Originally written in my journal on deviantART 5/1/2100 and updated 7/24/2011, it is geared for deviantART but can really be used on many websites that are community based photography sites.
Preface to set the stage, the lights are dim--It is honestly a rat race..(deviantART) ....and I certainly don't miss it either. In some ways I lost my focus, concentrating more on DA than photography itself. Becoming a gallery moderator, interacting with so many people, striving to have my work faved bt as many people possible and finally waking up and realizing that all of this is where I didn't want to be, and that it was indeed taking away what it was that I truely saught; to become a better photographer. All for the pursuit of what exactly? A pat on the back and seeing my image on the front page of a website? I would wake up every morning, get my coffee, sit at the pc for literally hours on end and not move. Doing nothing but concentrating on deviantART. (sad isn't it? I mean really, it is. It is even sadder to think that thousands, perhaps even millions do the zombie shuffle each and every single day as I once did too)
Yes it is addictive for many, if not most. The thing is, it isn't really the website itself which is addictive, but rather the interaction that is. The compliments, the dicussion (and that can encompass a LOT, 98% of which is not photography related) the arguments and the real possibility of becoming famous on a very large website. It is that addiction and the way which it is done that is exploited to it's fullest extent. And then you wake up......
The art of community competition--- Have you seen it? I am sure that you have. The whole "DDs I have suggested", "I have 1732662553 pageviews", "OMG I got a thousand favs" and "I now have 20,000 watchers!". What is this all about? Honestly. (for those of you who don't know, "DD" refers to "Daily Deviation", these are picks from gallery moderators on deviantART and are showcased on the front page of deviantART. Always shrouded in controversy it seems. Today's selection is here http://today.deviantart.com/dds/ )
There was once a time that I was of the same train of thought, where I would correlate how many favs, comments, if something made the front page of this website then it must be Godly, just like a lot do around here. I think in a lot ways we get tricked in to thinking that if something has so many favs and such, then it equates to a great image. When in actuality it simply means you have a lot of watchers and having a lot of watchers doesn't mean your work is necessarily good either, it simply means you are active on this website.
This is why so many people think DA is addictive. However once you really start to see things as they are, presented clearly, it really isn't. The only thing anyone is addicted to is the competition itself. the whole competition of getting your ego inflated by making the front page, favs, comments, all that jazz. that little pat on the back, that says "you are doing great", but really are you?
Take a step back for a second and examine the whole entire situation. Ask yourself if you really are doing good, or are you simply appeasing those within this realm itself, many of whom feel privileged to fav for fav, comment for comment and being a member of the "mutual admiration society"? (not all, but let's be honest here and call it for what it is, we all know how it is) The good old competition to one up those who you feel get more attention than you do and we all know, attention equals success, right? Not.
It is like a haze that covers an otherwise perfect clear view of things. We get excited when a group features our shot, we get excited when our work appears on DA's most popular page and we get excited when people add our images to their favs. But why? To appease our ego and our self worth as artists? To seek an answer in the age old question "is my work any good?"
Breaking The Chains--- So how do we break the cycle and see things for what they are? How do we break the train of thought of allowing the superficial ego inflating train of thought of "holy cow my work is on the DA front page, I must be really good"? How do we break the cycle of addiction & competition among fellow artists of getting more favs, comments and pageviews?
The answer to this is quite simple my friends.
If you REALLY want to better yourself as an artist and I mean REALLY learn things like technique, the medium, bettering yourself as a photographer, and not worry about the things which I mentioned above, there are a few places you can go to do this.
There are several others as well, but these 3 are 100% free and I thought of them first. Granted, a lot of you may find find these sites very intimidating but I can ensure you that you will learn, a lot. A whole lot. The people are very nice and the knowledge gained is worth it's weight in gold. I will be straight up though (and I am using this as an example) Most of those zoo shots you see on DA on the most popular page would be absolutely destroyed on sites like these. Cute Wolf = cute Wolf, it doesn't equal to a great photograph at all. (then again on said sites, zoo shots aren't considered nature photography, nor should they ever be to begin with.)
We need to remember what DA is, a social network, and nothing more. A platform for communication. If you notice, it is getting referred to as that a lot more these days, even with it being compared to facebook by some of those in a administrative position. It is what it is.
However, if you honestly want to be good, and know where you stand, take a step forward for yourself and venture out there. Learn everything you can about photography. In the end it isn't about a competition between artists on some website for favs, comments, pageviews, it is about doing what you love, experiencing it first hand, and doing it first and foremost because you love it!
Now go out and shoot something!
Below are a few recent shots from recent outings.