Today is a sad day for Greenville, SC. Today is a sad day for our country. The internet won. Starting tomorrow morning, October 19, 2012, many of our cities will have a serious deficiency of readily accessible photographic knowledge. Years of acquired knowledge and expertise is gone. One person who knew the decades of cumulitive knowledge we had in our city told me “that is A LOT of knowledge just gone”. In Greenville, SC starting tomorrow morning go to 765F Haywood Rd. where Wolf Camera once stood, and a once thriving store where a huge amount of personal relationships had been built within those four walls are now all gone – permanently! Not just relationships between co-workers, but between staff and customers, people who very quickly transitioned from mere customers to our friends. People we laughed with, people we cried with, people we visited in the hospital when they were sick, they were in every sense of the word our friends.
Sure you can go online and look at camera specifications, but what do all those numbers and descriptions mean to you, which one in that string of techno-babble will meet or not meet your need? Sure there are those online who freely give their opinions on certain equipment but how many of those people literally have at their fingertips the ability to handle the different brands of cameras in question and explain to you in exact detail why only one will meet YOUR need, not his need, or your neighbors need, but YOUR specific need. How many of them in reality are even interested in YOUR photographic needs. How many of them have experience with more than just one brand of equipment. Many times people pride themselves in being a “Nikon Man” or a “Canon Man” and only have experience with the camera of their own personal bias. But an even greater question is, how many of those on Youtube or the online stores are truly interested in YOU, in short, how many of them are your real friends?
The younger generation is now wanting to experience shooting film, who will they turn to for immediate answers. They will have to start from scratch. Sure they can watch Youtube videos all night, sure they can acquire knowledge, but what about old fashioned one on one discussion, “What shutter speed should I use and why? What will the visual difference be between a shutter speed of 1/125 or 1/30? What f/stop do I use to get shallow depth of field and why”. When cell phones came out many of the camera stores prided themselves on offering their expertise to their customers even on the fly. Whether shooting cactus in the middle of the Arizona desert, or photographing their kids playing basketball, we were just seven numbers away, or at the most only eleven numbers away if they were out of state. When was the last time you phoned your favorite online store and they stopped and answered your questions or when was the last time you had a lengthy discussion with your computer screen and it gave you a comprehensive answer to YOUR needs based on decades of acumulated knowledge and experience.
I have taught the craft long enough, two decades, to know mererly imparting knowledge does not meet a persons needs. It was not until I started teaching one on one that I understood simply delivering knowledge does not meet the need. It takes time to slowly build not only the consumers knowledge but their confidence. It is magic to teach and watch the light go on in the eye of my students and to literally hear the confidence in their voice as they gradually learn to articulate and describe precisely what they are trying to visually achieve. Because of the events of today there are thousands of consumers in the country who are left without any souce of personal expertise and guidance to draw upon for their immedite needs. Perhap this is the end of an era.