I apologise in advance for the, at times, abrupt nature of this post. Actually screw that (oops, started already) I offer no apologies as this is something I feel very passionate about. Photography, for me, is something which is only second to the passion I share for my family, so I think at times it's good to let go a little steam for something which you really believe in.
Seeing the Art from the Trees
Sadly, especially with the proliferation of social media, I feel that sometimes great photography, and in turn photographers, is being buried under the deluge of images that are at our finger tips via sites such as Instagram, 500px, Flickr and Facebook. Don't get me wrong, the accessibility of photography online is a great thing and I feel privileged that I have this access. I feel, however, that this easy access to images seems to be numbing our minds to what really is a great image. Take as little as 5 years ago, when an image of the Northern Lights reflecting over ice filled lakes, an atmospheric autumnal loch or milky waves underneath a pink sky would have floored us with its beauty. Now, similar photographs may get no more than a second glance (if even that) even though the photographer may have been working many days, weeks or even months on the image. We feel like we are doing a great service to the photographer if we take a second out of our busy morning to click the like button. Or if we are feeling extra special nice we both favourite and like the image. We can pull out all the stops by also adding "Great Image" in the comments.
If you call yourself a photographer (or in anyway shape or form appreciate art) then this is without doubt one of the worst things you can do - and you need to stop it ... NOW !!
I mean it ... STOP IT !!!
Take your time
Just pause for a moment and have a think. When is the last time you actually took your time over a particular image. Observing its depth. Its subtle colour changes and textures. The composition that the photographer had in mind. Did you fill the screen and take a step back to appreciate it. Did you click through and find out more about the photographer. Did you take the time to give some constructive feedback. Did you bookmark the image and come back to it at a later date?
I'm guessing not, or at least not to the extent the image warranted. I've been there. We gave it 5 seconds of our morning over coffee, clicked like. And moved on. Well here's the thing. This behaviour is not only belittling the work of the photographer, but it's also hurting your own artistic vision - more than you might actually appreciate at the time.
The Time for Change
I too have been guilty of passing over images, of clicking like and moving on. Right now I find myself at a bit of a low ebb in terms of photography and creativity (more on that to come) but I've also found that when I really take my time over an image, to really explore it, it has really helped my own mind from an artistic point of view. Since leaving my day job to follow photography from a full time perspective I have to admit that I've, at times, been plunged into pretty dark corners. I think this is partly due to how passionate I am about creating work that I have a real connection with (again more on that to come in a later blog post) and I've struggled to find that connection of late.
I've found myself spending quite a bit of time looking at the work of Paul Sanders (long exposure), Russ Barnes (forests), Mark Littlejohn (backwater wanderings) and most recently Andy Gray (abstracts) and have times found myself actually feeling quite emotional as I really connect with their images. Some beautiful and emotive work in those pages. I urge you to take your time over them.
So this blog post is also a call to fellow photographers. Let's change how we behave when viewing other peoples images. Let's take the time to appreciate the image. To explore. To leave meaningful feedback. To share amongst our own connections. I really do believe that a deeper connection with the images out there will help us grow and develop as not only photographers but also to foster deeper connections with the subjects we photograph.
Okay that wasn't too much of a rant in the end ..... I must be mellowing in my old age. Now excuse me while I go shake my fist at a bunch of kids kicking football across the way.