The Widening Gap Between Moments and Art

A few months back, I was teaching, in a packed room, an all-day iPhone photography workshop, to a group of photography hobbyists, wanting to learn how to improve their skills in mobile photography.

I started the class, as I always do, asking them questions about what they wanted to get out of our time together.
A 40s-something woman, at the back of the room, raised her hand first and shouted out “Selfies”.

She wanted to know how to take better selfies.


For a group that was paying $99 for the class, and the venue being hosted by a popular retail camera store, I expected the level of audience curiosity to be higher than this?

Selfies? Really?

We covered, a lot more than selfies, over the course, of the next 6 hours together.

But when I got home, this selfie question haunted me, given it was the first of the day?

Was the gap between consumers and experts wider than I imagined?

It was a wake-up call moment for me, in the moment, expressing the sincere sentiment of what most consumer snappers want to really know about iPhone photography.

Not dynamic range. Not exposure bias. Not color accuracy. Not focus lock. Not ProRaw. Not Apple Log. Not FPS. None of this stuff.

But selfies. Hmmmm. Gulp again.

What audiences, like this, often want to know, sadly for me, is not at all like what I want to teach or think they want or need to know.

The hard cold reality of casual snappers, trying to preserve life’s moments and memories, is they want to know the basics about capturing selfies, family and friends, vacations, pets, hobbies and interests, food and drink. Period. That’s it. Rarely anything else.

This crowd, unlike the photography-minded crowd I’m used to inspiring and teaching, not only uses photography to capture and preserve memories, but they also use photography as a means of entertainment, as a Lingua France, as a way to socially communicate, and to practical document life’s nitty-gritty details, as they present themselves through the routines and rituals of life.

I, and many photographers just like me, shooting with both dedicated and phone cameras, use photography to create art.

We don’t deny it. We’re proud of this reality. We celebrate it, wherever and whenever we can.
There’s a wide gap between “selfies” and “art”?

Interestingly, the reason that we take pictures, any of us, whether we identify that reason or not, determines and drives, more or less, how we go about making these photographs, whether we are a consumer or expert.
The Whys determine the Hows.

I was attending the weekly Family night last night. We went out for a burger and followed that up with beers and billiards.

At no point in the evening, that I remember, did I see anyone, myself included, bust out their camera for pictures.
The memories we were preserving were more mental and emotional, not photographic, even for a family of artists like us.

There’s that gap, again, between moments and art.

I’ve had to learn, over the years, as a photography educator, how to better teach people, to shoot selfies, family, friends, foods, events, parties, milestones, traditions, pets, vacations, holidays, and the like. Because this, really and truly, is what most want to know.

I love that others love this kind of content.

But I don’t. Not really. When it comes to photography. I like and love art… light, color and design.

I want to make the world, in pictures, beautiful, emotional, and lyrical.

There is a widening gap between moments and art

So the next time you’re listening to one of my lectures on photography, do me a favor, please, humor me, ask me anything about photography, except, of course, shooting better selfies 🙂



Jack Hollingsworth