So, it turns out i'm not a real photographer!
This is some stuff i've been thinking about for a really long time now. I often don't like to share my opinions on things like this, because then i feel all bitchy and mean. Not to mention, i have a feeling it's going to make me seem old and crotchety. But, i'm entitled to my opinion just like everyone else. And that's mostly what this all is, my opinion, my way of looking at this stuff. I'm not meaning to call anyone out, definitely not anyone specific. Also, i'm completely open to talking about this stuff. I don't mean this to be a one sided-preachy post. Disagree, agree, whatever, feel free to say something back to me.
When i started taking pictures and posting them online [which is something that has gone hand in hand for me from the very beginning] i did so surrounded by a community of all sorts of artists an non-artists alike. This was before twitter, myspace, facebook, flickr, even most blogs. [See? Old!] And while there were always opinions, disagreements, and yes, copying, it was way more of a supportive thing. We were allowed to sort of just play around, get feedback, progress on our own terms, etc. Most of us hadn't gone to school for it, weren't so worried about making money off of everything, making contacts, being internet famous, etc. I know that isn't the way things are in all art circles, but it was basically how it was in mine. And looking back on it now, i loved it.
Time went on, we grew older, and since most of what we posted art wise went along with whatever we posted that was personal, once some had families, real jobs, or had gone finally into commercial photography it was less convenient to keep on as we had been. That's fine, things change, but i feel like what has replaced it kinda sucks.
My first gripe is that these days it seems like there is a big importance of quantity over quality. Part of this is definitely just part of the how it is to be an artist online. Take 365's out of the equation and you're still left with an enormous influx of art, all day everyday. Go silent for a little while and you're forgotten. But add on the 365 and things get nuts, and those participating are practically performing monkeys. I understand the idea behind it, i'm not even entirely opposed to it, but it seems like a creative stranglehold. Which i think is even more apparent when you see that so many of the images repeat the exact same themes, include the same items. Half the time when i'm looking through my feeds i don't know what belongs to who, because so much looks the same. And if i can't tell one persons work from someone else's, if so many don't appear to have their own voice, how are these artists even positively progressing?
On the flip side, it seems the ones who do have their own voice, end up trying so hard to continue to have it they basically make themselves miserable in the process.
There is also a serious lack of mystery. I'm bombarded, even from photographers i love, by tutorials and before and afters. I, frankly, do not care. I do not want to know. When i look at your finished piece, it's all i want to see. I want to react to it, feel from it, or not feel from it. I want a regular art viewing experience. I don't want my brain clogged up with what you did technically to get it there. It's just as bad to me as the question of "beautiful image, what camera did you use to take it?" It shouldn't matter, none of it should. And i wonder just how much it contributes to the fact that we see so many people copying others. It's way more easy when you've let them all know how exactly to do it. [This isn't my blaming those photographers who share this stuff. Those who so blatantly take other people's ideas without putting ANY effort in to make things their own are always the one to blame. You just can't deny they're not exactly helping the situation.]
Sure, sometimes i explain things. Often times i'll be like "i hung this up like this and then did this", but it's mostly to avoid having a bunch of people individually ask me. And i don't sit there and explain everything for every image, from beginning to end. Just as i won't sit down and give you a novella for what an image means to me, what the concept behind it was. But i feel like the more the artist focuses on the technical side, the more the viewer does, and then that is all it ends up being about.
Plus, it becomes expected. Now i have people asking me for a guide to how i did things. If they can see an unaltered version. I see people COMPLAINING when they've asked for this information from other photographers and it wasn't given to them. I'm not a teacher, i'm a photographer. If other people are fine teaching, then that's them, it doesn't mean we all need to drop what we're doing to let you know how to do something exactly like us. And i admit, i might just be cranky because no one taught me anything. I've learned almost completely by trial and error, and i didn't put in that time and effort for anyone but myself. And while sometimes i'll give someone a tip or a hint, i think most of the time people just need to figure shit out for themselves.
And, this is my biggest issue and the main reason why i wanted to write this entry, i see a lot of photographers telling other photographers how to be. With twitter and facebook fan pages and blogs, you see loads of artists waxing on all philosophical, and all but telling everyone else "if you're not doing this then you're doing things wrong". Implying there is some sort of formula to success like theirs. You only need the right mindset. To work hard. To open yourself up to it.
From other photographers, some of which have only been shooting for a very short period of time, i would have learned that i'm not a real photographer. That i'm not passionate, or at least not passionate enough. That if things aren't all sunshine and daisies, it's my fault.
I won't claim i don't hold myself back. I won't claim that i'm perfect. And i know my goals, or maybe lack thereof, are probably a little strange to some insanely driven people who want success and/or to be idolized. The thing is though, that's perfectly fine. There is no one type of person, so there certainly isn't going to be one type of artist or photographer. But then there is no one path or formula to success. There are going to be people who try till they bleed and cry, and you know what, it won't get them anywhere. There are going to be people who copy other people almost solely, or take what is basically the same image 50 times, who will be worshipped and praised. And i can say with no doubt in my mind, after more than 10 years of observation, a picture of a pretty girl will get more attention than a picture of something "just" interesting, or at the very least lacks a pretty girl. The world isn't fair or perfect. The art world possibly even less so.
Sometimes i want to shoot so bad it hurts. Sometimes i want to chuck my camera out the window. Sometimes i'm proud of what i accomplish and other people like it too. Sometimes i'm proud and no one gives a shit. Sometimes i hate everything i do and people tell me it's my best work ever. I often can think of nothing but planning shoots. But often i couldn't make myself pick up my camera if i wanted to. That's my way in this. That doesn't mean it needs to be your way. It doesn't mean it is right, or wrong. It doesn't mean i need to change into something i'm not. It sure as hell does NOT mean i'm not a real photographer, or that i'm lacking love and passion in my work.
I don't think you should let anyone, even someone you admire, tell you how to be. If something feels right to you, then i think you should do it. If you think you need to make certain changes to get what you want, then do it. But you should make the art you want to make. Don't bend to the pressure, or to someone else's guidelines. Don't find your pride and success in the amount of favorites or comments you get, or think if you have the right equipment you'll be what you want to be.
Make your own damn way. Even if you're following the footsteps of someone awesome, you're still following.