“Butthurt middle aged photographers coming in 3…2…1…”
That’s how the thread of comments began under Irene Rudnyk’s recent YouTube posting, Why I Prefer Natural Light Over Flash. Irene’s a young adult who’s making some beautiful images. And she speaks the language of other photographers in her demographic, having already built a following of around 200,000 subscribers at the time of this writing.
And while that’s impressive, consider that there are other youngish photography enthusiasts like, Jessica Kobeissi (421,000 subscribers) out there racking up even more views and followers.
What’s Wrong with Middle-Aged Photographers?
So, what’s with the nasty comment about us middle-aged guys being all “butthurt?” It’s simple, some photographers are just dicks. We’re fixated on how entitled we think these kids must feel to just show up out of nowhere and call themselves photographers. When someone in her 20s can shoot 12 Time Magazine covers (and many more feature portraits) with an iPhone and natural light, it’s got to sting a little, doesn’t it?
“Girl preach. It’s always them. And their work is always shit and outdated,” chimes in another young follower of Rudnyk’s. That same commenter follows up with, “I just think that there wouldn’t be such a huge stigma attached to the middle aged photographers if there was nothing to base it off of. The fact is the general experience us millennials have with amateur middle aged photographers is that they are condescending and rude towards us. They belittle us and make us feel stupid. Yes, not all of them are like that but enough of them are to have a stereotype to go off of.”
Indeed. I’ve seen it happen. I’m fifty-fucking-two years old (52), and I’ve been shooting in a serious way since I was 15 (no shit). Feeling like I can see this from both sides, let me tell you this: As early as 1980, I was rockin’ my 35mm camera in my home town doing events, sports, profiles and the occasional front page for the local papers. The older full-time photographers would HATE that I was getting stringer work. I was just a kid, using inferior gear, but making much better images than most of them. And I’m speaking from a pro’s perspective now, looking back on the work of my younger self. It wasn’t bad. Some of those guys were dicks, too.
So, Why Are Some of Us Such Dicks?
It’s fear and actual feelings of entitlement. We think we’ve earned the right to…I don’t know use a camera? Make money with it? And they haven’t. That’s what makes the middle-aged (or older) guys so pissy. Many of my contemporaries have a deep set fear of becoming outpaced and irrelevant. So, they get defensive, even nasty. And that’s the end of it for them. Or at least the beginning of the end. You show me a guy who starts tearing down the work of anyone else (not just the younger shooters), and I’ll show you someone who’s more fixated on what others are doing, and not focusing enough on their own work. Show me someone who finds every opportunity to criticize their peers online, and I’ll show you someone who needs to feel right about SOMETHING because it’s not happening with their work.
You know what I’m saying. People who are shooting and sharing, and encouraging, and inspiring, and teaching, have something to offer to our younger photographers. The ones putting those kids down for just enjoying the act of making pictures they like…well, they’re just being dicks.
Of course, kids can be dicks, too. You know the ones who already know everything and must be admired for their brilliance? Yeah. Dicks.
But we’re not talking about those people. They’ll drop away from photography when it becomes so obvious to everyone else how much they suck.
How Not to Be A Dick
So, do work that you’re happy with. Find things to appreciate about how other people approach their work, even if it’s not 100% the way you’d approach it. Even if you think it’s wrong. Enjoy your photography and you won’t be tempted to take swipes at those kids and their cameras. They have every right to do things their way, even if it looks like they didn’t pay enough dues, or don’t quite get how things work.
Don’t be a dick. Just do your work.