Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/02/25

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Re: Definition of a Professional
From: Alan Ball <>
Date: Thu, 25 Feb 1999 10:08:56 +0100


Here it is morning, and I should be writing my articles instead of
writing to the LUG ;-)

The thread is not really related to good photography, or what makes an
artist compared to what makes a dabbler. It is related to the image the
photographers themselves, us, have of the 2 main components of our
world: those or us who are amateurs and those of us who are

I define the amateur photographer as a photographer who does not make a
living out of photography. Which inversely defines the professional. I
know, personally, and from what is published, quite a few professional
photographers who sell very very mediocre images. And quite a few
amateurs who show fantastic talent. Check out the photomags: there is
very high quality, in the rich sense of the word, in the world of

The fact that mediocre images are sold and published says a lot about
the current lack of photographic culture, in the public as well as in
the publishing world. The fact that there are prodigiously talented
professional photographers out there, publishing usually in other, more
critical and/or more wealthy publications, is certainly a fact as well.

But the tax form does not guarantee the quality of the image. If the tax
form repeats itself through the years, it might show resilience,
reliability, good contacts, availability, productivity, whatever, before
proving quality. The proof of the pudding is the portfolio.

For the rest, I suppose I agree with your post: one does not produce the
Michelangelo Pieta by chance. OTOH: there are plenty of great works of
art that have been produced by people who made their living with other


Byron Rakitzis wrote:
> >Are there many other means of expression or hobbies that have that type
> >of icon fantasy ? Cannot think of any. In the sports field, the stop
> >watch will trace the difference between good and not as good. Here it
> >is all down to subjectivity.
> I am not sure I get your point -- in most artistic endeavors there has
> to be an element of subjectivity: otherwise the activity MAY be reduced
> to sport.
> For example, you can specify a flawless performance of a piano concerto
> (pitch levels, durations and so on), but your specification will be
> neither here nor there when it comes to finding out if the performance
> actually moves anybody. That is purely a subjective judgement.
> Anyway, here's my take on photography in particular:
> Photography is a kind of "stochastic" art form: a good photographer is
> distinguished by a large body of successful photographs. Any one single
> photograph could have been taken by someone else (possibly), but the
> consistency and breadth and depth is the mark of an artist.
> So what confuses people is that a single good photograph may *not
> necessarily* represent a good photographer.
> But if you look at this more closely, it's actually not that different
> from other kinds of art, it's just expressed in an extreme form: anybody
> can get lucky and make a single good brushstroke, or play a single good
> note, but no one is going to "get lucky" and produce a masterpiece like
> Michaelangelo's David. So I think you simply need to extend the basis
> of comparison from "one photograph" to "many photographs".
> I guess this is a truism, and bear with me because I'm not trying to
> lecture anyone (i.e., humor me, it's late at night and it's fun writing
> in to the LUG) but what I'm trying to say is that success in any art
> form, be it photography or anything else, comes from practice, practice,
> practice. And the difference between someone who has made that (huge)
> investment of time and someone who just dabbles is usually quite apparent.
> Byron.