In defense of amateurism

With the ascension of Instagram and similar photo sharing sites and the commonality of the camera-phone, more people are taking photos and sharing them with more people than ever before. I’ve noted a bit of a trend among those involved with professional photography. While some welcome any interest in photography as positive, there is a distinct and loud subset that decry this trend, claiming amateurism is destructive, and photography and design should be left to professionals. most often I see this as a ‘snarky*’ tweet in response to something they see and do not like.

Since people are generally amateur in many things, professional in very few, I see this notion of professional exclusivity as being counter to polymathism, and counter to our nature as human beings. To castigate someone for not being a professional when they make no claims to professionalism is duplicitous. It also contributes to a related negative trend in our society: The over-licensed nation. Countless professions now require a license to participate. Often, the licenses are issued by other professionals, with every interest in excluding new competition.

Perhaps that is the real source of the concern: Professionals don’t want any competition, even if from self-proclaimed amateurs. If so, it is an understandable, if disagreeable, impulse. Hopefully professionals shake off this tendency, and embrace amateurism in others, and in themselves.

* Snarky has apparently been redefined (by the same internet users that redefined ‘epic’ away from its source in poetry to just another synonym for the over-utilized awesome, I’d imagine) as being sarcastic with an alleged humorous bent, rather than being another word for irritable. Snarky in context is often a self-applied term, indicating a positive connotation, by people with enough self-awareness to realize they are being a jerk, but not enough backbone to stop being a jerk.


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