Mid (photography) life crisis and why there's more to photography than Instagram.
I don’t know what is happening to me recently as I feel like I’m going through the equivalent of a mid (photography) life crisis. I began shooting around 2008, roughly 10 years ago and have continually evolved ever since. My style has transitioned from taking photos of random stuff with no real purpose into capturing lifestyle portraits which I enjoyed very much. Eventually that evolved towards shooting urban landscapes where I refined my editing techniques and finally I’ve found myself settling on street/documentary photography. This is where I am now.
Why am I doing it? What do I want from photography?
I couldn’t even guess how many photographs I’ve taken that have ended up nowhere. Perhaps I kept them on a hard drive for a while before deleting them. Maybe I uploaded them to Facebook or Flickr. Where are they and what are they doing now? What is the point of all these pictures?
This is the question I keep asking myself. What do I want to achieve?
Like many other people I research a lot of photographers. I buy books and I watch photography lectures or documentaries. The world has seen some pretty incredible photographers whose work we appreciate very much. Images that each of us will forever praise, print or share. But what about our own work? What are we producing that holds value? More importantly to this article, what value does my own work hold?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot and worry that photo sharing websites, most recently Instagram have been ruining me.
When I look back at how I’ve been sharing my work over the years I realise how much my own output and productivity has been effected by the platforms I’ve been using. Each of these platforms has one common trait, likes equal value. Likes come in many forms but the feedback loop is always the same. Upload work, promote work, gain likes/followers, feel good about myself. My mid (photography) life crisis has arrived due to my sudden realisation of this.
Photography sharing platforms encourage me to share vapid work.
I understand the value of these platforms. It has never been so easy for photographers to market themselves. Photography has been democratised to the point of literally anybody being able to acquire a camera, share their work and gain recognition. This is a beautiful thing. Everybody can be an artist sharing their work with the world for us all to appreciate.
But are all photographs worth sharing?
Instagram is now leading the world in photo sharing with Instagram fame becoming a potentially lucrative business in itself. The problem I have is that Instagram fame isn’t based on talent or value. Instagram is instead based on productivity and dedication to Instagram. This platform will reward me for continual use and interaction. Basically the more I engage, the more return I receive on my investment. This is a problem and a trap that I don’t want to be tangled up in anymore. Frequently I see work being uploaded of mundane, everyday shit. The same lifestyle photographs, the same commuting photographs, the same portraits or streets. Continuity is achieved not though curating a strong body of work, but instead finding an editing style that creates an aesthetic consistency.
We’re moving away from substance and towards style at a million mile per hour.
I have fallen for it just like millions of other people. The tingle from 80 likes and a handful of followers convinces me that I must be doing the right thing. I’m being encouraged to do what rewards me rather than what helps me grow as a creative and an artist. I need to be brave and tear myself away from this algorithmic mentality. To pull myself through this mid (photography) life crisis and rediscover myself as a better photographer I’m making plans to change my habits.
Instead of fishing for likes and followers on social platforms I need to create my own space and drive my own values.
So here I am. This website is my work that I am proud of and that I believe has value. This blog is the beginning of my journey towards a better photography life. It will be a diary of who I am now and who I become over the next few years. My work must not be created or shared simply to attract likes and followers but instead have a purpose in my own life and be an insight into my own journey. I want to find topics that hold value to me and document them, shoot streets that have substance and are relevant to our time, capture my own life for me to enjoy, not with the intention of gaining attention. Just be fucking better.
Everything must be genuine and I need to believe in it!
Honestly, I think this blog is a way for me to release thoughts or leave a trail of inspiration along the way. But if you have found this and enjoyed reading it, or even felt the same then feel free to get in touch. I’m definitely interested in hearing from like-minded photographers. Shit… Maybe we could just follow each other on instagram! @concrete_soldiers
PS: I don’t hate instagram.
I have a a lot of friends who use Instagram and are making good business moves from it. If Instagram works for you and you get the value you’re looking for from it then keep killing it! I’ve met a lot of good friends from there and seen a lot of success come from it. This blog post is about why I need to stop relying on it.