Becoming Amateur:
Reflections on Fieldwork

Mariel Collard Arias

Amateurs are people driven by curiosity, passion, and an intent to learn and create. There was a time when they were scientists, artists, athletes, writers, and disseminators of culture—a term once reserved for eighteenth-century elites. They did not have formal training, licenses, or titles. This is exactly the issue: amateurs are disregarded as unqualified and unskilled enthusiasts in the age of professionalization. The word’s reputation is declining, replaced with the assurances of experts. Being called an amateur these days is usually not a compliment.

Love and desire are at the core of the word amateur. The search for knowledge sparks action: it implies doing, repeating, making, unmaking, trying again, and spending time. This is the very stuff of practice.

I ended up becoming an amateur without ever really looking to do so. I could say the collaboration started when the drone fell on my lap—with no formal training, licenses, or titles. In the words of Anne Carson, “[I am] an amateur...Totally amateur, yes. But the thing about being an amateur is that it opens out that space for the third thing to happen.”