My photography is mainly for myself. It is a form of expressing my feelings, my interactions with the surrounding world and a way to record all of this through still images. There are many reasons why photographers do what they do and the degrees of satisfaction they get from photography are quite a few. I guess this article is intended for those who are not necessarily professional photographers. Or, if I choose a wider meaning, it is for those who do photography without having so many demands, imposed by, let’s say, a client who pays for photographic services. So, I will address it to those who still have the freedom of choosing the look of their photographic style, just the way they feel and want.
So, you are a photographer. Firstly, it doesn’t matter how good you are, if you are a beginner, or you shine like a star in the photography universe for so many years, if you do landscape, street, portrait or travel photography. What is important is that you are free in this endeavour.
With the rise of Internet and on-line social networking, it is so effortless to have access to free and paid knowledge; it is the easiest way to let the people know about you and what you do and… socialize. Networking is an essential piece of the system that makes photography business running those days. And all that comes with a lot of advantages, but also, some hidden traps that you can discover, if you look from a higher point of view.
The way you do your photography is very much similar with the way you live your life. Do you want your life to be the way you want it to be? Do you listen to your dreams, plans and desires? Are you a true original, dedicated and motivated being, without taking into account the desires, plans and opinions of others that surround you? Because the way I see it, you can live your life in two distinct ways:
A. You care about what others think, what society and your immediate social environment look. They promote and accept certain types of behaviour and they like the people who stick to their well-known patterns. You seek admiration and recognition by following their ways and rules. You are ready to let go of your true self and personal dreams, being afraid “they” might not accept you, “they” could criticize you and make your life problematic.
B. You do not listen to what others say, think and show. You will never let go of your desires, dreams and trajectory. You know you are unique and as much as everyone else, you deserve to build yourself a place in this life. Let the people criticize and disagree, you already know that it is impossible to please everyone and by trying to do so, you will not have the time and resources to please yourself. This is why, you accept right from the start that the envy and the hatred and the complaining will not cease, but equally, will not make you change your path and your ways. You have a duty to yourself, to define yourself. Not only you have the right to be happy, but it is a duty to build your way towards your happiness (of course, while respecting the laws, the morality and the others).
You can make your choice and it can be sooner, or later. If you chose the first path, it means your photography is done in such a way, you need to please the others, first. You feed yourself on other’s approval and admiration and for this, you take advantage of all the benefits of social networking and post your products all over the Internet, where you have subscribed and have a personal account. Perhaps you add some comments, descriptions, even a small poem (something classic, sometimes yours) to “add weight” to your photography’s value. What happened to “a picture is worth a thousand words”? It is so, that in reality your picture is worth so little, its message, essence and emotion are so shallow, unclear, or totally missing, that you need to make sure the people get your message, by enhancing your image with the escorting describing text?
Then you eagerly wait for the “Likes” and comments. Like your life as an artist depends on it. You count them and what you really do, without even realizing it, is to “quantify your art”. This sounds so antagonistic and absurd on so many levels, but this is what happens. You “measure” the value of your work according to the “Likes”, comments, emojis and “shares” that you get on-line, for your picture.
Then the following phenomenon occurs: you have a personal scale of “Likes” according to which you classify your photos. 100 and more than that, the picture is good; over 200 “Likes”, the picture is outstanding; less than 50 “Likes”, your picture really sucks. And following this assessment scale, there come your feelings: happiness, moderate satisfaction and misery. Of course, to get more “Likes”, you need to expand your network and get as many “Friends” as possible, even if you have nothing in common with them, or you don’t know them. The more, the better.
Do you see the absurdity in this panoramic picture? Do you see the fake, the inconsistency and the error of this way? You do your photography for “them”, to be consumed and appreciated and what they do? They grant you with only 15 “Likes”, no comments, no “shares”. Even if all what you did was to follow and respect your solid “Recipe of Success” you prosperously used in the past. What happened? Do you suddenly suck as a photographer? And here comes the misery.
If this is your life as a photographer, beginner, enthusiast, semi-pro, or pro, then it’s lamentable. Sooner, or later, you must realize this cannot go on forever. Something very wrong has been infiltrated within your very deep core, as a person – there is a monumental need to overhaul your system of beliefs. You may need to renovate yourself.
Who are “they” to tell you if your photography is good, or bad? How can you trust with the duty of art curation, a bunch of dilettantes that may have zero knowledge about art, or may be driven by envy, hatred, or even be drunk? Do you think that 200 “Likes” make a photograph a good one and less than 20 a very bad one? How can you measure and quantify your perceptions, when we are talking about art, emotions and personal memories? You need true evaluation? Submit your work to an art gallery; send your best of the best to an art curator, with talent, experience and expertise. Forget about trusting the number of “Likes” and what people might say in their comments. They may be equally wrong when they congratulate you for a picture with 200 “Likes” as much as being wrong when criticizing a picture with only 7 “Likes”. Who are they?
Now, let’s assume you will choose the second path. Like the one of true freedom, originality and independence in your life. Let’s see how it looks!
You photograph for the pleasure of your own spirit. Nobody can tell you if your picture is good, or bad, because they have no references, no “landmarks” to evaluate your emotions, what you have felt when you have got that shot, how much you value that place and that memory when you decided it is worth recording with your camera. Doing photography just to extend your soul into images will help you define yourself, understand who you are, where are you coming from and possibly, where you might be heading in the future to come.
Photographing for yourself is a very gratifying thing. You will not be stopped, intimidated by any critics, in fact, you can develop a philosophy, a style and learn from it. Stop caring about social networks. They are such a shallow and irrelevant place to learn, grow and define yourself. On the contrary, the social networks are like an undefined soup, with no taste, no colour, nothing real, that will only pollute your mind and confuse you with its absurdities. Stay focused. Instead of posting on social networks, try to create your own blog, that you manage in your own personal way. Your rules, not theirs. Keep it simple, display your photography there, try to express your messages there and let the people know about it. In time, the right people who are worth your attention will come to you, appreciate the way you are and your style of creating photography. It is better this way.
In our need of constant evaluation of our work, you could also be your own critic eye. Sometimes it is best to be relentless with your work. Select only the best. Don’t display your photos immediately after you have captured them. Let the time pass, a few months, half a year, maybe more. You will see your work differently, with more objective eyes, as you get further away from the emotional effect of the moment of photographing. The task of self-evaluation and self curation might be extremely challenging. But more about this, in a future article. Stay tuned! And may the light be with you! Be free!
All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2017 / www.sebastianboatca.com