Master and Fauxtographer, two words that I believe should be eliminated from every photographer’s vocabulary for very different reasons. One of these words has been in photography for decades and in the arts for centuries. The other was just created within the last five years. Once of the words has been the pinnacle for photographers through the ages, while the other refers to a title that no photographer wants to wear. These words are commonly used to identify photographers at opposing ends of the spectrum and they have both caused a schism in the photographic industry.
In one corner, we have the “Master”. He has climbed the mountain of professionalism. He has discovered and settled on his style, his technique, and his ideal client. He has worked hard to get where he is, and he’s often convinced that his way is the right way. In the other corner, we have what many in photography refer to as the “Fauxtographer”. These aspiring photographers are usually ridiculed because they don’t understand lighting, their images aren’t exposed properly, and they are charging far too little money which causes the Masters to think they are being undercut. One is perceived as all knowing, and one is perceived as totally clueless.
Let’s start with the word, “Fauxtographer”. When this word was first introduced a few years ago, it was actually a pretty funny word. It was used to identify photographers who shouldn’t be charging clients because it was very obvious that they had no clue how to operate a camera or lighting equipment. Websites like “You Are Not a Photographer” would serve to identify these photographers and raise client awareness. However, over time the word became more diluted. It started being used more often when identifying all aspiring photographers (not just those who were wrongfully charging clients). On forums, in Facebook groups, and on popular blogs, professionals were using the word, “Fauxtographer” to insult and demean aspiring photographers no matter if they had good intentions or not. I’ve personally heard from many aspiring photographers who feel bullied and targeted by established photographers. If photographers want the bar raised in the industry, they should be helping to educate, not tear down aspiring photographers. The word has become offensive, and it needs to stop.
What about the word, “Master.” How is that offensive? Why does it also need to be eliminated? To be clear, I don’t find this word offensive, I simply find it limiting. This word also had good intentions in earlier years, but now it often elicets visions of old grumpy photographers who are judgmental, rude, and hidden behind their guild (another word that should really go away). By definition, a “Master” has reached the pinnacle. He can learn no more. He has plateaued. He “knows all”. This is such a limiting term, I don’t understand why anyone would want to label themselves in this manner. Shouldn’t we strive to grow in our craft daily? Shouldn’t we aspire to greater heights and more knowledge? Shouldn’t we all be students, perhaps at different levels, but students none the less?
Obviously, these words aren’t going anywhere- but I offer this challenge to readers of this blog. In 2015, let’s all strive to be students and teachers. No matter where you are in your progression as a photographer, there is still something to learn and there is very likely something that you can teach. Strive to master becoming a student again, and fake it until you make it if you have to. Come to think of it- isn’t that what practicing is all about?
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