Sunday, May 6, 2012

For Success or Art?

The New Forest Heathland
It's rare that I decide to gear a blog towards the current photographic industry but this is where my blog today leads to. I should offer discussions like this more often. The thing I've been trying to answer a lot recently, especially with my own work, is do you (anyone) take photographs for art or for success?

Now I have no doubt at all that we all got into photography because we loved the idea of seeing a particular scene and wanting to capture it as perfectly as possible. We thoroughly enjoy it and this is what has led us further and further down the photographic path. However, with all the social media and technology raging in the world these days, I am seriously starting to question whether the love of photography seems to come after the importance of raising one's 'profile'. I'm trying to figure out in myself where I fit into this as well.

Most people will know that I am an optimistic thinker and accept success in all forms. If someone is well known, they are definitely doing something right. What perhaps is bothering me a little now though is the fact that quality in the photographic internet world seems to becoming sacrificed in place of exposure (no pun intended there!).

Of course, quality art is an interesting concept to debate in the modern world itself. And yes I would love to raise my profile as a photographer as well. But the problem I find is the whole 'get your name out there' concept, which is very unnatural and awkward for me. It does go against artistic principles I know to have a blog that promises 3 pictures a week because art itself should never have a quantitive promise or restriction. It should take as absolutely long as it needs to take. One person may have hundreds of poor and unpopular photographs but if there is one picture that they worked on for years and became a masterpiece, whatever they did in the social media world would be irrelevant. Art, and particularly masterpieces, are timeless and not affected by what happens in the social media world. There are great artists who probably do not own a computer but having focused entirely on their craft their whole lives, profile-raising does not become necessary.

So I find myself again questioning whereabouts do I sit on this issue? I guess I have a foot in both camps. I have this blog site which I love working on and I also have a Twitter page which I also enjoy updating now and then. But truthfully, I know it isn't social media that is going to lead to any potential success I have. It's simply how good the photos are that I am taking. This is all there is to it. I would happily trade in never trending on Twitter or becoming part of some Google+ debate if it meant taking years to becoming appreciated as someone who worked hard on his craft. In the meantime, find me some more people on the net with perhaps little 'exposure' (sorry again) but some mind-blowing photography and you will have found yourself a new fan.


  1. Fantastic write-up Pete. I think I know who you are referring to and I would agree. I guess if you rely on photography to make your living then constant exposure is commercially necessary. Funds must be raised to visit all those countries!

    Personally I would like to raise my profile and I try to produce decent images to do that. My day job pays the bills though and thus I am just a small fish in a big pond! Still I love trying!

    By the way the picture is beautiful. Atmospheric and moody. I expect to see a Google+ hangout debating the merits of it! ;-)

  2. Interesting post Pete, some great points well made. I too know the two photographers you mention and agree with Tim that their profile being raised in anyway possible is key to their continued success, so I don't begrudge what either are doing. To be where they are today, I reckon success has become more important to them and who can blame them. Both have worked hard at getting their name out there and it must require a lot of effort to sustain their success.

    I too see so many fantastic HDR photographers out there and wonder why they are not as successful as they could be and I think it comes down to a desire and quite a bit of luck!! Taking great photos is just a small part of making a living from photography.

    As for where I feel I fit in, I post my photos and blog mainly for fun and always have. I really enjoy looking at others HDR and get a lot of inspiration from it. I haven't pushed selling my photos as much as I could as I don't think there is much of a market for selling, although I have sold a few, there is certainly little or no chance of making a living from it. That may be part of the reason I have gone down the Wedding/Portraiture route as I love taking people photos and find there is just as much creativity to be found from this genre as landscape etc and this offers me a chance to make a living out of pressing that shutter!! And who wouldn't want that, right?

  3. Thanks for the fantastic comments guys, your input is much appreciated!

    Both of you make very valid points and I have taken all your opinions and points on board. Part of me does feel a bit guilty for that blog post as I know I shouldn't criticise other people's methods of success (though in all fairness I never did state they were wrong for applying them) but the other part of me sticks by what I said as that is how I feel. I could have written that blog 3 or 4 weeks ago but I didn't want to but now I just felt more compelled.

    I still believe ultimately that talent wins the day and I would never care if a successful photographer was raising his or her profile whilst also producing fantastic art. It's at the sacrifice of quality that this blog was written for. There are many amazing professional photographers out there who are financially and artistically successful without the hype. These are the people I find myself more inspired by these days. Another good example I think is Artie NG on Flickr who is hugely successful (at least in popularity terms) without the hype or multiple social media platforms.

    The irony is (and you hinted at this Tim!) is I know it takes a social media to state any opinions. And if I didn't want success myself, I wouldn't be interested in writing about it. So of course I want these things. Perhaps I will be appearing on a Google+ debate soon after all!

  4. Ok I have to comment on this. I answered this question as soon as I read the title.

    I would totally agree on the one masterpiece. I still have yet to take a photo I am truly satisfied with. If I am lucky I may take a few in my life.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Matt, I really appreciate the comment!