Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Putting it out there

Clive mentioned on this post several months ago about the need to regularly review your motivations in making work. And it is never that easy to answer.

The reason it has raised its head again is probably because I've recently invested considerable time in to an assignment. Then I question why I do that rather than something more constructive like gardening or baking. It is a recurring theme for me...why? Why bother? Why devote so much time to taking better images?  I enjoy it clearly, but I enjoy creating lots of other things too...and they have much more practical and useful outputs...I think in my mind my photography in the long-term really does need an output too, otherwise as more of my time is invested in it, it will become harder and harder to justify. The other aspect I am struggling with, is as much as I enjoy my photography, I haven't particularly enjoyed commissions I've had...product shots, wedding, takes all the fun out of as a business proposition I'm not really that keen again the question comes back to why bother?

I think before I can answer that I have to address one key issue. At the moment my working processes are missing a vital part of the communication cycle. And that is, hardly anyone sees it!! Does that matter? Perhaps not, but why the hell am I making it then?  I am making work, showing one or two friends, submitting it for assignment/assessment...and that's it.  There seems to be a fundamental flaw in this process.  So I guess this post is just to put a flag in the sand to remind myself that I need to consider 'putting my work out there'.

But I remain tentative for two reasons:
  • who should the 'communicatee' be...or the target market if you will...I'm anxious that now I've made the leap from the aesthetically pleasing image to perhaps more meaningful images, I need to consider where to show them and of course whether any of it is 'good enough' (whatever that means)...
  • and perhaps more honestly, it wouldn't be water off a duck's back if the work was severely criticised. I guess the fear of fear is sometimes greater than the thing itself, which I think is the case here. 
But I keep waiting, just another day or until I've finished this project or that series or when I've reached this point or that level and so on...Well, will I ever be ready?  And how long can you procrastinate for?

So what is it that I should do? Enter competitions?...yes probably. Compile a portfolio to submit to magazines?...yes probably. And make an approach to galleries...gulp...turning tail!!

For now, I suspect I'll enter one or two online competitions where there is a level of anonymity. There are so many of them, many originating from the U.S., many you have to pay for and many I wonder about the legitimacy of.  What strategy do you take? Do you just keep spending £20 here, $30 there on entry fees in the hope that one juror will eventually like your work? No, that doesn't feel right to me. There has to be a better strategy...I have in the past sporadically entered the odd competition and usually on a whim...nothing ever happens, I get disheartened and instead of bolstering my 'ego', it erodes it. So then I don't enter anything again for ages...I convince myself that most of the competitions are fund-raising initiatives or profiteering and leave it at that.

I sound like a cynic...but the promotional side of things (which incidently is what I was trained in) is what I am instinctively avoiding. I do need to tackle it...sometime...and I do need to understand my motives the children grow up and need less of my time, I do sense I will need to make more of this aspect of my life or else lose it!


  1. A short comment on this because I think I was the first to comment on Domestic Sublime but it appears to have got lost; basically a thumbs up.

    The short comment on this is that you have to spend at least as much time making the work as promoting it. Like a band spending 6 months making an album then 18 months touring it, except you have to do the making and touring in parallel. ' }

  2. ...errrrr promoting the work as making it!

  3. Thanks Clive...I'm currently in the studio and have taken up permanent residence, fearful of the big world outside...going on tour is new to me, and doing it in parallel seems odd too...need to get my head around all this as I'm not sure what it involves.

  4. Just checked the spam box and found two of your comments in there...I've 'unspammed' them!! Cheers Clive

  5. Good questions there Penny and you're not on your own (although I'm way behind you in terms of experience/skill). Entering competitions sounds a good idea. One of our local papers has a Flickr site and they started off with monthly competitions which now seem to have morphed into monthly picture features. they 'choose' images, although you can submit as well.

    1. Thanks Catherine...our local paper did something similar and indeed they used one or two of my earlier landscape pictures a few years back...I think they trawled the flickr pages for a fresh source of local imagery. Competitions, jury's out on this one for m...

  6. I can really identify with this, Penny. I keep feeling (and am often told) I should be putting my work 'out there' but I'm not sure where I want it to go or who might appreciate it. I've done the same as you in entering competitions on a whim and never getting anywhere, then becoming disheartened. Trouble is, I'm not very competitive by nature, and in any case, the criteria used by the judges may be very different from what I was trying to achieve by creating the image.

    Then there's the question of levels. Your photography is at a much higher level than mine and as images become more meaningful they have a tendency to become less immediately attractive to the majority. I think there's a place for it all - a lot of what I do is low-level in the sense that it's aesthetically pleasing but not much else, but I enjoy the fact that it seems to give pleasure to people - I feel that's a worthwhile thing, even if they're not art critics! I write a personal photography blog these days - not specifically OCA oriented - and I enjoy the reactions and feedback I get from that. Fortunately, I seem to be attracting people who give thoughtful comments rather than the usual 'awesome!'. If photography is a form of communication, then there have to be people to communicate with. I think that gets harder as our photography gets more sophisticated.

    As to justifying the time spent on it? Well, it seems to me that we often confuse the process with the product when it comes to art. I think it's the process of doing it that matters most whether or not it produces a 'practical and useful' product at the end of it. The process itself is no doubt giving you something that enriches you and therefore those around you. My mother was a talented piano player who denied herself playing time because there were so many other things she 'should' be doing. She was a very resentful, angry and frustrated person and I can't help thinking that she would have been much happier (and therefore so would we) had she given herself the gift of expressing herself musically.

  7. Hi Gilly, thank you for commenting...what is the address of your new blog, I'd like to follow it if I may...

    It sounds like you're deriving a lot of pleasure from your photography again which is wonderful...putting your work 'out there' is such a misnomer...where is 'out there' could be so many different places and nowhere at the same time...I'm not sure how to pitch the work, who to communicate it to and indeed where. Stock libraries are not my bag, competitions don't seem to be all that they appear - it seems too hit and miss. The blogs are great for contact and communication but not a showcase of your imagery. I suspect I will have to do my homework and like a business plan thoroughly research all the options and put together a strategy...hmmm, not enticing myself here!!!

    Very interesting what you say about your mother...the process is where the enjoyment is derived, yet it is overlooked so often in our results oriented society. It is sad to think your mum didn't follow her dreams, life getting in the way and ultimately tainting you and your siblings too...the adjectives you choose I must admit I sometimes much as I love being Mum, the creative outlet is hugely important to keep the balance in my life and not feel totally consumed in the household chores, important though they are!!

    I hope you continue to derive pleasure from your photography and am delighted you're coming along in September.