Snap-shooter vs. Hobbyist vs. Professional vs. Amateur

I know it’s not important to many people but to me titles help define things.They can have a negative effect by doing the same thing and boxing it in. At times I even want to title a photograph I’ve taken, but I resist that for fear of restricting the vision of the viewer.  But somehow knowing, by title definition, what I think I am with regards to photography, helps me understand my own vision about what I’m doing.

I love reading the vast collection of books and essays written on photography and by photographers, as well as, looking through the collections of books of photographs by other photographers.  Of those there are several that I particularly enjoy and I find myself reading them over again several times.  One such book is Mike Johnston’s ( www.theonlinephotographer.com, )The Empirical Photographer in a section titled The Photographers’ Menagerie – A Typology of Photographers, he list types as “The Snapshooter”, “The Hobbyist”, “The Professional”, “The Amateur” and “The Artist”, who’s description, by the way, is noted in Mikes book as; “The Artist is the Amateur who succeeds”.

The reason I mention this references is to make some distinction about where I think I am in Mike’s typology.  Of course for the full understanding of Mike’s descriptions, his book is a must read.  In any event, I believe myself to fall somewhere in between the “Snapshooter” and the “Amateur”.  For some time, because of my addiction to gear, I thought I might actually be a “Hobbyist”, but my need for more stuff seems to have, finally, tapered off.  And my wife is really happy about that.

As a snapshooter, to quote Mike, “He exists in a state of grace; his work is pure, undimmed by expectation, undirected by intention, and undiminished by the imposition of ideas.  His pictures are as immediate, as uncontrived, and as purely photographic in their nature as it is possible for photographs to be.  The snapshooter is supposedly guileless, unrestricted, neither clotted up with tradition nor weighted down by the dulling strictures of the intellect – not only unrepressed, but irrepressible, and free; and the perfect snapshot is a masterpiece of effortlessness, innocence, natural grace, and disingenuousness – nothing less, some people feel, than the ultimate photographic expression.”

As an amateur, to quote Mike, “The term has a derogatory connotation today, implying someone who is unskilled or unprofessional; but the eighteenth-century sense of the word, meaning someone who is motivated by love rather than by tawdry greed, someone whose commitment is un-compromised and whose work remains unsullied by mundane realities, is also well known.” So, although I’ve been down a few different paths in trying to understand who I am as a photographer and what, if anything, I’m intended to do with my photos, I believe that I have found my peace in being a happy snapshot-shooter, with some decent gear and a love for my hobby.  And that makes me happy.