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.


What I Love About Instagram

If this image doesn’t sum up Southern California or American suburbia…I’m not sure what does.

As you can see, I’m using Instagram. There are many things like Instagram out here, such as Hipstamatic, but for some reason nothing else has really held my attention. I can say the same about software programs and filter sets for applying to digital files. Nothing did it for me. But then something odd happened. Blurb release Blurb Mobile. Blurb Mobile is an authoring architecture that allows the user, an iPhone user, to quickly produced a multi-media essay with motion, stills, audio, captions, etc. I had been using this app for a while, with a specific intention in mind, but then realized I had painted myself in a corner with this intention. It turns out, for me anyway, Blurb Mobile is an extremely powerful tool. The ways in which I used it began to change, and so did my style of essay. I downloaded Instagram and realized that depending on the audience I was going after with my Mobile story, Instagram could be a fun and interesting addition to what I was attempting to get across.

Most of the creative types I know are somewhat frustrated. Today’s pro market is a tough nut to crack, and oddly enough one of the most difficult things to do is to create the kind of content you really want to create. Instagram is like a smile you crack a few times a day, unrelated to anything serious, in most cases, and entirely your own. The vast majority of the time the image comes from my phone, it’s made quickly, but meant to share and meant to bring that moment of creativity that feels so good you want to share it.

Instagram is also about feedback, and community, something that will only become more important and more powerful as tradition media channels continue to falter. Having 10,000 followers on Instagram can be a significant advantage for someone with the right plan in place. I’m a fledgling at this point, with under 200 followers, but within those followers are some hyper-creative, hyper-talented folks who are inspiring in a new way.

Now, like all other things of this nature, there are things that make me shake my head. I’ve experimented with filtering on top of filtering to see what demographic of people these files will attract or interest, but again, for me, the most difficult thing in the world is to make a straight image look incredible…especially with the crappy iPhone camera. As you can see by this post, filtering on top of filtering can provide an interesting flavor, and I’ll continue to experiment. Also, I get the filter on top of filter because things like Instagram gave us the permission to do this, which brings me to another point. Instagram doesn’t have to be serious. These photos for me are smiles, nods, gestures, sneezes, etc. Not that they can’t be serious, they certainly can be, and there are people making serious work using these apps. I have a list of these folks, hit me up on the comment section with others if you have a minute. I’m digging what is out there.

The only thing, so far, that makes me wonder is when I see someone with tens of thousands of followers but they are only following like eight people. That I’m not sure I quite understand. If you follow too many people, like Twitter, your stream can be overwhelming, but isn’t that really the point? When I see someone with a massive following and only eight people they are following it reeks of a pure marketing tool, which again is valid, but for me goes against the DNA of what this is really about. But, everything is now a marketing tool, just like this blog. Guilty. I’m not sure what I’m marketing, but it’s there.

When I wrote on Twitter that I was on Instragram I got a few DM’s saying, “No way, not you.” All in good humor mind you, but I’m perhaps not known as “Mr. Technology” but I probably am more than you think. My plan is to keep using this app, as well as Blurb Mobile, which if you haven’t seen and used is a tool that can do amazing things. Blurb Mobile also has a story stream area where you connect with, and follow, users from around the world. And just like Instagram, I’ve been blown away by how people are using Mobile and the quality of their work. Okay, I’m marketing Blurb Mobile. It’s official. Guilty.

So as we move ahead I plot my electronic future. Later today I drive over to my darkroom to drop off a print washer, some trays, etc. My feet are firmly planted in both the old and new worlds with no plan to move either foot. What a great time to be alive and with camera. I will shoot Instagram photos in the darkroom, so get ready. It’s coming.

Gram on people, gram on.