This article was originally published in April 2016.
At a recent event, I was terribly alarmed to hear that photography education today should involve a month of learning the craft and a year of learning business management, and how to sell one’s images or services as a photographer. These statements were made by a panel of some very big names in photojournalism, no less, and they agreed with one another. There were plenty of impressionable minds in that audience. I must say that I completely disagree with the panelists. It takes a lot of practice to tune one’s vision, because the craft is not about high-end cameras with infinite dynamic range. The history of the subject is important.
It is equally important to be able to respond to a scene or subject in a technical manner, and to be able to articulate likewise, succinctly. And however commercial the industry may be, the ethos of photojournalism cannot be for sale. Beyond all of this, I will admit that there is a need for educational institutions to teach students how to make a good sales pitch, and about business practices, standards and ethics.
Regardless of all the intellectualism, institutionalisation, mutual admiration societies and power structures that be (they do have their own place in the scheme of things), the one aspect of any art, that can never be taken away from the artist, is the choices regarding its practice. And in this, photography stands apart from other arts, because it is impossible to replicate the work of another photographer, or even a single photograph, try as one might.
There is the choice of being inspired and following an ideology, of training oneself and for hours or years of riyaaz, of being in the zone, or even of allowing oneself to be noticed, or not. In fact, unlike other forms of art, the very sum of a photographer’s existence may come down to a few seconds of exposure time, entirely made of these choices. And like every choice in life, one may choose to exercise it, or not.