For the Love o’…..

     There seems to be a lot of discussion on photography blogs about the difference between the amateur and the professional… (IDK, the same discussions may take place on the blogs of writers, and painters, and actors, etc., maybe even plumbers, but I’ll have to admit that I don’t frequent those as often as I might.)    

     Usually, I think, the discussions are civil with no real ‘name-calling’ nor many disparaging remarks, such as, “Amateurs are making it hard for ‘professionals’ to ply our trade. The market gets diluted…”, etc. Though there IS some of that.

     In today’s world, the term ‘amateur’ has taken on an almost negative connotation. In sports, the ‘amateur’ is never expected to compete on the same level as the ‘professional’. (I think there are plenty of examples that disprove this ‘theory’. Check out the history of Negro League Baseball!) The same also can be said for the arts and sciences. Often the ‘professional’ or ‘specialist’ looks with disdain on the efforts of the ‘amateur’, or in today’s definition, the “non-professional” as being unworthy because they have supposedly not ‘Paid Their Dues’. Granted, there is a lot to be said for paying one’s dues, in the realm of breadth of experience and the longevity of output….though I have seen absolutely brilliant work done by someone who ‘was lucky’ the first time and,  I’ve also heard certain professionals’ work described by the phrase “even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then”.


     Who can possibly say that John Kennedy Toole (A Confederacy of Dunces)though an ‘amateur’ who wrote one book that was published eleven years after his death, is any less an author than James Patterson who has had over sixty books published?

I enjoy reading them both.

     While reading FLOW, by Csikszentmihalyi (Bless his heart. He had to know exactly HALF of the English alphabet before he could write his name….) I came across a very good description of the amateur, or another term, dilettante.


     Amateur, (as has been repeatedly pointed out in the photo blogs), is from the Latin, “to love”…..someone who loves what they are doing. Dilettante is from the Latin, “to find delight in”…someone who enjoys an activity. Leave it to our current culture to put a money symbol around those two terms, to separate them from the ‘professional’, from the pig-Latin,

“I-way et-gay aid-pay!”

     Here’s the really important point that is made in FLOW… So, I’ll quote it.

     “The earliest meanings of these words therefore drew attention to experiences rather than accomplishments: they described the subjective rewards gained from doing things, instead of focusing on how well they were achieving” !!!!!!

     We have managed to twist the meanings to value ‘achievement’, “…the quality of performance over the quality of experience”.

     The true Love of doing something is not at all based on accolades received! (My quote)

     I encourage, incite, prod, (got the thesaurus going) advocate, exhort, prescribe AND recommend that EVERYONE become an ‘amateur’ at something…whether it’s building a race car (which may never touch a track), Viet-Namese cuisine (which you may never get your family to eat), studying Civil War history (which will cause your family to groan as you take little side-trips in the car and point out what to them are fields but to you hold major moments in history), developing alternative forms of energy (which may blow up your garage), painting (pictures or walls), growing exotic plants or heirloom tomatoes,(or okra, for cryin’ out loud), learning to play a musical instrument (which will really excite your pets)……SOMETHING that you have always wanted to do and feel a love for. You may throw out the first few tries, but you will feel good just to have tried!

     If it’s in your heart,  then your hands, feet, eyes, voice, whatever, are just waiting for you to get the circulation going!

     I watch TV an average of one hour per week (well, during football season… 3 )

There is just too much else that I love and want to do…

Things that are calling to me to become involved, actively involved.

     I mentioned, a couple of posts back, that I am an amateur writer. I am proud of that. Now, would I love to go to my banker and say, “I just got this gazillion dollar check for a story I wrote! What should I do with it?”

Uh, yeah…

But it ‘ain’t gonna happen’!

But that ‘ain’t gonna stop me’ from doing it.

Oh, yeah, photography….

I have to consider myself an amateur professional.

The professional part depends somewhat on external influences…the ‘market’.

The amateur part is mine alone…

I get out what I put in….no… I get more!

~ by rkpowers on June 19, 2010.

4 Responses to “For the Love o’…..”

  1. The only real difference between and amateur and a pro, is an amateur doesn’t get paid. Hitler got paid for his watercolors, Van Gogh didn’t. I also think there is something to be said for being what is called “a primitive.” (Grandma Moses was sometimes referred to that way, as were the elegant African American quilt makers of Gees Bend, Alabama.) They come from outside traditions and bring a fresh perspective. As a randomly educated autodidact I have a great respect for those who see things anew, and not through through the prism of critical history. And, Randy, I think your writing is elegant. It has the conversational nuances, natural pauses, and genuine dialect that made Mark Twain a master. Money follows, it never leads.


  2. Being an amateur, in the beautiful (and yes, elegant) sense you described it, makes me consider myself an artist of a thousand mediums – parenting, photography, writing, cooking, learning. EVERYTHING is worthy of being passionate about, or it simply isn’t and you move on to something else. By the way, that’s why I’m still a starving artist. lol


  3. Nice topic of discussion. We all continue to learn even if we earn the title of “Professional.” In that sense we are all amateurs to a degree. Many artists have the innate ability to create as an amateur or professional, whereas others may just get lucky. Self gratification is rewarding but so much depends on our audience and how they view or appreciate our work. Experience also holds great value as we strive to perfect and fine tune our craft.


    • True, but I am of the belief that the desire for an ‘audience’ is a self-imposed need. (Though it is, of course wonderful to have feedback, input, acceptance….I don’t think that is the necessary end goal…more like ‘icing on the cake’!) In a ‘stranded on an island’ scenario, I think the singer will still sing, the mathematician will extrapolate postulates based on waves and stars, and the artist will create sand castles or coconut sculptures. The photographer, alas, will only be able to dream….so he becomes, possibly an amateur philosopher.


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