Recently I came upon two blog posts which made me stop in my tracks. One which written by Rachael Alexandra titled "10 steps. Feathers, webs & water" The other was from landscape photographer Dan Jurak titled "Shooting the landscape or let's play follow the leader"
Notice anything in those posts? They exemplify what I have been feeling for a long time now as a photographer. Quite awhile actually. See, I have been questioning for awhile now sites like Google Plus and how they cater to those who literally need to feel justified within their artistic endeavours as a photographer by the amount of +1s something gets. It's all become photography masturbation 101 (excuse my French there) and it has become the home of elitism defined. Once upon a time I used to love the place, I praised it endlessly and I adored it. I used to log in and start my day there each and every morning and now, I don't.
Now I am sure that this post will rattle a few bones in some, I don't have many qualms about that but it is what it is. For lack of a better description, what is happening is that you have essentially a handful of people who run the whole show on there. No I won't name any names but suffice to say many of you know who I am talking about & they know who they are too. From petty, absolutely stupid things like "I will not share you in a circle because you have a watermark" to the massive amount of ass kissing and cliquey atmosphere which has developed. people who are in the whole "photographer of privilege circles" and play the numbers game.
Enough with that though because this isn't a photoblog entry strictly about the merits (or lack thereof) of G+ but about the whole picture (no pun intended lol) of things.
There is only one real way to get better at things and it involves almost nothing to do with social networks with comments of "pretty" or "nice shot" exist. You know what that is? To keep doing it more and more. Keep shooting more and more. Art is one of those things that everybody grows in after a period of time and photography is no exception to the rule. Often times we look to others to gain insight, learning & help which I agree is helpful, tremendously but nothing will ever replace time spent in the field doing what you love to do, take pictures.
I see so many these days get frustrated with their work and one thing seems to be a common trait across the board. The lack of feedback which they get on their work. Whether it on G+, deviantART, Flickr...the problem is one which spreads across multiple photo websites.
People have a natural drawing to things which make them feel good and getting comments on a photo which you clicked the shutter for is just that very thing. While it feels good to be patted on the back with praise and compliments and it feels good to have your ego stroked, I offer up the question of what is it doing for you as a photographer?! I see so many base their self worth as a photographer on the amount of favs, +1s, "likes" something gets and it makes me so sad. This is certainly a product of the Internet age and it is a bad one at that too. If we go back to 1995, who was doing that? Nobody. No one based their own self worth on anything like this. Today though that isn't the case and I see many fall into this trap. Everything is so in the "here and now" as it relates to things. One look at any social networking site and you will see something like "Wow! I got published!", "I have 125,000 followers now!", "Thank you so and so for sharing this of mine"...on and on it goes. The circle or merry-go-round, never stopping always constant.
Step back, re-evaluate, think and yes, breathe. many times we don't. Many times we fail to do the one thing which really can help us. Prioritizing. Where is it you want to go with your photography? What is it you want to achieve? What are your goals? We all share one common trait, no matter what subject you shoot...we all want to get better. It is how you execute that in which you will find happiness and enjoyment when photographing. Write out a list of what you seek, try to follow it and come back in 6 months and see what you have done. Tuck it away, keep it safe and revisit it after a period of time. You will find one of two things--you either were sidetracked and didn't keep to it or you accomplished what you want too. You will fine one thing though for sure in it---honesty.
The Long Road
I found happiness behind the camera finally and some others I have spoken with also have. How? they did it by putting forth a commitment to not get to engulfed in social networks, play the numbers game for popularity, they took a break from such sites and got back to doing what they love, photography. A lot of folks get wrapped up in social networks, seek the praise and seek the quick ego strokes. I understand that fully, I really do because I used to as well. Probably more in some respects than most. heck I used to spend upwards 8 hours a day and more on deviantART alone (what was I thinking?!?!?!?) 5 years ago. I saw a lot, I learned a lot and one day I had what I can only say amounted to the Nestea plunge poured all over me. My health began to suffer from it and I realized that instead of being a photographer I was a "social network photographer". Now what I had planned nor what I ever envisioned. Yet there I was....
It is really easy to get caught up in it all and lose sight of everything. In many ways it becomes an addiction (in fact it is) Many who were once big on deviantART who have left the site will tell you this. It was their drug until they woke up too and realized what was happening. They were losing them as an artist and as a photographer for the quick praise. Granted some don't but many do.
When I took a second step back about 10 months ago I noticed some other things. At the time I was very active on G+ and I started to see the forest through the trees. It was starting to repeat again but not so much with me but others--the chasing of praise, popularity, the cliques which were evolving, the snarkiness, the alienation of many to serve the chosen few, etc. It was then I decided to focus my attention on my personal website and on my facebook photography page
I know a lot of people have issues with facebook but I will give the devil it's due here. It allows me to communicate with people unlike ever before. No other site anyplace else allows for this because it isn't just my fellow photographers but rather the general public at large. People who aren't photographers but have a general love of my work, people who admire it for what it is. This in turn leads to clients (your fellow photographers aren't the ones purchasing your prints, they have their own work) I found it refreshing and I found it completely non-stressful as well. For me, it was the oasis in the desert that I had been searching for. Ultimately this lead to the freeing up of more time for me to do what I love and do best, photography. Not being only out there in the field but processing and editing too.
In fact I have been shooting so much that I need as much time as I can get just to process images. I am literally entrenched in what seems like a never ending workflow. Maybe it's time to hire that robot that is ACE certified lol
I do know one thing though, don't lose sight of what you want out of your photography and if you do, come to me and I will gladly through my old Bogen 3030 head at ya. Thing weighs a ton and will will wake you up pretty quick!
Now, go get it done!