The amateur image

// General articles

Over the past few years, amateur images have taken their place in television, in the media and on the internet, right next to images created by professionals.

Images which qualify as amateur are images which are technically unpolished or un-mastered, and most often taken spontaneously, without objective distance concerning the event or the scene captured. Previously destined to be seen in private circles, these images have increasing visibility. From the amateur image filmed in a family context, or the act of filming as participation in the cohesion of a tight-knit entourage, we’ve gone to more impersonal amateur images, which thus lose their role as community link.

Television uses this type of image, the amateur image, since it drives the sensational, and brings authenticity. The amateur is presented as an involuntary witness, maladroit and powerless in a catastrophe, a crime or a terrorist act.

In this context, the amateur image is defined by opposition to professional images, which are themselves so constructed and manipulated. This approach leads to devalued amateur images, of which the primary characteristic is its bad quality.

Democratised access to new technologies also enables the emergence of new amateur practices, but in this sense amateur refers to enthusiast. Does this term not designate, above all, one who takes on a true labour of love rather than one who is just a passive observer ?

The emergence of tools available at low prices that combine the functions of capturing, producing and diffusing is creating a new relationship with images. The amateur becomes someone who will leverage this potential with a creative objective. The video mobile phone perfectly illustrates these new possibilities. For Bernard Stiegler, philosopher and researcher specialised in new information technologies, the telephone has” become a sort of instrument, networked with other instruments and other practitioners.” Thus, it is not about using the mobile phone so much as about appropriating it, integrating it into a sort of practice. This new amateur practice is developed as having to do with notions of exchange and flux. As such, the amateur is at the centre of a collective experience. According to Jean-Louis Weissberg (Paris XIII), these new technologies “draw intermediary perspectives between consultations, archives, citations, collages, link lists and the creation of original content.” The amateur develops a personal and subjective practice according to his or her wishes. Even if there is a gain in terms of competence, the amateur is distinguished from the professional, as he or she doesn’t have the mastery of knowledge linked to image production. He or she is closer to the designer or the author. This new amateur vision leads to a revaluation of this type of production, and puts it at the centre of the realm of creative emulation.


Caroline Delieutraz