If you’re over thirty you likely remember the “#” symbol as the pound sign. Reaching back to the days when phones had tails and commenting on the actions of others was a closed system. A person witnessed an event or action from another person, which would be followed by the expression of an opinion that in turn would immediately be met with either approval or disapproval from the parties involved; all of this taking place within mutual striking distance.
Wait, where was I? My notes seem to stop here…. Oh yes, that’s right, now I remember. I was talking about the slow but assured dismantlement of the photographic medium as it is perceived by it’s practitioners and the public.
An Unjustifiable Homicide
Well, perhaps not the complete destruction of the idea of photography but rather the decaying perception of the art and it’s purpose. To rip-off a certain neurotic philosophes’ attitude…photography is dead, and we have killed it.
Dead. Murdered. Life functions extinguished. Shot out of season and strapped to the hood of a car. It’s the soggy white stick of an all day sucker. The milks’ gone bad. Constant bombardment of photographs, and the ready accessibility for constant mass approval of those photographs has numbed us.
So, I quit. A few days ago I left Instagram. The three accounts I ran (yes, three) are now gone and as of 10:00 A.M. this morning I still draw breath, I haven’t gone broke from the lack of ‘likes’ and followers and I most certainly have found that I do not miss the anxiety of wondering what to post today or tomorrow. Like quite a few other photo makers I know the very ideals which ignited my hunger for making pictures in the first place have slowly been self-extinguished.
“You must have a social media presence!” What the hell does that even mean? Social media presence is a manufactured phrase that has no real impact of you, your work or your intent as a creator. You can be social and be present and produce media and not have a social media presence. Yes, you can.
Most of us don’t have sponsors for our social media accounts, we don’t rely on ad dollars and affiliate income which is DIRECTLY related to the pictures that we post. For those who do rely so heavily on platforms such as Instagram for their livelihood, the majority of them got to the well early and my friends, the water has run dry. Ironically enough, I make my own living from the peripheral elements that involve photography and social media entities…and I still left.
I used to love making photographs and I used to love sharing those photos with other people. I used to love talking about the photographs I make and the experiences surrounding them. Yet, over the last year or so, the very enterprise of making and sharing my photos on highly trafficked platforms has left me feeling flat, more or less numb both in my attitude towards my work and in the way I present it to others.
No matter the content, a photograph is more than the sum of it’s parts and for that reason any outlet for them should never be limited by image compression or word space, self-imposed rules or our own ridiculous delusions that we need…or deserve…the validation of ignorant eyes offering ignorant opinions. In short, we are putting the cart before the iguana.
Many of us “shoot for the share” and inadvertently cut ourselves off at the knees creatively by augmenting how and what we photograph based on the manufactured idea that the ‘likes’ our photos receive is a direct proportion of the inherent worth of the image. This is wrong and this is a deadly methodology for your creative vision.
A New Hope
In the spirit of resurrecting my own photographic dignity I have chosen to become Lazarus. The end is nigh for posting multiple crowd serving images a week on Instagram, no more contemplating what to say and what not to say in the captions and researching pound signs…I mean hashtags will no longer be one of my prime directives. I will post periodic photo essays to show you photographs with purpose and meaning beyond ‘likes’ and comments. Most importantly, real interactions between the viewer and the photo-maker will be reborn in the hopes that we can, in fact, breathe new life into the corpse we all seem to have had a hand in making.
Authors note: All of this is a matter of opinion, my opinion. There are exceptions and by no means do I suggest you follow my lead and vacate your social media streams (I still have Facebook for the time being). Consider the ideas listed here as a mild reminder that there are many outlets to channel your energy as a photo maker.
Photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find me on some distant trail making photographs or at my computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Pick up a copy of my new photo book of wild pony portraits, Faces of Grayson.