Convergence – Defining Yourself By Your Vision – Not Your Tool

It’s 4AM as I write this entry.  I can’t sleep.  That often happens when my mind is in overdrive as it has been all week – over stimulated by the process of editing video. I’ve also spent a lot of time this past week speaking with quite a few photographers who are working in both the still photography and video mediums.  Some shooters I spoke with got into video because the entry level became cheaper when hybrid cameras that shoot both stills and video came on the market.  Other people I talked to weren’t “camera operators” at all – they were DP’s or Directors of Photography on high-end commercial broadcast productions.

One question I asked these shooters was “What do you call yourself these days?” Personally I’m struggling with that question myself.  Am I a  photographer?, a videographer? (I hate that term), a DP?, a media producer?  Who am I ?  What do I call myself? I have yet to answer that question for myself, but the answers that I got from everyone I spoke with, ran the gamut, encompassing all the titles above.  As I replayed these conversations in my head, I realized that for me the problem was I was trying to define myself by my tool.  And that just doesn’t work.

The problem is if we define ours by our tools – then we are diminishing the value of our creativity or our visionboy_viewer in the process.  We aren’t placing the value on what is unique in all of us – our vision. At the same time we’re placing too much value on the tool – in this case the camera.  As technology accelerates the production of more sophisticated cameras that are cheaper and easier to use – and we’ve placed our value on being the technician – we’re in big trouble.  Because ultimately anyone with a vision who has the “ability” to realize that vision, can put together a crew of technicians to facilitate their vision or idea – and do it cheaper these days because of technology.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Professional photographers get defensive when a potential client places no value on what is unique about them (their vision) and approaches them with the attitude that if you won’t work for the prices they dictate – they will just find another photographer.  But what they are really saying is that they feel that they can “just” find another camera operator. The problem is that these photographers haven’t presented their vision and because of that they are perceived as being interchangeable. That’s not a good place to be and never will be.  And for that reason when a professional still photographer comes to me and says that they are interested in getting into video and asks the question “What video camera should I buy?” I gently tell them – well sometimes not so gently tell them – it’s not about the camera.

How does one define what they are?  Great question that has a lot of answers, as it should.  Technology is amazing – but it’s the human part of the process that excites me because we’re all so different in how we see.

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6 thoughts on “Convergence – Defining Yourself By Your Vision – Not Your Tool

  1. Andrea Johnson October 2, 2009 / 10:50 am

    Thank you for so articulately stating the difference between vision and technology, and continuing to be such a great resource of information & knowledge as we transition into this new media world. Coincidentally I also woke up at 4:30 am struggling to put to words to this process, so your post was very timely!

  2. David Bean October 12, 2009 / 4:43 pm

    That’s a really great perspective and one that needs to be heard. Technology is becoming a new god to the detriment of vision and personal style.

  3. D. Shun-Luoi Fong October 13, 2009 / 2:15 pm

    I talk to many people who ask me what camera they should get or what lens they should buy. While I don’t have a problem talking about the advantages or disadvantages of various tools, the mentality often seems to be that if they can just get the best tool then they will get great images. No thought is given to vision, style, values, etc, as vital factors in the making of great images (whether still or video). Thanks for writing this post and encouraging people to discover who they really are instead of identifying themselves by the tools they use.

  4. WAlt Seng January 30, 2010 / 11:42 am

    Of course. It would be great if we all knew what we wanted to be when we grew up. The ‘gurus” say: “Never grow up!” That suggestion is right up there will the bantering about equipment.

    I am 66, shooting two annual reports now, taking a University of Phoenix course in IT/Web Design for a BS degree. Hoping to teach photography at the university level. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Kinda like it that way. (I don’t like seeing the end to a movie – [life].)

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