, they often struggle with feeling satisfied; even with earning the title of “artist,” they struggle.
When each person that I interviewed identified themselves as an “artist,” they immediately turned away in bashfulness. Their humbleness and somewhat perfectionist desire naturally tie them even closer with the title.
“I have the soft skills, not the hard skills. That’s one of my challenges,” said Govinchuck.
Like Doyle, Tasaki believes that the end goal of a shoot is not how well it will do on social media. “I have clients that I work with, and I genuinely love the way that I am able to use photography to connect with others,” Tasaki said.
However, she admits that it can get difficult at times to keep her creative fire going when she takes a lot of clients.
For Govichuck, it’s all about “capturing people as they are.”
This curiosity towards human beings combined with the fiery motivation has made these APU students well-respected within the APU community, even among the sea of saturated photographs on social media.
Social media as a platform
While photography is an art form, it is also an integral part of social media algorithms. Social media is constructed to take up people’s time, so the more people post content, the more it hooks users into its addictive scheme.
Each second, 995 photos are uploaded to Instagram, according to What You Have Thought, an online live-statistic feed. This is why Tasaki believes that standing out on social media is all about taking the time to craft and curate images and content.
“I have learned lately the art of working hard to capture an image. I’ve explored this through film, and hope to continue to learn and grow in this kind of photography,” Tasaki said.
Doyle articulated the paradoxical nature of social media and stated that it is “instant and then forgotten about.” Because of this instant-gratification mindset surrounding social media, he advises students for budding artists to use social media as a promotional tool rather than a place to showcase work.
“Social media does have a place,” Doyle said, but not as a medium for true artistry to be displaced.
Standing out in a sea of voices
“The best thing I get to hear from my clients is that I made them feel beautiful,” Tasaki said. For her, it’s the reason why she keeps coming back and developing her skills behind the camera.
For Govinchuck, the best compliment is when a client looks at a photo and says “That’s so me.”
It takes the work of people like Doyle, Tasaki and Govinchuck to keep the integrity of photography alive in the flooded market of social media; people who take the road less traveled and use their passions to dedicate themselves to their craft.
As audience members, we must sift through social media and seek out creators and innovators — photographers who seek self-expression and do so with pride in their craftspersonship. We then get the luxury of enjoying their work, learning from it and becoming inspired by it.