I am amused to say the least at the reaction I get when some people meet me and realize I am a gray-haired guy in my mid to late-50s. Some people assume I was younger and some older. I have realized that age is an issue in the photo industry right now. The young guns occasionally seem miffed that us old guys are like the tall trees – blocking all the sunlight from getting to the forest floor and keeping the saplings from growing. On the other hand, some of my older peers are incredulous that someone with three years experience as a professional photographer can gain rock star status.
Those reactions are what they are, but they lead to a question. Does age really matter from the standpoint of the photography?
I have thought about this often and think the answer is both yes and no. It doesn’t impact the photography that much if you still have something to say with your camera. If we take people of equal experience, say ten years as a pro shooter, and one is 30 and the other 50, as long as both individuals still have a passion for telling stories with their cameras, I think age has little impact.
But, if you want to look at one factor, openness – then age could be a factor. And what’s funny is that it might cut both ways. Younger photographers tend to be willing to look at things with a fresh eye. This could be an advantage. At the same time, many of the younger photographers immediately discount anything that isn’t “new” as old fashioned and valueless. This could be a disadvantage.
Older photographers can tend to get set in their ways. The reasons for this can run the gauntlet from comfort to stubbornness. Older photographers have the advantage of perspective. They also tend to be more patient. It really all depends on attitude and approach in my opinion.
I know we live in a politically correct world. But that political correctness doesn’t always stretch to the photo world. I hope this little post starts photographers in the community thinking about how age impacts them, their opinion of other photographers, their open-mindedness (or lack thereof) and how age impacts the people who view their images. It’s an interesting topic that I plan to explore by interviewing both young and old photographers over the summer. Look for the results in a special Photofocus podcast sometime in late August.
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