My latest photo book “The Remnants” is now available as a softcover book or in PDF format viewable on just about any device!
You can purchase it here!
To see my other books please visit my website.
I’m a firm believer that a photograph should look like a photograph. So just what is a photograph supposed to look like? I don’t know. It’s very elusive. But I do know it when I see it. Just look at some of Joel Sternfeld’s images. They have soul. It’s really hard to describe and put into words. They are real. They are imperfect. They are metaphorical. They can describe a place but not fully explain it.
I think that’s the magic of still photography…that there is something left out – something that only the viewer’s imagination and the viewer’s own perspectives and experiences can fill in.
I have lived near this place for thirty years, and have taken countless photographs of scenes like this. Each time I stand there in the rain looking around, I see sections of a landscape that sometimes leave me puzzled at exactly what I’m seeing. There is a beauty and an irony in the human condition that I can often not comprehend.
Andy Borowitz said, “There is a fine line between social media and wasting your life.”
For a few years now I’ve been participating in Instagram and Facebook. I’ve always known that Facebook had limited value for promoting my work as a photographer as it tended to connect more on a local level rather than a global level. And if you’re the type of photographer who does family photography for example, it’s important to use social media particularly for local advertisement of the services you offer.
However in my case I’ve always considered myself to be an artist above all else, and my chosen medium is photography. There is very little interest locally for the type of photography that I do. There is very little in the way of financial support for the type of photography that I do on a local level. The amount of money that local interest generates in the way of print sales, teaching, or book sales, wouldn’t even come close to paying for the coffee I drink. This is a fact.
Getting back to Facebook, I had to ask myself the question, “What is the value that Facebook is giving me in exchange for spending a substantial amount of time exporting and sharing images and perusing the barrage of advertisements and opinions?” The only answer I could come up with was a few scattered likes here and there. If someone is genuinely interested in getting a photography lesson, they will contact me through my website. Otherwise, Facebook offered me no added value in the way of print sales or book sales. And in general, there is next to zero interest in “art photography” or helping to support an “art photographer” locally. Even doing local exhibitions provides no monetary reward for a photographer to break even with their costs.
But this is all ok. Sure it would be nice if our community valued art or photography more than it does, but that’s just not the case. I wrote a blog post entitled “Photographers: Who Do You Really Work For?” where I outlined the concept of knowing where you stand as a photographer and the importance of doing what you do for you and no one else. In the end, not many people will value your work as much as you do. And if you ask any true artist they will tell you that as an artist you don’t owe anybody anything. You are not obligated to entertain people with your posts or explain your art. And you shouldn’t be dependent on the validation of others to give meaning to what you do. It’s that simple.
In the case of Instagram, I had upwards of 8000 followers. I always found it interesting to look at photographs, however the Instagram beast is a strange creature indeed. I have a full time career on top of what I do as a photographer. Instagram took an enormous amount of time away from my day just keeping up with comments, posting regularly, and liking other’s posts. It was a vortex that I found myself falling into several times a day instead of fulfilling my goals as a photographer and artist. It operated more on a global level and I suppose it was good in the fact that people in all parts of the world were exposed to my photography. But exactly what did it provide to me in the way of support for my art? Again, the only answer was likes. Several years and 8000 followers did not get me any substantial volume of print sales, book sales, or interview opportunities.
I laughed out loud when a friend once told me, “Photographers are like leeches – all they do is spy on others to see what they’re doing and then steal their methods to make themselves look good.”
Well I don’t think it’s quite like that, but it is true that photographers use other photographers for inspiration and are rarely interested in providing financial support unless there’s something substantial in it for them.
But again, Instagram drained my energy and time in return for feeling good about what I do. I already feel good about what I do, and I enjoy doing it!
I highly doubt that Instagram was going to make me famous or get me an interview with art magazines or receive a phone call from Stephen Shore.
Let me refer you to another blog post that I wrote called, “On Photography and Art” where I said, “The ultimate Zen though is being free – free from too much thought…free from technology…free from constraint…free from worry about what others may think…and free from needing any acknowledgement that what you’re doing is valid. That’s when art happens.”
Thus for years I have spun around and around the revolving door of social media. A week ago I jumped. I can now breathe again as an artist.