Tag Archives: social media

Just. Sounds. Terrible.

White Trees, Series 1, No. 9.

I’ve been listening lately to the photography podcast “F-Stop Collaborate and Listen” by Matt Payne.  It’s a great podcast, I really recommend it if you are a landscape photographer.  Every week he interviews a different landscape photographer, often a full-time working professional, on a variety of topics in current landscape photography.  Being pretty much an outsider, I’ve learned a lot about how this field works and who some of the personalities within it are.

One topic that comes up over and over is social media.  If you want to be a professional landscape photographer starting out today, I gather that social media is critical to succeeding.  Myself, I have virtually no social media presence, so I can’t really speak from firsthand knowledge, but I have to say it just… sounds… terrible.

First, as near as I can tell, the consensus seems to be that social media for photography is basically a big, hothouse, echo chamber.  It appears to reward the posting of essentially the same kinds of images over and over (the same locations, from the same viewpoints, under the same kinds of lighting conditions, etc.), typically in the form of a grand landscape in bold colors.  Since I photograph in black and white, often in anonymous locations and with somewhat subdued subject matter, it seems to me my photography might not have a place in this kind of environment.

Second, I get the impression there’s a lot of hostility in social media.  Say the wrong thing online, even with good intentions or by virtue of simple mistake, and you run the risk of being slammed with a backlash of vitriol and negativity.  While I realize that I’m an outlier, I’ll confess that I find people unpredictable and volatile under the best of circumstances.  I certainly would not want to expose myself to the ire of thousands of strangers online.

So, I used to think of my lack of presence on social media as a bit of a personal failure.  And really, it probably is – if someone wanted to magically offer me 100,000 followers on Facebook, I’d have a hard time saying no.  But given what I’ve learned about how social media works from listening to interviews with the pros, I do feel less bad about not being engaged with it.

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Shameless Self Promotion

Juniper Tree in Devil's Garden.  Arches National Park, Utah, 2014.

Juniper Tree in Devil’s Garden.
Arches National Park, Utah, 2014.

I follow a fair number of photographers and other kinds of artists online, through things like Web pages, blogs, and social media.  I do so because I have a genuine interest in their work and I like to hear what they have to say about it.  This interest certainly includes finding out about their upcoming exhibitions – there’s no substitute for seeing work in person versus on a computer screen, and I take the opportunity to do so when I have the chance – and, to a lesser degree, hearing about their awards, accolades, etc.  I also recognize that most artists who maintain an online presence do so, at least in part, to promote their work, myself definitely included.  All of which is understandable, proper, and certainly fine with me.

Still, I’ll confess to beginning to feel a bit of self-promotion fatigue.  I first noticed it when I began seeing artists post acceptance emails from awards they had won, exhibitions they had been accepted into, etc.  Not merely a post stating the fact of it, mind you, but actually copying the correspondence they had received for others to read.

I’ve also noticed what I think is an uptick in the cycle of posting about these kinds of things.  For example, it no longer seems enough just to share, maybe once or twice, that one’s work is being exhibited somewhere.  Instead, you get a post about receiving the acceptance letter, followed by one about finalizing the work, followed by one about dropping off the work at the exhibition site, followed by one about the exhibition opening in two weeks, then one week, then tomorrow, then another post about the artist’s reception, and then posts about the exhibition closing in two weeks, then one week, then tomorrow, etc.

Is it just me, or is it enough already?  I generally feel that if someone is interested in your work, they will choose to follow you out of interest in what you do.  Sharing your accomplishments certainly fills some of that interest to a point, but after a while it crosses a line and begins to feel like being shouted at with a megaphone.  I follow photographers and other artists primarily because their work resonates with me and I want to find out more about that, not to be a distribution point for items that fill up their CV.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m judging those who engage in this.  Really, I mean that.  It’s a tough world out there in which to be an artist, and I totally understand the need for artists to get the word out about their work.  I suppose I’m just expressing that, for one person, the balance seems sometimes to be getting a bit out of hand.

And of course, as with many things, I’m probably out of the mainstream on this.  I’ve been accused of under-marketing myself, and that may be true.  Early on, I made a decision that I would use my blog and other online presences to express my interest in photography and the arts, not to self-promote those few accomplishments that come my way.  As it is with those whose work I follow, I hope that those who follow me do so simply because they like my work.

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