Forget the death of photography once and for all. Be an iconographer

September 19, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The theme of the death of photography, a changing shift in our visual culture started by the combination of digital cameras and social networks, looks to be pretty popular in these days. ( A new article is here on Lens Culture)  From a photographer point of view, it boils down into a question: "What is the role, the reason of a photographer in the time, when everybody has a camera in his phone? Why do you think you will be able to make a life taking pictures when everybody can take them?"

All these fears how very rational core. The photographer is not more defined by his craft. When everybody can take a picture, your pictures are not special just because you are making them in an another, special way. It's like saying about somebody, look, he is an interesting painter because he is painting with his own hand made colors. That is absurd, obviously, or isn't it? In the same way how to say, look, he is an interesting photographer, because he is making photographs in a way discovered in eighteen something...

Technique and process are in photography very important because they define limitations. But they are just tools. You have to choose the right tool for the task. But just mastering tools does not make you a photographer. 

To be a photographer, you have to become an iconographer.

What is iconography? By the dictionary, iconography is a pictorial illustration of a subject. Great three-word definition. And every of these words is important. 


  • subject
  • illustration
  • pictorial


If we begin from the back, the subject can be somebody or something, an idea included. The subject can be anything. The only, but essential condition - it has to be for you as an author very, very important. That si the difference what make you a photographer - you know, dream, live with and try to really understand your subject. As deep as you can and even deeper. There are not a great and small subjects. Go ahead and make a photo of a flower. If you are really in the love with it.

You know icons from Byzantine art. They are portraits, but they are not literal. They are the illustration. They are transformation. 
Alternative photographic processes have a huge advantage here. Their limits guarantee, that every result will be a transformation. And maybe the lack of ability to be a well-defined and persuasive transformation is the core of the problem we have with digital photographies.  

Pictorial means creating a picture. And there, you are bonded with the same rules as painters. It's very simple - bad composition will ruin every idea or perfect execution. Visiting galleries and studying of art history can help a lot. 

I don't think we are living in the time of the dead of photography. To be a photographer is maybe harder, then it was in the time when just photographers owned or mastered tools. Everybody can write, but just a few are writers.  Photography grew up from its childhood. 


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