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Photograph for Yourself

A favourite quote of mine is from French photographer, Jeanloup Sieff, "I take photographs for me. If anyone else likes them then that's too bad".

Under Venetian Skies by Steve GoslingIt's a sentiment that I share because I think it's very important that when we fire the shutter we are not weighed down by concerns about whether anyone else will like the photograph we are taking. We have no influence over how a viewer reacts to our photographs (see the example in my previous blog post) - they bring their own unique experiences, personality and current mood to their interaction with our image.

To be constantly worrying about pleasing others prevents us from developing our own artistic voice with the danger that our photographs stay 'safe' and 'acceptable'. Our images therefore end up as clones of photographs that have been seen before - the surest route to producing a collection of boring photographs.

So my advice to the photographers who come on my workshops is to value their individuality, to be true to themselves and to learn to trust their vision & their instincts regardless of how they think the resulting images might be perceived by the viewers of their work.

Night Falls, Dettifoss, Iceland by Steve Gosling

Of course we all want to be liked and for people to react positively to our photographs. It is human nature to want to conform, to seek approval from our peers. But if that becomes our driving concern when making our art then this stifles and ultimately destroys our creativiity. As Brooks Jenson (Editor of 'Lenswork' magazine) has said "in the world of artistic photography there is no correlation between creativity and popularity". The really important correlation is between creativity and passion (something I will return to in a future Blog).

Essentially there's only one person that we are guaranteed to please and that's us.

I'll close with a quote from George Barr (in his book 'Why Photographs Work'): -

"Attempts to create an image to please others will usually fail; the image can seem trite or simply lack the spark that signifies great photography. you can however produce an image that means something to yourself and let the viewer have his or her own reaction".