The great photographer Robert Frank recently said: “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.”
He's right. Photographers have become celebrities like chefs and hoarders. Everyone wants to be famous for 15 minutes now. Thanks to technology photos of your lunch, your dog, even your shoes can acquire an Instagram look of monumental artistic importance. But the emperor really has no clothes on. Its all vacuous and boring but no one dares to say so.
I think we lost our way when technique became what everyone aspired to. It used to be difficult to photograph in low light, use flash and add effects in the darkroom. It was assumed by the general public that this difficulty was the key to greatness in a photograph. But looking back on photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston and Ernst Haas it wasn't filters, flash or fancy technique that gave their images power and gravitas. It was the ability to enable an image to speak for itself without distracting technique that was the real key to greatness. Its a very simple concept but very difficult to achieve.
Technique is not an end in itself but a means to an end. Once mastered it is incorporated into an author's writing style, an artist's brush stokes and an actor's stage ability to appear effortless. It comes with practice and confidence over time and it's not something that just happens with magical software. Its thought out, considered, and repeated until it works like the in-built muscle memory of a musician or an athlete to work spontaneously when required without obvious effort.
In short, it becomes invisible technique.