Sometimes it feels to me as if there are two worlds of photography. Let me explain.
In the internet age we have amazing digital tools and resources. Photographers such as Scott Kelby and Trey Ratcliff have made their names in excelling with these technologies and in teaching their techniques to others. Their work is, usually, rich in detail, technically accurate, vibrant and precise. Websites such as 500px showcase stunning images from photographers around the world. Why worry about having a few people see you work in an exhibition when potentially millions can see your website or Flickr stream? Individual images are rated with 'likes' and scores, and large numbers of social media followers start to attract potential sponsors.
And yet gallery exhibitions, and photobooks, magazine covers and photo competitions, are still well regarded. To many they are still the way to make your name in the photographic world. Here, in my opinion, artistic vision is more consistently recognised above technical detail. A project or a body of work are more respected and rewarded than an individual image. Viewers may take their time more, expect a deeper level of communication or stimulation. The abstract, the curious and the subtle are favoured over the obvious or the aesthetically striking.
The old-school photographer might struggle to see art in the latest sunset or waterfall shot on 500px. The technologist might struggle to see the skill in a strange abstract or simple still-life.
I'm generalising of course, and there are many overlaps. Many photographers with a technology focus have wonderful bodies of work and explore their artistic vision as passionately as anyone. And many in the art world have embraced the possibilities of the internet and are excelling in using social media to share their work.
Do the differences reflect the a film vs. digital divide? In some way I think there is a parallel. Digital can tend to be fast, accurate, clean, precise. Photographing with film is often a slower, more considered process. Each frame is more carefully selected. Assistance from the technology is more limited, and limitations drive creativity.
One area of significant overlap is in phone photography or iPhoneography. Although the phone cameras continue to become ever more capable, they are still significantly limited compared to the manual controls and lens options of larger cameras. Those limitations have driven some amazing creativity, as well as a whole industry of apps to creative post-processing on the phone itself.
Where's the right path? We each have to find our own of course, but don't get too caught up in the claims of the camera manufacturers, the social media gurus, the competition hosts. And especially not the camera forum junkies. We have a tendency to think one way is the right way because it worked for someone else, when in fact there is usually something to be learnt from all genres, approaches and styles. Create, enjoy it, and hopefully other people will enjoy your creations too.