On Photography: Facebook, Praise, and the Subsequent Reality
Many of my friends, neighbors, (and of course immediate family members) know that I’m a full-time freelance photographer. Since graduating college my photographic posts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Google+ has ballooned exponentially as I frequently publish what I believe to be the best quality photographs that I’m currently capable of producing, favoring quality over quantity. In my opinion, it’s a quiet self-promotion, meaning that no one is obligated to look, comment, or purchase, and the photographs have, so far, enjoyed the privileged status of content that by and large receives praise and complement.
By no means do I have any issue with this. I am always deeply appreciative of the comments, questions and interactions I have with my friends and other developing photographers. I believe most people who know me would be hard-pressed to produce someone who could claim that I’ve been less than helpful in thoroughly answering a question on the topic of photography (providing I have an opinion or know the answer).
But all of this having been said, the reason I’m writing this blog is to explain the internal challenges regarding praise that has in all honesty been surging inside my mind in recent weeks. I don’t know how to say this other than to just simply say it, but it is so extraordinarily difficult to remove myself from all of your kind comments only to show my work to professional, veteraned photographers who tell me that it’s absolutely terrible. Professional food photographers would absolutely tear me apart over the recent work I’ve done through Del Frisco’s Grille and Frito-Lay. What few cityscapes I’ve shot of the Dallas skyline have for all insensitive purposes (on a professional scale) been nothing but trash. I know that most of you don’t get to hear this stuff, and that some of you may think I’m making it up, or that I’m being too critical of my own work, but the reality is that some of the best people in the industry have seen my work, and I rarely, rarely receive praise. I think (and I hope) that there are photographers reading this who can identify with what I’m saying, because I’ve jumped through some brutal hoops over the past few months, and while the criticisms have improved my skills, they’ve also mentally damaged me in a way that’s very difficult to ignore. Professional photographer’s want me to be very critical of photographs, and I am so far as I know how to be. I admit in complete honesty… if I was to be as critical as the thoughts in my mind about my own work, I would hardly post one photograph a week, and if I was to be as critical of photographs as the pro’s ask of me on other photographers work, I would expect that hardly anyone would continue to seek my opinion.
It sincerely fulfills me to know that so many of you enjoy my work, share it, request prints and leave me heartfelt praise on so many of my pictures. But it is so extraordinarily difficult to move past the bitterness of reality; that my work, in the eyes of many professional image makes, is essentially crap.
To be fair, the definition of success is determined by my values. In photography, I value the opinion of professional photographers. I value their opinions because I’m of the mindset that if someone has had recurrent work with editorials such as National Geographic, the New York Times, TIME Magazine, etc., then I can reasonably conclude that they’re probably a talented photographer, thus, knowledgeable on what makes a ‘good’ versus a ‘bad’ picture.
All of the pro’s opinions aside, one photographer – Chris Usher – has told me numerous times: the best measure of whether a picture is good or bad, is to simply show your neighbor. And, historically, most of my images have always been well received by friends and neighbors. So perhaps I need to work on adopting the Usher mindset, but lately, this stuff has been tearing me up inside.