I was just on Twitter and I looked down in the “Hey silly, these are the people you should follow” area. I rarely ever go to this little spot because I’m trying to EXPAND my digital horizon, not build a staggering mound of similar people, and it dawned on me how much THIS exact scenario is a part of the social world.

In other words, preaching to the choir.

On Twitter’s list, made special for me, was a photojournalist. I clicked on his name, and found post after post of mobile phone images. Under each image was the list of those who “liked” what the photographer posted, and there were many. There were SO MANY posts I just immediately killed the Twitter tab and tried to forget about it, because here is the reality. That photojournalist, he is capable of good work. He really is. He isn’t new, or crazy young, he’s got a track record. Now, that track record was FAR better before the advent of the mobile phone(in my opinion), and I really don’t want to engage with him in his new incarnation of “please follow and like me.” The work being liked, relentlessly, isn’t great work, but it comes with the “preaching to the choir” aspect of this charade. He could post photographs of his feet and a hundred people would tell him “great photo,” “amazing,” “incredible,” “awesome,” all the telltale vocabulary associated with social.

Ever wonder what would happen if someone said “Sorry man, this one just isn’t good enough.” Blasphemy!! Ban them! Burn them! How dare you invade the flowery world of the social following with ANYTHING deemed remotely negative. How often does someone in the choir yell “This song sucks…… we either sing FREEBIRD or I’m WALKING!” How often? NEVER.

I’m WAITING for these photographers to realize this little game has blowback. When someone shares their work at an unsustainable rate it actually diminishes the value and the power of what they are doing. Consider the micro-seconds of time many of these folks offering up the “likes” are spending with the imagery. Here today, gone tomorrow. In short, we are OVERSHARING at a deadly rate. Well, some of us are.

I’ve always felt that there have only ever been a few truly elite photographers in the world. This was true fifty years ago and it’s true now. The truly elite in my mind are NOT sharing every moment of every day and begging for attention. The elite are making work; real, honest, deep work and they are waiting like a visual virus. They are waiting for that work to be complete. They are editing, they are sequencing and they are packaging. They are waiting for the moment when humanity, NOT just the choir, is ready is receive and then they make their move. When they move, people stop what they are doing and they PAY ATTENTION. Real, undivided attention.

Certain photographers transcend photography. I have a game I play with my mother(75-years_old), who has always been supportive of photography but doesn’t have any interest in actually following photography, outside of the images I make of her grandchildren. I ask her if she has ever heard of certain photographers. Anyone who knows this site knows about my Salgado man crush, and Salgado is someone who transcends the choir. He, and his work, have become part of the vernacular of our culture. If he was buzzing around my ear EVERYDAY with post and after post after post I would toss him aside like I do the rest simply because there is NO WAY I have the time to actually consume that level of interaction. What I like about Salgado is that he pops up on my radar about once every ten years, and when he does I know I need to pay attention. His methods, his projects and his legacy are unrivaled in documentary photography, and just so you know, I don’t like everything he does. I think certain projects are better than others, but I pay attention, real attention, to all of them.

The sad thing is I believe there could be more Salgado’s out there, but too many people who have the talent have become sidetracked by staring at screens all day long and feeding their empty calorie lifestyle of the social following. At some point it’s going to dawn on these folks that change is in the air. Artists today have more control and more options than ever before, but it takes nerve, focus and a fearlessness to blaze a new trail. Artists have a permission slip, something I’ve harped on endlessly. A permission slip to be eccentric, to take chances and to be entirely original, but in doing so run the risk of NOT being “Mr/Mrs Popular.” Heck, sometimes I post things on Twitter to see how many people I can LOSE in one, 140-character blast. I do, and it’s a game I highly recommend because the MOMENT you begin to shape an artificial version of yourself in an attempt to gain more anything THE GAME IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

I hold out hope. When I see the name of the photographer I mentioned above, the one I noticed on Twitter, I see images of his in my mind. I see the OLD images, the ones that made him who he is before this charade began. This is true of many of these folks. I see their images because they were GREAT images. Signature, historical images but there were ONE or TWO from an entire story. THIS, for me is what photography is truly about. Great moments don’t happen everyday no matter how many filters you apply.


13 responses to “Dosage”

  1. Social Media in general has a hugely norming effect on pictures. You get good feedback for generating pictures that meet whatever the standards of your followers are. This winds up being some sort of average mediocre Thing.

    It varies a lot from group to group, but it’s never much good. It’s never challenging work, it’s average, it’s a lot like the stuff everyone else in the social group shoots, and we all train one another to meet the more or less arbitrary criteria the group has settled on.

    It’s pretty awful.

  2. Right on, Dan’l. We’re all drowning in social media and 99% of it is sooo mediocre.

    • Smogranch says:

      Aunt Martha,

      Yep, we are donating our lives to a false sense of connection veiled in ten layers of self promotion. That why I gone!

  3. It takes a lot of cream to make a little bit of cheese. Too bad people think velveeta is good.

  4. Great post! I totally agree.

    Let me illustrate with another example. A photographer I’m connected with on Facebook left a comment on a post from a renowned Belgian press photographer. He shared his latest project and announced the release of a new book. The other guy left a comment just asking a critical question towards his approach of this work, to better understand the how and why. A few hours later I found out that his comment was suddenly missing. I mailed the guy asking why he deleted his comment. It wasn’t me, he said, it was the press photographer who couldn’t deal with a critical question. And he also defriended me. I was completely speechless when I read his answer. And honestly, I did agree with him but didn’t dare to post my question in the comments. I wonder how many people were having the same feeling but didn’t want to risk their “friendship” with the renowned press photographer.

    • Smogranch says:

      It happens all the time. The web isn’t about feedback it’s about false praise by tens of thousands of untrained people who actually don’t know how to look at work, or even comment on it. I’m basing this response on an email from someone who admitted, in a very good way and kind way, that all he really knew how to say about an image was “cool.” It dawned on him that perhaps he should have a better of understand of what he was looking at, and how to respond to it. This is extremely common now, with two generations of web driven “photographers” who never had training or learned to handle a critique.

  5. christian says:

    Another great post!

    Back in the internet ‘bronze age’ I often got some very detailed, thoughtful and lengthy comments to the work I posted. Then ‘all of a sudden’ comments like ‘nice capture’ became the order of the day, and sadly it has only gotten worse.

    Anyhow, what I really wanted to say is that I think Rodney Smith’s blog is the model of class and restraint when it comes to ‘Dosage’ and writing, a real class act!

  6. I don’t mind untrained comment. I want to connect with the common man or whatever you want to call it. It’s when they get together in half trained tribes that you get on to trouble. It’s not about pictures, it’s about the tribe at that point.

    And best you comply with the tribe.

    • Smogranch says:

      Pack mentality for sure. I’m actually not looking for feedback on my work, per se, but if I was the Internet would be the LAST place I would look.

  7. Eric labastida says:

    I second that.

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