What exactly are we trying to promote?
Recent interactions on social media have prompted me to consider or consolidate some thoughts about this topic. Whenever we post an image on social media, or even hang a piece in an exhibition outside of the all consuming www , what is it exactly ,that we’re trying to promote by having our ‘art’ seen?
I believe the ultimate answer depends largely on viewer perception and artist intent. The problem being that assumptions are made about both which leads to a gulf between the intended and perceived purpose. The explosive chemical reaction of internet outrage then receives its catalyst and continues to burn until the fatigue of our attention spans finally lets it die its deserved death. Something we often don’t consider is what we promote to the general public by behaving in this volatile fashion. Here’s a generalisation of what can happen in 6 tragic steps.
|Problem||Take care by ….|
|1||A group of like minded photographers have a similar agenda which they feel is THE most important reason to display images publicly||Recognise that everyone has different reasons for posting, arise from different walks of life and hence have different views on anything. This ranges from existentialism to fundamentalism. Clearly either extreme is the least correct but the good thing about extreme views is that they can be spotted a mile off and are so unrealistic that they very few will relate to them. (errr, except maybe religion and politics – noone’s changing each others views on those …..)|
|2||A random photographer posts an image with a completely different agenda but is interpreted to be contrary to the spirit of said group||Try not to make assumptions about what the photographer’s intent was. Quite often, it’s just reaching out for a pat on the back from a soul that needs validation once in a while. Let’s face it, all of us do this to some degree….. Nefarious intent in landscape photography is really quite rare…|
|3||Said group brings internet friends to support their stance against ‘random photographer’ who then feels very defensive about the whole situation and is likely to retaliate (often poorly and emotionally)||This plays out as bullying in many instances. Perhaps a private message or tactfully chosen words instead of personal attacks? What do you gain from belittling the other person?|
|4||Sometimes, high profile names are involved and the whole argument becomes viral and played out in full view of non photographers||If you happen to be one of those high profile photographers, just remember , all your fans are watching you. It’s probably the responsible thing to do what my 5 year old is being taught in school. ‘Stop, think, do’. Your fans WILL largely side with you no matter how badly you behave and so the bad behaviour perpetuates itself.|
|5||The originally solid and reasonable ‘agenda’ of the group is now lost among petty arguments and the whole agenda seems overly rigid and unreasonable, often an extrapolation of its underlying ideals.||I have extreme points of view. I talk about those views with my real friends and my family. If I try to make an argument to a bunch of online strangers without conversational context, sometimes moderating that view somewhat actually gets a better message across. Also , beware inventing arguments on the fly. You often see this with heated discussions when the discussion veers tangentially and all sorts of snap opinions come to the fore!|
|6||The good message is lost, replaced instead with a view that landscape photographers bicker and fight about anything||One could argue the point ‘who cares what others think of us??’ Once again, that’s just one point of view but it might be worth taking note that there are many who do care. After all, some photographers actually are catering their work to the general public and not to other photographers.|
I bet you’ve seen this happen in recent times? I’m constantly trying to stop myself from feeling angst about certain issues and I’ve come to recognise that my own hypocrisy fuels this more than anything else. So I’m not here to tell you how to post on social media, nor am I here to tell you react to other people’s posts. My only plea is that everyone respects that we all come from different walks of life, we all have different agenda and we all have different motivations. Attacking another photographer on a presumption that the intent was harmful is fraught with so many assumptions. I’ve learned from my mistakes in this regard and I hope that by reporting my mistakes, others can avoid making them too.
Let’s try to avoid giving the appearance that we’re at each others throats and thereby turning away people from the beauty of nature ; these people who will then live their lives unaware that aspects of their daily lives harm the environment. Let’s instead promote how beautiful the earth is and how awesomely chill we are as a landscape photographer community. Thereby inspiring others to get out into nature and experiencing the fragile and wild earth. Perhaps then, they will make decisions about their daily lives that help with caring for our planet. Or more simply, let’s just post to bring joy to the viewer ; not every post needs a deep and meaningful message.