A bit of a rant, if you'll be so kind as to indulge me
I'm very fortunate to be part of multiple artist communities, in person and online. Communities that offer love and support, guidance and advice, camaraderie along with a healthy dose of constructive criticism. It's a good situation to be in, and the opportunity to interact with artists of all levels of experience is as enriching and useful for the seasoned professionals as it is for the newcomers. We can learn from other's mistakes and successes as well as our own. So it's with great disappointment that I comment today on the attitudes seemingly held by many photographers. As I scroll through blog posts and read my daily social updates, there has been an influx of thinly veiled jabs hurled out from every platform, from instagram captions to lengthy articles in normally respectable outlets. A flurry of photographers hell bent on one upping each other by making their own motivations and creative processes seem like the only correct motivation and process to have. (I won't name and shame here, I'm trying hard not to be part of the problem)
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction and the rule has never been more true than it is in the world of photographers lately. With every inflammatory article posted, a new rash of photographers emerge, staunchly taking sides against each other over some arbitrary hot topic. If one photographer is happily sponsored by a company, another photographer will be there denouncing the practice and throwing out accusations of disingenuity. One photographer only photographs during the golden hour while another shouts into the void about "real photographers" being able to make beautiful images at any time of the day. Photographers are finding passive aggressive ways to undermine each other over every meaningless little thing. Debates over sponsorship and daring to use social media to their advantage, not being adventurous enough to "deserve" taking a landscape photo as if the difference between hiking or flying to a location will make or break an image. I see unsolicited criticism about subject matter, techniques, self promotion and the list goes on.
I've even seen photographers get criticized for taking photos of subject matter that is too beautiful and therefore taking the easy way out. As if the inherent quality of a photo worthy of our praise is the amount of strife a photographer must battle before clicking the shutter. Kind of silly isn't it?
It’s frustrating being part of one community of artists and knowing how enriching supporting one another can be for both the experienced and inexperienced and yet I see photographers with a sense of elitism pass on the opportunity to develop their community time and again.
If one photographer is driven to create an image because she's being paid to, and another photographer is driven to create an image from something within himself, who are we to sit behind our computer judging them and exclaiming one is more worthy of the title of being an artist? It seems to me that if every photographer focussed more on developing their own unique voice and creative processes than their neighbours, everyone would get a lot more work accomplished and we'd all be in better moods because of it.
For those who still find it absolutely necessary to call a fellow photographer's motivations into question without first bothering to learn why that photographer made the choices he or she did, ask yourself first if you're doing it out of a place of genuine concern for that artist's growth, or is it because you might be feeling insecure about your own work.
I realize that this blog post might be a bit hypocritical by committing to shouting into the void, but can we all just grow up, stop with the petty insults and simply support one another so we can all grow as artists?
At the end of the day, it's the image and what it says to the audience that matters. How the photographer actually arrived to making that photo is probably nobody's business but their own. Instead of criticizing why the photographer was driven to take a photograph, we should be asking ourselves what the photographer is trying to say with the image.