This is a controversial topic, but one that I want to talk about.
Photographers deciding what is good photography, and what is not.
All of the photos used in this post have been sold as prints, and I put them here to make a point about my work that I no longer deem good enough for the public eye.
Here me out...
On my social media stream perhaps half of my feed is photography related, the remaining half friends/work/family. A typical post from me might be a portrait of my children or a Landscape, and I get a mixture of comments. Friends and family say 'Wow' 'cute smile' 'you woke up at 4am!'. My photography friends say 'was that taken on the Sony' 'what lens did you use?' 'Nice colours in the sky'. Very different responses.
We photographers see things very differently to the 'others'. And sometimes I think we are missing the point. But here is the dilemma. Who are we taking the photos for, ourselves or others?
It's like the judges of a photography competition. Do you ever look at the winning image and think that the highly commended or shortlisted images were better? This is evidence of how subjective the art form is, even with several professional seasoned photographers; taste is based upon so many life experiences that shape us as a person. Our own tastes are a constantly moving standard also. So what is the mark of a good photograph?
This is where I believe photographers fall into two camps. On the one hand you have the full-time photographers. They have a job to do, they have clients and a brief to meet. If they don't have a brief to meet then they need to create what people want, someone has to pay the bills. Then you have the hobbyist photographers, like me, that shoot what they want and if people like it then great. It's a bit shaky up on my high horse, but I can still take photos from the saddle. No one gets to tell me how to take photos!
But this doesn't happen straight away. I was taking crappy photos for years, some of them on show here, because I was still learning the art-form and unintentionally taking the type of shots that I liked before I picked up the camera. All of the photos here I have sold in the past...but now they live in the archive on an old hard drive never to be seen again. You will see a reoccurring theme in the photos that I have metaphorically thrown away, and that common trait is HDR and distasteful processing. The problem is that people love them!
Last time I checked, photography was still subjective...
Now of course, not all photographers are the same, and not all 'non-photographers' perceive an image the same. Some artist's may like some of the images here that I have destined for the recycle bin, and others not into photography might cringe at some of the images on display here. There is no right or wrong in art, and that is why it gets so heated in the photography forums when you ask for opinions. Even a 'which one is better, colour or black and white' will start an argument amongst photographers.
So what is my point?
Well my wife, who is my biggest critic, tells me that I don't value her opinion; as I have taken photos off my website that she liked, but I don't think are good enough. What a position to be in. But I have to be the critic of my own work and take some ownership for how I portray myself online and on my website. I could of course put the vote out to fellow photographers and friends, but that is a can of worms as they say! My intention with my photography is always get the images as close to the finished article in camera as possible. Often referred to as a purest. I let mother nature create the red-skies at sunrise & sunset, the colour of the sea can stay as it is, and the sun will remain the brightest part of the photo. I like to think that I edit these images within the subtlety that they deserve. No need to take seven exposures and blend them all together in photoshop when I get back to the computer, I will just point my camera away from the sun. If that doesn't work, I will come back at a different time or day or even a different season.
So I take the shot, and I process it as I want. Of course, it is great for the ego if people like the photo, but I need to be happy with it.
I get emails from clients saying for example,"I like the image of the pier on your website, but do you have it in colour". Of course I do, but I made the decision to make it black and white and that is what is for sale. Do I then offer a client an image that I am not happy with to make a sale? These are my first world problems.
When it back-fires
All of this comes back to bite me when a grossly-over saturated-unrealistic-HDR'd-photoshopped to death-landscape gets a ton of attention online, plenty of sales and gets shortlisted into photographer of the year! I used to assume that this is photographers going through an HDR phase, or someone learning some new photoshop skills, but maybe they are giving people what they want? Photographers don't buy other photographer's work, so why do we hold other photographers opinions in such high esteem? It's because we want the approval of our peer's. You could have ten of your friends positively comment on a photo and one photographer says that the horizon is off and you throw your computer out the window.
The best of the best
I have to treat my website as my shop window, and that means the tricky task of culling images all the time. My rule is that if I want to add another photo to my website, something has to go. You can't just keep adding to your website. Only the best will make the final cut. So although I have good memories creating these images on show here, they are a part of my journey and I no longer want them in my portfolio; even if they would be great sellers.
Let's wrap this up...
If the images posted here are better than what I have on my website, then I have bad judgement, and I will have to live with that. But this is where I am in 2018.
If you are a photographer reading this, ask yourself who you are shooting for. If you shoot landscapes for example, what attracted you to that scene in the first place, and does your photograph portray that? If you are creating work that is hyper-real, garish to look at on the arty end of the spectrum and selling lots of work - congratulations. But it's not for me.
If you are not a photographer and you are reading this, then welcome to conundrum that we face when we create and post our work. Do we give the people what they want, and put our own tastes aside, or buy the domain integrity.com and shoot what the hell we want!
I look forward to the debate.
Thanks for reading.