Nobody Gives a Shit About Your Photos

1x1.trans Nobody Gives a Shit About Your Photos

Oakland, 2014

Nobody gives a shit about your photos (except yourself).

Sometimes I get frustrated and confused why I take photos.

I think ultimately I take photos because I want my photos to influence, affect, and perhaps inspire my viewers (and other photographers). This sometimes gives me anxiety because it puts a lot of pressure on me to “perform” by making really strong images for my audience.

But it has recently dawned on me that the only person who really cares about my work is myself. Nobody else really cares or gives a shit.

Of course I have people who like my work, follow it on social media, and give me likes, favorites, or comments. But ultimately they just “like” my work– they aren’t deeply enamored by it, or passionate about it.

The only person out there that has the amount of love, dedication, and passion for my work is myself.

How to shoot for yourself

I sometimes have a hard time just “shooting for myself”. In terms of personality, I am the total opposite of Vivian Maier. Whereas she only shot for herself (and never shred her work with anybody), I want to share my work with everybody.

Therefore I have a hard time shooting for myself. But there have been several things which has given me more serenity in terms of shooting for myself:

1. Shooting film

I find that shooting film has helped me shoot more for myself. This is because I often let my shots “marinate” a long time before even processing or publishing them online.

For example, I usually wait around 6 months before processing my of my film. Part of this reason is because I’m always traveling and don’t have to get my film processed. Another reason is because I want to emotionally disconnect myself from the photos I took, and judge them more objectively (after I forget taking the photos).

This helps me enjoy more or the process of taking photos. When I shoot a photo on film, I know I will eventually look at the image when I get it processed. But by shooting film, I try to savor the moment more. I take more pleasure in the framing, the click of the shutter, and the soft rewind of the film advance lever. Because I know I can’t see the photo instantaneously (like an LCD screen of a digital camera), I try to commit the image to memory.

Shooting film has also helped me work on longer term projects, as I focus on my projects in two phases: the shooting phase and the editing phase. I do all the shooting over a year or two, then all the editing and sequencing afterwards.

2. Imagining myself on my deathbed

When I am 90–100 years old (hopefully) and on my deathbed, I want to be satisfied with the photos I took in my life. I don’t want to simply pander to the masses, and photograph photos that will get a lot of “likes” on social media. I want to make photos that are personally meaningful.

I wrote in a recent post how Josh White taught me the importance of documenting friends and loved ones. They’re the ones we really care about. Nobody cares about our snapshots of those closest to us– but we do. So make photos that are personally meaningful.

I want to make photos during my lifetime that I “gave a shit about”.

3. Photographers are mostly self-centered

When I started social media in photography, the main reason I would give likes, comments, and favorites on other photographers images (or blog posts) were to receive them in return.

What do I mean by this? It was like, “I scratch your back, and you scratch my back”.

I think by giving someone a like, favorite, or comment on their photos, you secretly want to get it in return. It is like a mutual “circle jerk” in some regards. Or in less crude terms, “reciprocity”.

So sometimes I think you should be suspicious why others follow your work, and like your work. Many people might just genuinely like your work. But others might secretly hope that you like their work (and follow them in return). This is like how on Twitter, there are some spammers who follow a lot of people (hoping they will get a “follow back”).

So what I am trying to get at is this: undervalue how much people appreciate your work, and how much it influences them. By undervaluing other peoples opinion of our work, we give more credence (or weight) to our own opinion of our work.

Pleasing others vs yourself

Have you ever had a photo that you didn’t think was that great get tons of favorites and likes on social media?

Have you ever had a photo that you thought was amazing, yet it got little to no likes on social media?

This happens to me a lot.

Sometimes people are right. They don’t know the “backstory” behind the photos I take– and judge it more “objectively” – whether it is a strong shot or not. Sometimes I am too emotionally attached to my “bad” photos.

But really at the end of the day, you always want to ask yourself: “Why do I take photos? Am I trying to please myself, or please my audience?”

Of course you can do both: please yourself and please your audience. But if there is ever a point in which you only have the decision to please yourself (or please others)– I recommend trying to aim to please yourself.

Conclusion

In conclusion, realize that nobody will ever care about your photos as much as you care about your own photos. Who cares about how many little pink stars you get on your images, little red hearts, or blue thumbs-ups you get on your images. When you’re 80 years old and on your deathbed, will you be happy that you had tons of followers on social media? Or will you be glad that you dedicated your life to making art that pleased yourself, and brought meaning to your life?

Choose wisely. Life is short. Nobody gives a shit about your photos, but yourself.

Give a shit about your own photos. Now go out there and create art! :)

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  • Javier Torrat

    Eric, forgive me if I am too direct, but I really don’t understand the need to justify yourself over and over again. I enjoy some of your posts a lot, but this constant self justification ends up being a little annoying. People like and take photographs for very different reasons, and none of them are better than others, so just relax, and enjoy as you’re taking photos, processing, editing, … You may end up being very good, or quite bad (I´m in the bad group), but if you enjoy it and have a good time why do you need ant additional justification?

    • Hasi

      He needs the justification because he’s finally coming to understand that, indeed, his photos really do suck and it swanky amateurs who hold him in high esteem, not hard core photographers who go out to shoot every day regardless of the financial gain or lack thereof. He’s good at mental masterbation, that’s about it.

      • Paul

        Get a life and show us some of your photos. Venting about people making a positive contribution is a waste of space.

      • http://Tristanlamour.com Tristan Lamour

        I’d love to see some of your work Hasi.

  • Roel Knol

    Eric, it’s now a month or so that I’m following you. You’re in a process, a transition to something new. The posts of the last weeks are showing this transition.
    You’re a reader (and a thinker), maybe you should read the book ‘Drive’, written by Daniel Pink. It’s about what motivates us.
    And, by the way, I like your blogs :)

  • Matt Foerschler

    Interesting that you say this. I have literally tens of thousands of files and negatives stored away that I wind up never printing. My wife asks about them from time to time, and I have 4 printers downstairs in my studio in the anticipation of going on some printing binge or something, but I never print my shots. I DO, however, remember EVERY one of the shots I have taken, where it was taken and the circumstances under which it was taken. I think that by doing this I am able to remember things that I would normally not remember without the instant perpetualization of the moments captured in each photograph. Some are good (to me, at least) and others not so much. I treasure some more than others, but that’s life as well. You cannot treasure EVERY moment while in the present. It’s only looking at those moments in retrospect that allows you to treasure them or loathe them. I’m a person with very diverse interests, from singing opera professionally to being a systems architect at a S&P 1000 company. The saying is true: you can’t please all the people all the time. And sometimes you can’t please any of the people. Criticism stings, no matter the venue, and either you grow through it or you shrink from it by withdrawing. I DO like your work because it reminds me to look and SEE. I think others see the same thing in it and by doing this you are helping us to grow and extend ourselves and try things we may not otherwise. Keep it up! Do it for yourself! If others like it, fine, but ultimately you DO do it for yourself or you wouldn’t keep doing it! I still sing opera after 35 years and not really doing it full time because I do it for myself and how it makes me feel. That’s why I take pictures, too. For how looking at them afterward and remembering make me feel about what I experienced. You can rarely transition those feelings to others. Cartier-Bresson and others elicit some emotional response by carefully choosing what they photographed or allowed others to see. And they were very successful at it. But it doesn’t always happen. Keep taking the photos and ALLOW that same thing to happen, while savoring ALL of the moments for yourself.
    Sorry for the ramble, but you struck a chord that resonated with me in this article. Keep shooting and writing!

    • http://www.mattiaswestfalk.com Mattias Westfalk

      Well said…

  • http://www.davidrothwellphotography.co.uk David Rothwell

    Hi Eric

    Yet another post which is focusing on the self; I am okay with that though. At the end of the day I am too my strongest critic, it is immensely satisfying to take photographs and to receive some form of critique be it good or bad.

    It is how we learn after all, the bad is much more of a positive, rather than receiving some half hearted comment such as “Good shot” or “Bravo, you timed it well” the one thing I have learned since studying photography is this, how to read the photograph there are many groups on Flickr, which seem to have so many so called experts on street photography, when in reality they couldn’t read a photograph and it’s true meaning.

    Not a lot of people know why Fred Herzog decided to shoot exclusively in colour when black and white photography was the vogue of the time. However he did and now because of that his work is more relative to colour being pioneered by the likes of him, Eggleston, Leiter and others.

    My point is this as Roel Knol says yes you are in transition, however you’re always going to be learning. Learning is the most important part of that journey, this is the key, if you looked back right now Eric, you would see with such clarity that what you have achieved in photography is a great deal.

    Use that as a positive to move forward, because the only way forward is you, and it is you that drives you.

    Keep up the great work, because we enjoy it!

  • http://www.D90magic.com Mike V

    I found this post interesting in as much as it got me present to why I am shooting photographs. Being a new student in the craft of one year, I thought, after reading HCB line “Your first 10,000 images will be crap” or words to that effect, I felt oh my god, I got a huge learning curve ahead of me. Only now do I understand why, over and above learning how to use my camera properly, the craft is in the cultivating my personal vision. My mind is the ultimate camera, my little box with a whole in it nothing more than a capture device for me to enjoy my mental vision in some tangible form which can be shared with others……….. if I choose to.

    Eric, I appreciate you courage in sharing your feelings and frustrations. It has confirmed to me that the journey we are all on is one of self discovery and the first lesson is to make ourselves happy…….first.

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  • http://hofmanphotos.com GeMu

    Digital vs. film debate – again.

    I shoot digital as versus film for the same reason I drive a car to work instead of riding a horse. We’ve evolved.

    Both are fine, but I prefer the latest technology. I lived through the film and darkroom era and appreciate the virtues of digital. This smacks of the old debate when CDs came out. Audiophiles tried to convince everyone that CDs lacked “warmth”. All I heard was music without the damn scratches and dust. Digital photography is the same thing…

    • http://www.ryanfonkertphotography.com Fonk

      YES!!! I can’t stand it when people try to convince themselves that LPs have better sound than CDs, when that’s very clearly not true. Likewise, digital photography is at the point now where it takes and prints images every bit as good as film; in come cases, better. So why not use the newer, better, more convenient technology? If you’re sticking with the old school simply because you like it, fine, but don’t try to convince yourself there’s anything more virtuous about it.

  • http://www.peterhookphotography.co.uk Peter Hook

    I’ve only just come back to photography after a 30 year break but, for me, Winogrand summed up why I take photographs: I want to see what something looks like when I take a photograph of it.

    I put shots up on social media simply to say “Hey, look what this looks like when I photographed it.” Because I’m learning about photography all over again (didn’t have digital, or even personal computers when I was a lad!!!) I’m interested in developmental feedback but don’t really care if people like it.

    If I wanted lots of likes then I’d go to the zoo and spend the day taking photographs of meerkats and cute baby animals.

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  • Mark Gaw

    What Eric is writing is good stuff. I do not find he is being self centered. If I shoot to please others then I will never be satisfied with my work, and I won’t work from my heart. When I shoot to please myself (that’s not being self-centered) I make better shots. It’s cool if people like or give nice comments about my photos, but, I don’t live for that.

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  • http://www.streetphotographyblog.co.uk Kevin Shelley

    Shoot only to please yourself. I couldn’t agree more.

    Where do you get your ideas from??

  • Elizabeth Char

    Where is your work or I should say: what’s your work? Communicate for gettîng people for your 1000 dollars ,I don’t know where? Where are your street photograph? Nowhere. You give us lesson and lesson, you seems know life better than me. Lucky man you are, I’m 58 years old and I’m still an ignorant. But I go out and take picture.

  • Lucy

    It’s quite possible that Annie Leibovitz doesn’t love her portrait of Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis as much as I do, or Mary Ellen Mark her photograph of the little girl smoking in the swimming pool; the same..There are a couple of others..

    P.S Hasi, you’re an Idiot!

  • http://thejeremynix.wordpress.com Jeremy Nix

    I agree with your sentiments in this post. When I read your posts, I always find myself wondering if I am one of the people you talk about who maybe likes a photo for the wrong reason, or who takes the wrong approach in my photography. I am willing to admit that I am a self-centered person, and I am of the opinion that for the most part, every human being is all about one thing: themselves. So I think it’s a good thing when you bring up your feelings on your experience as a photog. It forces me to take a look at myself and my own artistic process, it makes me ask myself the hard questions that might otherwise have gone ignored in my mind for being too self critical. I think it’s good advice when you talk about undervaluing other people’s opinions of your work, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t initially make me feel like shit, because I do care about what people think of my work, and I would like others to get something from it. It would hurt my feelings to no end if I had to deal with the same amount of negative comments that you seem to receive daily. I’m just a student of photography, and that is why I care about your work. You provide valuable lessons and you don’t ask me for a dime. I appreciate that. I value that. You have the courage to say what you feel despite what the haters of your work constantly try to tear you down for. I may have said this before, but you are a prime example of how success breeds contempt. I admire your work and I will continue to be a fan regardless of whether or not you ever notice me as a photographer or give me the like or the star in the “circle jerk” of photographers on social media. You have been a constant source of inspiration since I started pursuing the dream of becoming a journalist. You make me believe that success is possible. Maybe that sounds like a little much, but for me, it is true.

  • Tim

    Eric, I hope you don’t read the comments with all the trolls, but if you do… this is your best post ever :)

  • http://2812photo.photoshelter.com/ Pete Rosos

    Great post. I hope you don’t mind the length, but for whatever reason, I just can’t seem to find the right image to fully relate my feelings on the matter.

    Somewhere in my early teens I figured out that, for some reason, I just couldn’t verbally express my thoughts and feelings as well as those around me. I’d try expressing an idea one way and whoever was listening didn’t seem to get the gist of what I was trying covey.

    Music was one way of compensating for my inabilities. Certain songs had certain moods that, to me, seemed to hit the nail on the head in terms of the right form of expression. Which is why I decided to take the step out of the listening mode, and try my hand at playing. After plenty of time fumbling around, I eventually got the point where I could play what I wanted to play, and eventually reached that point that some might mysteriously call, “The Groove,” that moment where everything feels and sounds just right and a sort of weird euphoria pours over you. Throughout my teens, into my twenties, and even to a certain extent today, I’ve always searched for that feeling when playing and could care less if anyone listening “got” what I was doing. If they did, great. If not, so be it.

    I feel the same way about shooting, although it didn’t used to. Up until my mid twenties, I detested photography, owing to what was up till that point, a view of the medium as something grandparents did to torture their children and grandchildren alike. My experience with photography for the first two decades of my life was the militaristic lining up and saying “cheese” on three for a grandmother who seemed to have a voracious appetite for images of relatives standing (sometimes sitting) corpse stiff and smiling with whatever backdrop she thought was special. She would then proceed to force family members, visitors, and hell, anyone with even the remotest form of vision, to flip through volumes of photo albums. As a kid, I did what I could to make my grandmother happy. As a recalcitrant teen, I did what I could to make her scowl, wondering how on earth could someone be so selfish as to force their photographic will on people.

    My take on photography changed when I ran across a street vendor photographer selling prints in Budapest. We were visiting distant relatives as we tended to do every couple of years, only this time, and due to my mid twenties age, I had the chance to roam around through the city on my own. When I ran into the vendor’s stall, I was blown away by what I saw. He had managed to visually express exactly the mood I felt when walking around town. All of a sudden, photography wasn’t just something you did to placate grandma. It was the most powerful form of nonverbal communication I’d run into since first getting into music, and if noodling around on a guitar eventually led to “The Groove,” couldn’t noodling around with a camera get me there too?

    Ironically, it was my grandmother who I went begging and pleading to let me borrow her camera and the money to buy a couple of rolls of b/w film (the street vendor’s stuff was in monochrome, and so would my beginner’s attempts at noodling). She gave me the camera (an old Olympus point and shoot) and the money for the film and off I went. I could have given not a single shit what anybody thought of the results. The question I had to answer was, “did I get what I was looking for, or not? Did I hit that groove?”

    Almost two decades have gone by since then, and like with my playing, style and perspective have morphed over time. But the goal is still the same (see directly above). If I’m going to publicly post something, adoration isn’t the main goal. It’s an attempt to express something where words would simply fail. For me, getting the likes, thumbs, stars, and whatnot is the friendly little affirmation that I’m not totally delusional in how I see the world around me.

  • Rik UE

    What a great article!

    Certainly gets the brain thinking!

    All points 100% true as well, great stuff.

  • http://samhurdphotography.com Sam

    This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

  • http://www.lesliedeanbrown.com Leslie Dean Brown

    So what I would like to know:

    Which of your photos do you like which do not seem to get much attention? Perhaps write more about those particular photos, why they are so special to you. Write an entire essay on one photo, or a book perhaps?

    and

    Which ones get all the attention but you do not think are that special? If those photos do not please you anymore, or you feel down when you think about them or look at them, my advice would be to get rid of them. Expunge them from existence!

    Les

  • Kaybee

    People are forgetting something! THIS is a blog! He is allowed to introspect , focus on self, justify his work, etc etc. What are blogs for anyways!
    I don’t get why people have so many issues with Eric. If you have problem, why bother commenting or coming back for more anyways.

    I agree with the article! It rings true to me. Nobody actually gives a shit about my photos than myself. Some photos are personal and hold sentiments only for me but for viewers it means nothing. It also helps developing a personal style. Photography as an Art is subjective but people do appreciate if it has a certain style whether they like it not. Style gives substance to a work. It is very important to be objective and I agree that coming back for it months later helps in being objective about one’s work. Also people’s (constructive) criticism helps too. Eric is very brave. I am not good at handling personal attacks which he gets all the time. I think it make him stronger seeing by his posts and multitude of work. It would depress me.

    • http://www.davidrothwellphotography.co.uk David Rothwell

      That’s what gives vinyl records its authentic sound and if you have ever been behind a set of 1210s (Technics) you would know that unmistakable sound of clarity. CDs too have had their day…long live MP3

      At Kaybee you’re right on there…blogging is an online diary.

  • http://500px.com/neveredit Never Edit

    Thank you for this article and for reminding me. It is true -for me, at least- that nobody cares about my photos the way I do, and when I sometimes get a photo to turn out the way I wanted (still struggling with the technical limitations of my camera), I feel good about it and that’s what matters to me.

  • Jim Parriott

    This has been in interesting week or so, as you, Ming, and Peter have all touched on the same general theme: why are my photos not getting the attention I feel they deserve? In Ming’s and Peter’s blogs – and these are guys I greatly admire – they came across as narcissistic complaints. You, however, have thought it through. Thank you for that.

    • http://500px.com/neveredit Never Edit

      Hello, I’m new to this – I found Ming but could you please supply the link for Peter’s blog? thanks!

  • http://danielteolijrsdp.tumblr.com/ Daniel D. Teoli Jr

    My comments were blocked. Maybe poor Hashi can’t get his photos to show up here? Maybe Hashi is just a coward behind the keyboard? We wont know…

    Eric obviously does not want to keep this an open forum and picks and chooses what his ego likes.

  • http://www.dfoschisite.com/ Domenico Foschi

    A well known photographer said that once a great picture would be taken, developed and printed and held dear for a while, he then would loose interest in it and put it in the “acceptable images” stash, at the same time looking for his next masterpiece. But this is what taking pictures is. It is a quest for a love affair, it is searching for that high once you see something great through the negative and you scan it and/or print it in a frenzy, because you have the certainty that you finally have the Holy Grail in your hands.
    So, yes, it is for yourself that you should shoot but at the end it does affect others as well. Didn’t you get into photography thanks to the works of some master whose work you have in high regard?
    Shoot for yourself because you have to quench a thirst inside of you, please only yourself by fine tuning to your innermost being and things will happen. To say that nobody will give a shit about your work is like saying that your favourite photographer work wasn’t important.

  • http://www.dfoschisite.com/ Domenico Foschi

    Sorry, I realized I hadn’t finished my thought. So, it is not true that nobody will give a shit about your photographs. Actually the opposite is true. How many photographers have been approached by people who would tell them that a specific image they took, literally changed their life by showing them the magic of photography? And how many times would the photographer be surprised and incredulous to such a statement? Art IS powerful. All you need is an artist who has the balls to get inside and pull out his/her guts and show it to the world and an occasional member of the public who realizes the genius of the work in front of him.

  • GrandMinnow

    When Kim says that no one “really cares”, he may be speaking truly of his own experience, but it does not properly generalize. Granted, it seems a safe bet that usually the person who most cares about his work is the artist himself. But it doesn’t follow that no one else “really cares”. There are many photographers who have audiences that do very much care and are very passionate about the work.

    Why Kim feels he must extrapolate from his own experience to the melodramatic generalization that “Nobody else really cares or gives a shit” is more a matter of his frustrations and psychology than it is a reasonable observation about other people’s appreciation of photography.

    Another myth about art and photography is glanced on in the article (though, to be fair, Kim didn’t himself state this as a principle): True artists make art only for themselves and don’t adjust their work to the responses of other people.

    I don’t very much doubt that there are artists who don’t care at all how their work is received, but I don’t take it as a requirement of art itself. One may very well be concerned with whether and how one’s work communicates to other people and even how well regarded the work is, even how well it sells, and even adjust one’s work on those considerations – and still be an estimable artist.

    Sometimes thinking about whether other people will like the work may harm the artist’s creativity, but other times it may help to make better art.

    All this depends in a complex way on the artist, his particular goals, and his circumstances. Such simplistic categorical nostrums as “Just take photographs for yourself, don’t even bother with what other people think” evade the more complicated, detailed, deeper, and interesting factors in the making of art.

    • GrandMinnow

      Even more basically, I tend not to buy it when they say dire things like “I only shoot for myself; I don’t care what anyone thinks of my pictures”. I suspect that often that is denial.

      Granted, there may be some quite stoic souls who are immune to the opinions of others, but it is utterly natural that one would hope that other people enjoy one’s work and that the work communicate in certain ways. Moreover, while some people are an exception, still it is utterly natural that many people do want recognition, critical discussion and praise, and payment for one’s work. If you’re hoping to have an exhibition, then, yes, you do care what gallery directors thinks of your portfolio. A proposed book, you care what the editors think. Assignments that give you opportunity to shoot interesting subject matter and get paid for it, you care what the art directors think. And it is natural that one would prefer that critics find value in your work rather than loathe it. And even more fundamentally, it is rewarding to have people in general, even non-experts, appreciate your work to the extent that they make the intellectual/emotional/aesthetic investment to look at it long enough to have interesting, even profound, things to say about it.

  • Petra

    Hmm, as a follower of many photo blogs I would say that posts like this are quite rare. I’m just wondering, where are the borders of self-criticism?
    I have a different dilemma: I still couldn’t find my own style. I’m enjoying capturing landscapes, portraits or street photos but I feel like it’s important to concentrate on one genre and go deeper. For example, if I would publish a collection of my selected photos, it would probably look a bit inconsistent like this so I’m still hesitating if I’m good enough to post anything… Cause well, taking picture for myself is fun and as you say, “nobody will ever care about your photos as much as you care about them”, but I think it’s also important to leave a, let’s say “footprint”…

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  • Juan Gonzalez

    I can totally see that. Thanks for the post.

  • Celine

    Amen. Thanks for this great post !

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