Why I Take Photographs – A Discovery!

Why exactly do I bother to post my photos online or show them directly to friends? I say it’s because I want to improve, I want to see how others judge my “artistic work”, and particularly because I want more experienced and talented folk to point me in the right direction.

I have realised that this is actually complete and utter rubbish. All I want – and I mean ALL I want – is for people to tell me a picture or set of pictures is great, fab, whizzo and wonderful. And, ergo, by association, so am I.

This sad reality dawned on me rather pathetically after I posted some pictures from my recent sojourn from Kidderminster to sunny Woolacombe. After spending quite a lot of time downloading and sorting through untold gigabytes of photos, I selected about 40-odd landscapes to put on my facebook page and on my flickr site to guage reaction. I was met by deafening silence.

In the hours after posting them I regularly checked the pages for updates and comments, perhaps even a personal message to say something like: “These are great, I didn’t want to sound too gushing on your page but they are the best photos I’ve ever seen in my life, have a prize.” Instead I found diddly squat. Nada. Nowt.

Eventually, like, HOURS later, a few people kindly commented on two or three pictures, and one even posted the link to my pictures on her own page (thanks Tanya!).

But (and this reflects very badly on me, people, not you) the damage was done. I decided the pictures that I’d thought would elicit gasps of appreciation were probably all just useless and dull after all.

For this confession I apologise. It is not nice to feel you are responsible for someone else’s happiness, particularly when you hadn’t even realised it! And, as I say, it reflects very poorly indeed on my own self esteem regarding my photographic talents that someone failing to click on a “thumbs up” button on Facebook could bring me down.

I would add that this feeling of Abject Misery passed very quickly and was indeed swiftly cured by my husband telling me in no uncertain terms to “get a life, facebook saddo” and pouring me a double vodka.

I have now revisited said pictures and realised they are, after all, just a nice set of holiday snaps at a beach. This is not me being self-deferential or putting myself down after the fact (indeed, I still think several of the shots are lovely and am even framing some to adorn my walls) but I now appreciate they are fantastic to me because I WAS THERE.

Just looking at them on my wall or on the computer transports me back to that beautiful beach, at twilight, any one of three nights we spent down there watching the sun set.

There was hardly a soul around except for the surfer boys in the ocean, trying desperately to catch the last tiny waves;  the odd dog walker; and my little family.

The boys were happy making a platform in the dunes from which to do somersaults and jump into the sky; my gorgeous hubby was happily cooking up a storm on the barbecue while sipping a beer; and I was contentendly snapping away with my camera, glass of red in hand. The chilly breeze forced us occasionally to huddle together behind the windbreak in a happy heap, from where we watched the sun tumble out of the sky into the sea. I had never realised before quite how dramatically the sun plummets at nightfall. It quite literally disappeared before our eyes – one minute a ball of fire, the next a purple haze trailing over the horizon.

So, that’s why I like photography, and why I want to continue to take photos. If I’m going to have cherished memories of a place or moment in time, the photograph that accompanies it may as well be as good as it can be! And the actual art of taking a photo is extremely satisfying – I like going off into my own little world to focus my mind on something specific.

And this realisation, dear friends, is a blessed relief. I feel like I have been released from a torment that was gathering pace in my soul.

For weeks I have been forcing myself out to take pictures of, well, anything really, in the desperate quest for a photo that would prove to me that I could make the grade, that I could be a contender, that I had a photographer’s eye, an artist’s instinct, a sensitive touch.

And now? Now I feel free, free, free! Now I feel that I can accidentally leave my camera at home when I go for a walk in the woods without suffering moments of desperate anguish that this might be the day I see “the shot”. I can spend under £100 on a new tripod instead of the £400 one I’d seriously considered as a “must have” if I was going to take this photography lark seriously. I don’t have to buy a macro lens so I can take pictures of little biddy insects and flowerheads that I can’t even identify. Ah, bliss.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to take pictures and am still going to bore my facebook friends with the odd album of snaps. I’m still going to meet up with my new photography friends for the odd shoot. I’m still going to go along to my local camera club when I get the chance to pick up tips. And I’m still going to try to learn more, get better and have fun with my hobby.

But I won’t feel quite so desperate if it all goes wrong and, especially, if what I like doesn’t meet with the approval of anyone else.

It feels good, this freedom.

(To see the rest of my landscapes from Woolacombe visit my flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/fab2010/  You don’t have to leave a comment!!!)

    • Catherine
    • May 4th, 2010

    I love reading everyone’s blogs and looking at their photos, it is a window on their lives. I would say though Jane that your pictures are much more than snaps (that is what mine are!) but I admire you for recognising you don’t need other people’s approval to carry on doing something you obviously enjoy and that you are good at. I like the way you write too, I know that I could not be as interesting! Keep up the good work!

    • Mark
    • May 4th, 2010

    Jane, don’t get disheartened! No comments on Flickr is not a bad thing or a comment on your photography (they are fab by the way and more than just holiday snaps). To get comments on Flickr you have to join as many groups as possible and post them to the group pages – the chances of someone stumbling across them are not as high as you might think. Also, tags are very important if you want them to be found and commented on. That said, your honesty in this blog post is really refreshing…

    However… I don’t think you should give up always taking the camera with you, or taking as many pictures as possible as it’s the best way of getting better. Also, I don’t agree that you should join the camera club for an ‘odd shoot’ as this smacks of giving up. You just have to be patient, enjoy the photography and if you want comments post them to relevant Flickr groups where they are more likely to be seen; or don’t and revel in the photographs that YOU took and which bring back happy memories.

    I too got hung up on feedback and opinion and unlike you have not the good sense to think ‘fuck it’. Recent events had me dreaming an impossible dream that could never happen. My recent small exhibition has not had a single sale! I started to believe all the nice things people were saying but only recently realised that I am but one of hundreds and thousands of amateur photographers, most of whom are eminently more talented than me. I’ve had a few good experiences this year but I am resigned to the fact that I will not be giving up the day job.

    Therefore, like you, I am enjoying the photography for what it is – a hobby that I really love. If I win the odd competition or make the odd sale then that’s great but I am not going t0 kid myself that it’s anything more than that. I’m sure that now the weight has lifted you’ll be able to enjoy your photography all the more.

    PS. £400 for a tripod. Mine was £35 from Jessops

  1. Thank you guys for your lovely comments. I feel that my writing can’t be all that good, otherwise I wouldn’t have articulated my feelings so confusingly! In a nutshell, this was not a “poor me, nobody loves my photos” blog in which I was hoping you’d all say I was ace (nice though that is). It was merely to acknowledge the fact that I enjoy a lovely hobby, which I’ve definitely got better at thanks to improved understanding and knowledge, but moving from that to what I will call the “Mark Nelson” league is not for me, given the time and effort involved. (For those who don’t know, Mark is an old university friend who also counts photography among his new “post-40” hobbies but who is more talented, more knowledgeable and commits much more time and effort to it than me).
    This recognition is a good thing, honestly – it’s not about giving up, because I’m not, I still love my hobby. It is about recognising that “man has his limitations” and, unless I can conjure up more hours in the day, I don’t have time to devote to this and to things that truly rock my world, particularly writing for pleasure (as opposed to for work). So thanks for being nice! Now I’ve got to work out what to blog about in future…

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