I am really enjoying my photography at the moment, and I am receiving some positive feedback. I’ve been invited to enter 3 street photographs into an exhibition for a local art show which was very pleasing. However, it is hard when as an artist you are producing work and there is no-one to see it and tell you how brilliant you are. We all want a pat on the back sometimes. (I should clarify here that my husband is very knowledgable and a great source of positive and constructive feedback to me).
But nowadays we have social media, Twitter and Facebook etc and we can post a picture and wait for the praise to roll in! Or not.
Yesterday I learnt a huge lesson – I should have known it already, but sometimes you just have to experience something to really believe it.
Yesterday, I took a picture I am very pleased with, when I saw it on the screen I got that inner glow of smugness as I knew I had a good one. I was so excited that I immediately posted it on Twitter and Facebook – expecting the former to go viral (at the very least) and the latter to receive a few nice comments from my nearest and dearest. I waited. And I waited some more. As I am typing this 24hrs later, the tweet has received half as many hits as a tweet last week about my new nail polish… Disappointing. Over to Facebook to bask in the glory there. 3 likes. 3! Jeez, these people know nothing about fine art! Last night I posted a quick post with shaky, grainy phone shot of some new fairy lights (above) and that got 5 likes within minutes.
Lesson learnt. My facebook friends and family prefer fairy lights to fine art. Humph. And why shouldn’t they? Quite right too, people go on Facebook for a little light relief, to see videos of babies doing something funny, not to see some art.
I should have known, Tim Minchin wrote a little ditty (“You Tube Lament”) about the same thing – where he eloquently laments that all his best most skilled, talented and amusing work will not get as many hits on YouTube as a kitten waking up!
Eric Kim in his street photography blog and eBook (“Zen and the art of street photography”) talks about this at length – in fact the topic gets a whole chapter – “How to free yourself from external validation” and rightly so:
Eric says “When I started off in photography, I didn’t have any aspirations to make a living out of photography, or making a ton of money. I simply wanted validation from others in terms of getting lots of positive feedback on forums, or tons of “favorites” and comments on Flickr. Therefore I would always go out hunting for that one street photograph that I would upload and get hundreds of “favorites” and comments –‐ and have my inbox overflowing with notifications and validation for my photography. ”
and he goes on:
“…it’s easy to fall into the numbers game. The more likes, favorites and followers I have the better a photographer I must be. ”
“No-body gives a shit about your photos – except yourself”
See more – how many likes is enough?
And that’s what I have to start remembering – sure I can share a picture because I want the world to see something I found interesting, but I need to ask myself “why am I sharing this?” and if the answer is that I want a pat on the back then I have to step away from the keyboard and do something else.
As long as I love my pictures, that’s enough. Freeing yourself from validation also frees up your art practice because you do it for yourself, not to fulfil someone else’s expectations of how it should look.