Creating art or killing passion?
Are we putting too much pressure on ourselves to make sure every photograph we make is a work of art? It’s a very real struggle that may be slowly killing off our passion to create. Let’s take a closer look and talk it out, shall we?
Photography as art and the pressure of social media.
Love it or hate it, social media is the way of the world right now. Fire up your Instagram and try to scroll to the end of the photography. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Of course there is no end. There is more photography out there than any one person could possibly hope to spend time with. We end up scrolling mindlessly through hundreds and thousands of photos, double tapping on the ones that jump out at us then scrolling on.
Depending on who you follow, your feed is likely full of amazing photographs. The kind that make you feel like your feed is a steaming pile of garbage. You scroll, like, feel a little worse about yourself, and then vow that your next post will be epic. We slowly develop this mindset that if a photo is not receiving a bunch of likes it must not be good enough.
So we attempt to push ourselves to greater heights. We begin the game of trying to one up ourselves. We’ll get more likes, thus more success, if we create something more than photographs. A simple photograph won’t cut it anymore. It has to be epic. It has to be Art with that capital “A”.
What is success? Check my article from last week for my thoughts on that. But for now let’s focus on how we can ensure success by pushing ourselves to make Epic Art.
Then we burn out.
Stick with me here, this isn’t a social media rant.
Before we know it, our enjoyment of photography starts to disappear. We replace it with the pressure to create Art. Then we beat ourselves up when the online community doesn’t respond as well as we thought they would.
Look, I know what you are probably thinking right about now. “Another post from Dave that has him ranting about the evils of social media.”. That’s actually far from the case, so stick with me okay?
In fact, read on because I MIGHT actually say that social media is a terrific tool….MIGHT…no promises!
Pushing to create Art might be making us lose our passion.
I saw a quote recently from the street artist Banksy. It was a quote that really got me thinking because it was so painfully simple and clear to me. Here’s the quote:
“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”
― Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall
He’s referring to graffiti because it is his chosen art form. Substitute photography and the quote really rings true.
Let me break that down a bit.
The first line: “Graffiti(photography) is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing.” It’s so true, isn’t it. As long as you have a camera, any camera, you’ve got all you need.
Second line: “Even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty”- This is the part that I equate with the pressure we put on ourselves to create images with huge impact, Art with a capital “A”. This is something I struggle with, and I know I can’t be alone. I find myself comparing myself to others whose work I feel is somehow superior to my own. Trying to push to create work that has some sort of deep, earth shattering meaning. And I feel like a failure very often because I can’t hit that mark of perfection.
Last part of the second line: “you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.”. Ahh, now there it is, isn’t it.
That thing we all forget.
The solution to the problem of burnout and fading passion.
Return to a mindset of shooting what makes you happy.
It’s a cliche’, I realize that. But it’s a cliche’ because it’s also true.
We need to continue to step back and do a self evaluation from time to time, ensuring we are staying true to ourselves and what makes US happy as photographers.
Remember though, that even if it’s a small following, we still have people that enjoy seeing our work. When we start losing passion that shows up in our work and that audience will pick up on it. The key is to remember that they are interested in your work because it’s YOUR work. They didn’t follow you because they wanted perfection.
They followed you for the vision and joy that you brought to your photography, imperfections and all. We are all human and that is how and why we connect with each other, because of those human emotions present in our work. You can’t follow a formula to create work that is authentically you.
All you can do is be yourself. If you can make even one person smile as they enjoy your work, you’ve done something worth doing. Giving a single person an opportunity to check out of the stress of their world and escape into your photo, even for a moment, is just as important as creating that perfect photographic Art that you’ve been foolishly chasing.
Wait, where was the part where I talk about social media being a terrific tool?!
I said I MIGHT mention that remember!
Ok, ok, fine. Here you go. The reason that social media is fantastic is because it does allow you to share your work with the world. Even with all of the algorithms and drama that comes with it, when you share your work it will be seen. Having a huge following with enormous numbers has a time and place, especially if you are trying to build certain types of business.
More and more, however, I’m starting to feel that having real, personal connections with people via social media is so much more valuable than having huge numbers with no personal connection. From a strictly selfish side, it’s also so much more rewarding having actual conversations instead of seeing a hundred likes but no conversation.
Social media isn’t terrible. The way it works can sucker us into some very self destructive habits which maybe we can talk about some other time. As long as we can realize when we are slipping to that dark side of social media we can step back and re-focus on the light. Yeah I know, a Star Wars reference, I couldn’t help myself.
I’m so glad I found that quote from Banksy, it’s a great reminder that even reaching one person and giving them a smile from my work is all I really need.
All photos were created with a Fuji X Series cameras and lenses.
Images processed in Lightroom Classic with the Rebecca Lily Premium Color Grading Pro Set IV system as my base for all of my custom processing.
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