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Friday, August 22, 2003

Today I submitted the following draft contribution to the Amateur Photograpaher magazine, a remarkable national weekly magazine I have subscribed to for over thirty years. The following was written to a very tight brief destined, I hope for the "Backchat" column where photgraphers are invited to express an opinion within 600 words. Naturally a writer like me has to work hard to achieve such economy of words, but the discipline of writing to a brief is very valuable experince , regardles of whether it is published or not.

Is the distinction between amateur and professional photographers really valid anymore?

Over some thirty years, weekly, I've invited complete strangers into my life ; both amateurs and experts, and been variously informed, astonished, and inspired by them. Both lay and expert contributors set standards that keep me wanting to improve and I think readers would readily agree the line between amateurs and the professionals, here, is so often a fine one.

I've built an extraordinary archive of images taken by so-called 'amateur' photographers who generously shared and explained their work ,along side often timely in-house expert practical advice, and new product evaluations. Simultaneously, my own more modest photograph collection grew and grew.

On reflection, it seems a record of my own embarrassingly slow development and includes so many fine examples of every basic error a photographer could make. Previous efforts were completely consistent with the narrowest definition of the word 'amateur ; someone who dabbles and isn't very good.

Very recently, I looked back on my own history trying to define what really separates the amateurs from the 'pros'. Anyone passionate about photography would concede immediately that Amateur Photographer Magazine is a catalogue of evidence that challenges, consistently, the notion that quality in photography is the exclusive domain of professionals.

We've probably all been, at some point, envious of the lavish equipment that professionals have. So is it their equipment that distinguishes them ? I've drooled, over reviews of the Haselblads, Liecas and Nikons and suppliers lists of cameras I simply could never afford. I owned first, a Zenith B, then a Chinon ( which I allowed, accidentally, to bake to death on a Turkish beach, learning the hard way about camera insurance.) After a further fifteen years with my dependable Pentax K1000 I gradually got a higher percentage of acceptable shots. Most recently, I use two digital cameras; a modest Fuji 2800 zoom and now a Nikon D100 .

Even though the Nikon D100 is an exceptional camera, it isn't the optical tools or medium you use but previous experience, passion and effort guiding the eye that you put next to the viewfinder and the finger that presses the shutter at the right moment that really count. It is mere coincidence that I can at last take good pictures, by design rather than happy accident, on a par with the high standards fellow 'amateurs' have set for me.

I conclude that the label 'professional' only works describing people whose main livelihood depends on taking consistently good photographs whatever the brief. (Even then, the end product might only be of interest to the client.)

With the recent explosion in the number of camera owners, many are content just to record family events. Now and again, everyone will surprise themselves with shots that stand out from the rest, but equally, more and more people are becoming very competent photographers. I actually think that the words amateur and professional aren't helpful anymore. It would be better to ask what it is that gives a person the right to call themselves a photographer ?

In my family and at work, I'm the one who doesn't go anywhere without a camera . I get the "You're the photographer, you take it ", directive, and happily accept with increasing confidence. Everyone is a photographer but a lot of people can't imagine themselves as a credible one. A photographer, in my view , is someone one driven to express themselves and communicate with others through images. They'll make a conscious effort to improve techniques and skills and keep on learning from mistakes and others. They'll take far more pictures than most of a wide range of things and , I think, essentially, will produce work of broader interest beyond their immediate peers. A photographer is one whose work is good enough to share and whose photographs can inspire others.

To visit th magazine's on-line version click on the following hyperlink
Amateur Photographer On-Line

johncoxon 12:55 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

Thursday, August 21, 2003

This is me and I keep getting bombarded with unwanted nonsense from companies and individuals trying all sorts of stupid tricks to sell me things, via my e mail, that I have absolutely no use for, being happy with myself , solvent and completly functional.

I invariably delete all this rubbish without even opening the email dross. But another one arrived yesterday and I broke my own rule and responded with the following letter. (It was an online corporate drug peddler and here is a screen capture of a slice of their spam

This is a letter I sent them but it could be sent to all people who use this pathetic marketing technique on the internet. But then again, spammers are iresponsible and delibertely have no reply address and just continue their invasive trade, unregulated and regardless of the constant offence it causes. (I just can't see how they get any business at all doing this , and wonder why they bother.)


Dear "Internet-generic-pharmacy.com" (et al,)

Nothing personal but I am mighty sick of getting endless unsolicited e mails from companies like yours and worse, people working for firms, slavishly wading through e mail address lists and often putting up a string of alphabet letters in the subject box to get round anti-spam fire-walls.
Daily they clutter my inbox with products offering to variously help me lose weight, improve my already remarkable sexual functioning for a man of 53, get a loan, another credit card, get a life, buy software to help me spy on or pester people with e mails, buy a bogus ?banned? CD, etc etc.
I immediately delete all these without even opening them. I sometimes e mail a simple response B*******! to unwanted stuff that comes via some obscure 'otmailer'or other e mailer sales slave and they invariably get bounced back as undeliverable of course. That bogus disclaimer opener approach they like to use , "we respect your privacy and never send out e mails unsolicited " has to be the global joke of the century.

I am an extremely well adjusted , fit and happy individual and have no need for any form of artificial, pharmaceutical support whatsoever as I am not currently deficient in any part of my functioning as an outrageously happy and fulfilled, solvent and normal human being.
I have no idea which list you bought contained my e mail address but I dearly wish that I were able to permanently erase not only my name from your list, which I am sure you will immediately do, but also from all others who plague me on a daily basis, with what is SPAM, whether you like it or not.

Maybe I ought to give in just once and maybe buy that "Astounding New Software That Lets You Find Out Almost Anything About Anyone with e mail data, for example, on 200 million U.S. citizens" that various solo spammers try in vain to hawk to me. That might provide me with e mail address for all the sad folks who scratch/type a living by plaguing us daily with unsolicited advertisements for things we don' need. I would in fact e mail drop everyone of them with the same message and it would read something like this.

" If I want a product , I will search and request it myself. I am not a dysfunctional moron and have no need for anything you have to offer now or in the future and even if I did, the fact that you use this invasive , unimaginative, completely dishonest approach in marketing would make you the last company on earth I would ever want to trade with. You are abusing the Internet and are global business whores. No, that is disrespectful to genuine prostitutes who don't steal a person's right of free choice.

Sincerely normal (alas for your business I suspect)

John Coxon

johncoxon 12:22 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

john/Male/51-55. Lives in United Kingdom/Engalnd/Salford, speaks English and French. Eye color is brown. I am what my mother calls unique. I am also creative. My interests are photgraphy/local history.
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