I've often praised the ability the internet has given us to do the things that we never thought we could do. Is there a point where this ametuer's world become's a problem?
There's a lot that I've seen this week that has kicked off this line of thinking.
Number 1 is Casey Niestat's Samsung commercial that aired during the Oscars:
He is almost making an argument that "Youtubers" are being left out of The Oscars, and that should change. He didn't necessarily come out and say it, but that's kind of what this video feels like it's getting at. He says that Youtube is ushering in the next generation of content (I've heard him say something similar many times before). He himself has rejected getting back into big productions because he believes that internet video is the future.
I ultimately have no problem with this. My whole "thing" is that I make stuff on the internet, so of course I'm in support of furthering the internet's validity.
But I'm no expert.
I'm 24 years old, and the only thing I really have any expertise whatsoever in is photography. I only have any expertise in photography because of the large amount of time I've spent learning about it. But I'm not special: 1000 other people within 10 miles of where I live are also probably photography professionals. We are the movers. We are the shakers. We will change the world with our self-taught art.
It's not hard to be a photography professional. You have to simply take pictures; they don't even have to be good. If you can manage to get paid for your photography, you can consider it work, ergo, you are now a professional. That's it. As a result, there's a sort of false professionalism that goes around with photographers, that is all smoke and mirrors. If you are an aspiring "professional" photographer, you may look up to someone that you perceive as a talented a professional. Chances are, they aren't too far away from being you.
This may be bad for someone like me to admit, but the photography game is mostly BS. I know this because I'm not a particularly smart guy, and I've managed to make money taking photos of people. Photographers have gotten really good at making nothing look like something. I've noticed a trend lately where many "big" photographers I follow admit to having real jobs on the side because photography actually can't support them. Maybe this is because of our constant exposure to celebrities, but we usually assume that if someone is "insta-famous" that they are rich and successful. The internet is a side mirror, and makes objects larger than they appear.
Why all this false professionalism? It's because Amateurs have taken over.
Again, I'm an amateur. I've been part of one kind of big photography production, ever, but other than that, I really have done nothing of note in photography. Since I know "something" about photography from the amount of time I've spent on it, it's easy to come across as an expert.
There's been a dawn of "self-help" influencers on the internet. People like Chase Jarvis (former photographer), Gary Vaynerchuk, and Tim Ferriss, have built empires on giving advice. They are basically like internet EST (Erhard Seminars Training). EST was a Tony Robbins-esque gathering in the 70s and 80s where you learn how to unlock the secrets of life and live your best self.
These internet "influencers" as they're called, are the new sources of education. They are the rebels. They are those who may have dropped out of high school and weren't necessarily formally educated; they learned through experience. Life was their teacher. Same with someone like Steve Jobs, who transformed a generation through being a technological visionary, despite having no technological expertise himself. These influencers are great because of their distain for the sytem. They fought THE MAN and won. They did not conform to institutions, and found success.
I listen to the podcast, GLoP (Golderg, Long, Podhoretz) where Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, and John Podhoretz bring their political backgrounds to the pop culture discussion. In this week's episode, they talk about the big Oscars flub where La La Land was named best picture when Moonlight actually won. It was quite painful to watch:
In the GLoP podcast, they referred to how everything is just weird now, like all institutions are coming into question because of a general distrust of the "experts". Even the Oscars aren't immune to the word "unprecedented". That said, there's a sort of cultural joy that comes from such an embarrassing mistake. It's happening left and right, things that were once just normal business as usual are changing: news and media is changing, the definition of the president is changing, and institutions as a whole are seen as less valuable.
We worship the amateurs. We now worship non-experts.
I love it. I don't like school, and I've never liked THE MAN. It's cool to disturb the status quo that those empty suits create for us. That is, until those movers, shakers, and rebels become President of the United States.
Casey Niestat would like Youtubers to be considered for an Oscar-like award. In his paradise, Youtube would be respected along with mainstream Hollywood. This dream may not be too far off; the generation after me only watches internet video for the most part no matter how nauseatingly silly. I remember hanging out with some cousins a couple months ago feeling like "Old Man Will" because I didn't understand the humor. It's possible that when the 90 year olds who run the Academy die, the next generation's Pewdiepie wins an Oscar for a viral video. Who knows?
Maybe this is a good thing, or maybe it's leading to Idiocracy.
Idiocracy is a movie where Luke Wilson, an average nobody, gets accidentally put in hibernation for 500 years and wakes up to a world taken over by dumbness. This world has eliminated all institutions, replaced all water with Gatorade, you can get a law degree at Costco, Justin Long is a pothead doctor, and to become Secretary of State you just have to enter a sweepstakes. It's quite an interesting movie for today, because we are seeing a lot of similarities between 2017 and 2505.
As we worship "the outsiders", are we doomed to a world lacking in rules and basic sense? Are we bound to keep having Donald Trumps as president? Will movies even become an art form where a 15 year old dancing in front of a camera is a Oscar nominated film?
This all sounds a bit crazy and strung together, but where does a mass, false professionalism lead in the end? To be fair, I don't care about some of these institutions; I don't think our species is in jeopardy if the Oscars failed, in fact it could flourish. I don't think the self-help influencers are destroying the world, but I've seen plenty of people who have convinced themselves (after listening to someone like Gary Vee, who is absurdly full of himself) that they are experts when they know almost nothing about their craft *cough* most photographers *cough*.
How many times can we break norms and deconstruct the system before there's nothing left?
Who am I to even be writing these blog posts, where it seems I'm trying to impart knowledge about how I see the world when I'm an inexperienced 24 year old? I could very well be adding my version of false professionalism to the world's problems. Maybe blog posts like this are furthering the destruction of the fabric of culture as we know it.
I guess I say all this because I've been blogging and talking at the internet for a while now (geez I guess 7 years), and I realize that in a small way I set some sort of example to people younger than me that respect me. To a great degree, my future children will be able to look here and see what their dad said when he was younger. When I'm getting on to them about getting better grades, are they going to whip out my blog post where I talked about how school sucks?
Whether you're a photographer or whatever, you're setting an example for those behind you. You may even inspire those older than you to some extent. When we claim to be experts when we aren't really, that lowers the bar for what "expertise" means. As that happens, the quality of whatever craft, tends to go down over time.
Casey Niestat has become famous for his hacky filmmaking style, where everything is makeshift and cobbled together. Many of his videos are extremely engaging, and through his supposedly accessible style, he is re-defining what a filmmaker is. He's creating the type of filmmaker that can make terrible videos in his garage for years and then claim to be an Youtube Tarantino.
Again, I don't think any of these rebels and influencers are necessarily doing something bad, but I do wonder: If these figures keep shattering the system with their new way of doing things, what happens when the system has already been shattered to bits? We're in a weird flux where every event has an unprecedented moment, and almost every institution right now has maverick shaking things up from the inside. That was fun when we got the iPhone, but is it fun when it is happening in the government?
Everything is going through a sea-change right now, and I'm mostly fine with that. I'm good with change; I don't mind that photography is more accessible, or that I just watched a brand new Sundance film on Netflix. Adapting to change, no matter how uncomfortable, is usually always good. We need to always be moving and making things better, and we shouldn't blindly follow traditions and institutions just because they were once important in the past.
Anyway, everything is unprecedented, but eventually unprecedented will become precedented, and then once everything is unprecedented after the unprecedented has become precedented, everything will end up just being...uh...dented, I guess.