Why do we make photos to please our audience and followers, not ourselves?
Okay this is my life story:
I used to make pictures to please my audience and followers, because I wanted more likes, even MORE followers, and words of praise from others.
In today’s world, we quantify our art, photography, and selves… by numbers. This is called the “quantified self” movement— thinking that somehow we should and can value our self-esteem and self-worth through numbers. Numbers of commas and zeroes in our bank account, the number of our social media followers, our view numbers, our like numbers, etc.
Never stop innovating, or else you will creatively die
The reason why this is dangerous： we stop innovating in our photography, because we seek to just please our followers… instead of paving new paths in our photography and art.
Think about it： you probably first started to build a unique style because you made pictures which brought happiness, joy, contentment, and excitement to YOURSELF. Then, because you were loyal to your own artistic vision, you built a following. Yet, once you became famous, you started to seek to placate or please your crowd and following. Then, you start to repeat yourself, because that is what your audience initially liked you for.
Then, creative death. Because you keep doing the same old shit over and over again… instead of experimenting, and making new styles of images for yourself.
The solution is very simple： make pictures that please you, excite you, even though your audience might hate it.
For example, when Bob Dylan went electric (he was initially known for his acoustic stuff), it alienated his audience. They fucking hated it. Bob Dylan was actually booed by his own audience at his own shows. When asked by his crew whether they should stop the show, Bob Dylan defiantly yelled, “Play it fucking loud!”
Same thing with Kanye West. He polarized a lot of people when he auto tuned in his 808s and heartbreaks album. Since then, he has kept on recreating himself… making music that he liked to listen to… instead of making hit songs for the radio. For example, Kanye doesn’t like to listen to rap music, he prefers rock and roll and metal music— and he made YEEZUS (a hybrid of hip hop, rap, and heavy metal rock music) to please himself. He made music for himself.
Don’t keep making the same pictures over and over again… if bores you.
I think every great artist makes music, art, pictures, to please themselves.
HCB on the other hand, gave up making pictures towards the end of his life, and started to paint and draw instead. Why did he stop shooting pictures? My theory: I think Henri Cartier-Bresson became a caricature of himself— having to keep shooting his “Decisive moment” black and white photography to please his audience, instead of innovating and trying something new— perhaps using new equipment, by shooting color, or adding more complexity into his images. So in short, HCB got bored from photography, because he kept shooting to please his audience, instead of himself. Or another theory: he set such rigid rules for himself, that out of fear of contradicting his rules in Photography (no cropping, 50mm, black and white) that he lost all zest, passion, or interest in photography… because he mastered it too well.
Make Pictures to impress yourself.
For myself, I’ve found that with more fame, more followers— it is easier to stay true to yourself as an artist and visionary.
For example, I’m not immune to follower numbers, etc. That is why I know I’m my own worst enemy, so I intentionally have disabled statistics, page views, and comments on this site. Also, that is why I have disconnected from social media— because instead of innovating and making pictures for myself, I just sought to maximize my like and follower counts through posting pictures that I thought my audience would like, instead of staying true to myself.
Your duty to your audience is to stay true to yourself. To never stop innovating. To keep making yourself new, to making pictures and art that interests you.