to show…

by julie posted July 24, 2008

I started thinking about the different ways that we share our images these days. Online, there’s a selection of community based image hosting sites that can allow you to have as much or as little interaction with other users as you like. There are forums geared towards critique. There are photoblogs, and with them the photoblog circles that form to make little communities. You can submit images to sites like Radiant Vista for in depth critique, or you can simply host a portfolio gallery on your own site. Physical media brings us into both self produced prints and books, and then external entities like magazines and gallery walls.

I suppose people have their reasons for choosing how they share their images, none or some or all of the above. I wonder just what might be going on there.

In the basic, amateur, just-bought-my-first-DSLR groups people seem to be mostly looking for a) technical assistance to help them start moving up that steep incline of a learning curve and b) a bit of chin-tickling, hopefully some indication that they have a ‘knack’ and are heading in the right direction with it. I think it’s a fairly usual step in our photographic lives/careers and doesn’t take much analysing. But then once past that stage, where there’s an element of technical mastery, there seems to be a bit of a split and while some go on to push those skills and hone their techniques to a fine point, others branch off into a different kind of area.

I’ve rambled about it at length enough to avoid repeating myself here – and it’s been coming through in other blogs too. It’s the photographer who is looking for a different kind of personal boundary to push – or is already some way down that path. What is it that drives this kind of photographer to seek publication in a magazine, or gallery representation? Is it always just for the recognition, a sense of achievement, a measure of success? Is it about getting a message out to an audience? Is it about being able to connect with others with similar/corresponding ideas? What do you do when your photography takes a turn where you feel the more it means to you, the less you want to put it out there?

I’m wondering if it’s down to the audience I perceive to be out there. I certainly don’t want to post an image where it’ll be judged on technical merit alone, rule of thirds, sharpness and ‘impact’. Do I want to go to the other end of the scale where it’s going to be pulled apart for a lack of conceptual innovation? Nope. I’m not trying to spread the word on an issue that’s important to me, or the world at large. The images that fill my hard drives are mostly a side effect of me wandering with my camera, and finding stuff out about myself and the world around me. Is there a forum for that?

15 Responses to to show…

  1. […] 24, 2008 Go read what Julie said today. And this. And this one, […]

  2. I am the moderator of a blog that is attempting to do something similar to what you are requesting on a very small scale. It is a blog rather than a forum because I do not want it to turn into what most critique sites become, one liners, beauty contests, personality contests, cliques. Hopefully it will get people to think about their images, other people’s images beyond the rules of composition, what is acceptable subject matter.

    Posting is by invitation only but anyone can read the blog. You can find it at

  3. ” What do you do when your photography takes a turn where you feel the more it means to you, the less you want to put it out there?”

    This is incredibly important, and something I have been lately grappling with. I have gotten to the point where I am able to take technically good photographs, but now I desire to follow my own artistic path. It is hard to have the courage to fully develop a vision and see it through.

    Often people are all to eager to jump on a photograph if something is technically “off”. In many cases, this “off” aspect may be important to the creator of the image and though technically inferior, may be qualitatively integral.

    When one goes beyond wanting to take pretty, technically competent photographs is when the photographer becomes the artist. This sounds pretentious, but essentially it boils to qualitative evaluation (that slippery concept of artistic merit)or quantitative evaluation (following “rules” of sharpness, focus,composition, etc).

    Many photographers, beginner to professional, evaluate pictures in an essentially quantitative way. Especially single images in a crititqueing environment such as that of many online communities. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the end result becomes somewhat homogenous with everyone striving to follow the “rules” and reproduce shots they like.

    I think for shots to be evaluated in a qualitative way in such environments, the photographer needs to provide a framework for reference. A detailed caption or writeup to accompany the shot, or a link to the larger body of work it may belong to provides some context to better evaluate the work with reference to the photographers vision.

    I think I’ve gone on rambling long enough, I might be on a tangent here. Anyway, I enoyed the insightful post, and I hope I’ve added to the discussion.

  4. I’m so glad to have found your blog in my “hot new blogs” section. I have always loved taking pictures. Usually, I take pictures to remember things. Obviously, I want to capture friends & family, but other times it’s a sunset or a strange highway sign. Recently, I have been trying to figure out how to get to the next level in photography… to a place where maybe I can make some money in the field… not so much because I feel I have a gift but more because it’s something I love doing alot more than waiting tables.

    A few years ago, I signed up for a photo critique site & uploaded pics. I didn’t want someone to say, “Wow, that’s great.” I really wanted someone to say “Well, the highlights are a bit blown out” or “Maybe you should try doing ______.” When I didn’t get that kind of feedback, I lost interest for a little while & kept the pictures to myself. While I certainly agree that some of the best pictures are technically inept, I was still looking for new techniques and such.

    Anyway, I will be reading more from you. I have one friend with a photographic eye but it’s always nice to engage with others.

  5. This blog is about “showing” your work but I think it is also about finding a “safe” place to show your work when you are seaching for a dialogue about the work. I think that audience for each photographer is very small. It has to be with an audience that you respect, with an audience that can communicate about art. It is an audience that is hard to find.

  6. These are excellent questions. Let me boil it down to two thoughts:

    1. We may get to a point where we’ve absorbed all that we can from online resources, and now need to transcend the container and find inspiration elsewhere.
    2. If we can try to answer the question, what is the purpose of our photographs, this may clean our windshield so we can see the road again.

    Do you have a squeegee I can borrow?



  7. I think you have described an issue faced by most people who want to take their photography beyond ‘making pretty pictures’. Like many others, I started out participating online in critique forums, equipment forums etc but have since moved away from those areas. They were wonderful resources when I was ‘clueless with camera’, but I now find them limiting in that the emphasis is so much on the how of photography and not the why. But this is not a problem limited to the online community; photo clubs are prone to the same limitations.

    As for the best way to find an audience that meets your needs as a photographer, I think a blog is one of the best ways to go. As you can see from the comments, there are many others out there in the same place artistically. They have found your blog, have taken something from it and left a little behind. Probably the next best things to actually meeting physically with a group of like minded photographers.

  8. I like your attitude on this matter.

  9. You seem to have finally transcended the final stage before becoming an artist rather than a photographer.

    Throughout the years we/I have seen you grapple with the whos and whys of a hobby, but when the hobby becomes a method of transferring your personality onto a medium, be that bricks and mortar, paper, sound… you finally break free of the collective. Its for you, because its your language and its how you communicate.

    This final step, I have seen you care less and less about honing your technical skills and having photos critiqued and grow more in the direction of shooting to your own ends… an artist who is less worried by the use of her tools – using the camera to translate what you see into what you feel.


    Very well done, very impressive.

  10. […] O’Donnel in a recent article here, made a comment regarding about “a lack of conceptual innovation” as a judgement about […]

  11. I agree with Edward about transcending the final stage (also referred to by other historical photographers as coming full circle). You’ve reached the point of producing for yourself. Now the question is do you care more about investing time to find an audience or producing the work. Before it required lots of efforts to find that audience and many artist work was not fully appreciated until after their passing. Today, thanks to the internet, you can invest small amounts of time to put your work out there for others to find (this blog is perfect example) and still focus on producing.

    Now I think the question you are asking is how much time to spend where.

  12. […] that the easy stuff is behind us we can focus on the fun stuff of how to show thy photography.  Once I got serious about photography, I experimented with printing as well as […]

  13. […] that the easy stuff is behind us we can focus on the fun stuff of how to show thy photography.  Once I got serious about photography, I experimented with printing as well as […]

  14. OK, Julie! That’s enough of a sabbatical! You can come back any day!

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