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?

Most of the time, I make posts on social media simply because I loved being out there and I love sharing the scenes that I’ve experienced. If people interpret this as self promotion, I guess that’s a safe assumption but nonetheless still an assumption.

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 posted this image with the intent of simply stating that we shouldn’t worry about comp-stomping. Along the way, I credited directly, some photographers who have shot from this exact location before. The ensuing discussion brought into question all sorts of issues ranging from possible disrespect for the environment and Peter Dombrovskis. By not saying anything about the latter two, I can only presume that people were making incorrect assumptions because I actually respect both. It just wasn’t the aim of this particular post….Of course, I was then dragged into arguments that had me voicing opinions about issues that were likewise not even linked to the intent of the original post …..ugly…..and to be completely honest, I feel that nature of the arguments detracted from the noble cause it was hoping to stand up for.

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.

I learned from my lesson and made it fairly clear that this image post was about my experience comparing high iso capabilities of the 5mk4 and sony A7r2. I am grateful that I was not attacked on this thread either from those worried about the environment , or those staunchly in favour of one brand over another. Thank you for not making assumptions about this one!

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Posted on March 10, 2017, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I enjoyed reading what you said about the different reasons for posting, as this is something I have also been thinking about and, funnily, wrote a hand-written article on (not yet typed or published) yesterday. I liked the reasoned way you put across your argument. I missed seeing or reading the stimulus that provoked your comments (am not even 100% sure what com-stomping is), but I have been faced several times – most of them with negative effect – with other people’s misinterpretation of the reasons behind my actions. Sorry to hear you’ve run into your own being misread / misinterpreted problems. What I wrote ran into three pages. I still have to decide whether or not to press the publish button :-).

    • I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this too 😉 Comp stomping is something people acccuse each other of when we see other people’s images with a very similar composition to what we’ve already shot ourselves. Mostly it’s by chance, sometimes its by design!

  2. I hadn’t heard of Comp stomping before either; nice article here: http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/comp-stomping/

  3. not sure if i understood the article correctly here, probably not being familiar with social media drama regarding landscape photography, but thought i would just drop off my thought that one needs to look at the social media as a whole. most of the posts we make, no matter what social media channel it is, are all about “me”. we are self-centered, and social media is built to thrive on that, be it just sharing of a status or uploading our creative work. there is absolutely no way to avoid self-promotion on any social media site, because that is how those sites are built. all of them are a reflection of our psychological need to for attention.

    i don’t think this is a “photographers” issue. we are all the same, no matter what topic we approach. a natural part of our psychology.

    • Thanks for your thoughts – I think there are some that are generally trying to promote a greater good but ironically, in order to be heard, there’s a degree of self promotion that needs to occur for that photographers profile to have enough of a footprint to make an impact. I think where most of the problem lies are where some photographers kid themselves into thinking that there is no element of self promotion whatsoever – and then they are disappointed when others somehow succeed with what they perceive to be ‘lesser’ images.

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