A gatekeeper

Above: A railway gatekeeper closes the gate at a level crossing 59A in Angamaly, Kerala, India. Credit: Joe Ravi.

Goodbye to the Gatekeepers

In the old days, before around 2010, success for a photographer was controlled. A group of gatekeepers managed and organized who entered, if you like, the "room of success." These persons being the (fashion) magazine editors, the exhibition curators, and the art dealers.

In order to "make it" in former times it was necessary to gain the approval or nod of these sentinels of "the room." If none of these were nodding it was rather difficult to progress into the hallowed realm. (Note: generally sentinels did not tend to be disputatious: if one nodded the others tended to also nod ... "If one offers access then we all offer.")

These days, as my student Wail Sabbagh has evidenced in recent research, the up-and-comer photographer just bypasses the gatekeepers and appeals instead directly to the end user via social media accounts. We have entered a new era, in which, what the gatekeepers think of a photographer's quality, ability, or originality, largely goes out of the window--the gatekeepers have been sidelined, and worse, they are often forced to play catch-up: nodding through retrospectively a photographer who has already long since taken up residence in "the room."

This is the end-of-the-era for the gatekeepers, and is actually one of the basic changes wrought by social-media as regards the career path of the budding photographer.

(4 December 2018)