Let's face it. It is hard sometimes not having your work appreciated. You put it in all the right places, Facebook, Blog and Flickr. And the only thing you get is some generic and meaningless “Likes”. No one comments, and you feel sorry for yourself. Dang it. To make things even worse this guy you know seems to get likes galore even if his images are nothing but average. You feel even more sorry for yourself, downright depressed. You are just one more dude or dudette with a camera in the face of planet earth.
People, and especially on-line are kind of selfish if you haven't noticed, they will never tell you if you are doing good but will surely voice their opinion if you do something bad. You probably never comment yourself, why expect others to do so? But then again, are you shooting for yourself or for others? Fact is, nobody will ever be your biggest fan but yourself (besides God of course 🙂 ). Invest in yourself, if you don't, who will?
I'm not saying to turn your back on constructive criticism or anything but you have to believe in yourself because nobody else will do that for you. Photography is not mathematics, it's not as simple as 1+1=2 and any other answer is wrong. Photography is much like beauty, highly subjective…..Let's take Mauritania as an example. You see, Mauritanian men love their women plum and huge, “I would never trade a big woman for a skinny woman” says one.
Crazy, because most of the western world find super skinny attractive. Look also at the Victorian era beauties, they are not really attractive to us but were to the men of old. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is the reason why your child or girlfriend is the most beautiful on earth. Most people don't share that opinion but that's ok. For most of the world you are a nobody, but for someone, you are their own world.
Ditto Photography, it is also in the eye of the beholder. While I would argue for an objective aesthetic minimum, the bulk is pure subjectivity. I can't stand non processed B&W images with no dodging and burning but I am sure another can't stand mine. Heck my own wife doesn't like my work that much. Who's right? Who's wrong? There is no “thou shall” and “thou shall not” in art. So what is the ruler to give your work value? Hits? Comments? Likes?
I believe that your work is only as valuable as you make it to be. I hope Van Gogh valued his work because he only sold one painting during his lifetime. Only you can put value to your work, it's YOUR work. So what if people don't appreciate it? It's all good as long as you do. Be your biggest fan, don't be snobby or obnoxious but love your work. Put your own name, your own photos as your wallpaper on your computer and phone. I have my custom wallpaper on all my devices. Print for your own eyes, make your hallway your own gallery. Get some frames and hang your prints around the house. Make your own photo book for yourself…
If you never got recognized for your work, would your photography still be fulfilling? If you respond no, chances are you are not in this for yourself but for fame and recognition. I have some photographs that no one else will ever see (most likely) and I really don't care. It's not a popularity contest (Wow! 15 comments! 8 Favorites!) it's more personal and deep. Yes every photographer yearns to be recognized but fact is some incredible photographs end up in shoe boxes in garage sales. Would you still shoot if your photographs will be forgotten?
Fame, fortune, recognition, likes, “friends” all do not compare if you do not value your work and find what you do meaningful. Don't try to be another, just be yourself. There's 8 billions of humans but only one you. Why be a copy when you can be an original? So many photographers are now nameless and visionless because they all copy each other. Same tilt sift lens, same angles, same poses, etc. I'm not saying two photographers can't have similar styles but looking at a certain handful and seeing all the similarities is too close for comfort.
Be yourself, always. Value your work, it is what truly gives it value, not what others appraise it to be or want it to be. I'm not a fan of Picasso's scribbly lines but he valued his style enough to go against all the grain of the art world. I respect him because he respects his work. The value of your work is what you determine it to be, people liking it or commenting on it is an added bonus. Be selfish, photograph for your eyes only, be your biggest fan, no one else can be for you.
If I sounded preachy, forgive me, as always, I preach to myself first!
Article originally published dec 19, 2012