Enough Is Enough

Enough is Enough

At first, I only checked Facebook once per week (based on a good recommendation).

Then, I quit my photo blog at Tumblr and opened up this one.

Soon, it seems, I’ll want to quit Instagram. That leaves Twitter and Flickr (which is barely “social”), and who knows what’ll happen with those two. Or any other social media platform that has us, as users and creatives, doing all the real work for them.

No, it’s all too much.

This is not a rage quit. It’s the product of a lot of small, quiet frustrations that leave me thinking I can spend my time doing other things.

It’s not a new revelation, and Lord knows I’m not the first to discover social media is a waste of time. But as I get older, and I have friends and family, and projects to do around the house, and little patience for the increasing amount of (mostly irrelevant) ads blinking in my face, the less appealing all these “What are you up to?” platforms become.

I still enjoy my quiet little corner of Twitter, with my Mac nerds and fellow photographers. And I still dig the work people post on Flickr. I’ve set up my social media accounts to show me mostly stuff and people I’m interested in. It’s just that more and more on those other platforms, advertising and “features” are intruding. To what benefit?

As Jörg Colberg writes, “If you’re happy with being a passenger and with having to change vehicles usually the moment you’ve become a bit comfortable, then stick with Silicon Valley’s boom-and-bust cycle. If that’s not what you want, going back to blogging is likely to give you a lot more agency.”

So here I am, with a relaunched blog, away from Tumblr.

Another problem is that marketers and brands have gotten a hold of these sites and used them for marketing. I think a lot of the marketing world is waking up to the realization that social media isn’t the be-all, end-all marketing channel for the modern consumer. If anything, people switch social media platforms to escape the ads and intrusiveness. I should know: I’m one of those people using social media to “engage” with customers and visitors – but I don’t do it with a clear conscience, because I hate seeing all that “engagement” crap, too.

It’s tough feeling like you can’t get your stuff out there to be seen without social media, and yet being uncomfortable with the idea of using social media at all. I’m a pretty private person, and I feel weird every time I try to promote something on Facebook, Twitter, etc. As a photographer, it’s a Catch 22.

I don’t have any answers right now. The trick is finding the mix that works, and that’s a work in progress.



Overthinking Things

Overthinking Family Photos

We photographers worry, don’t we?

We worry about what social media platform is right for us. We worry about when and where to share things. We worry our work won’t be seen, or won’t sell, or won’t make an impact.

We worry what our cameras say about us. We worry about not taking time to get out and shoot. We worry about those undone projects, or those missed opportunities.

CJ Chilvers addressed my sharing family photos conundrum on his blog:

I’m also sure we’re overthinking things a bit. I doubt professional photographers give a second thought to posting any photo they create that meets their standards.

He’s so right. I am overthinking things. The little privacy gland in my brain always vibrates when I dip into the personal. Turning that off is hard.

That’s probably true for other photographers, too. We overthink things all the time.

Maybe it’s time we just did. Instead of living in our heads, let’s live out in the world. Make things. Share things. Spend less time on “strategy,” or shots left untaken.



Marvel At the Now

Marvel At The Now

Things used to be pretty ugly, and yet beautiful, in this country just a few decades ago.

How will our photographs record the history of today?

You don’t feel time passing as it happens so much, at least not visually. It’s just part of the everyday. But when you look back 10 or 20 years, my how things have changed.

This comes up when someone tags me in an old high school photo on Facebook. I look at what we were wearing, what our hairstyles were, how dated everything looks. It didn’t at the time, of course, because we were living it.

It’s a neat thought, to think that the photos we’re taking now will be marveled at by some future civilization.

(’70s photos via On Taking Pictures)

Adds Up to Something New

Starting new photography projects

Todd Hido, on starting a new project:

That is how things always start for me—I will make one or two photographs that I don’t necessarily fit with my other ones and then I go out and try to build on them. Slowly it adds up into something.

So true for me as well. I’ll often get an idea, try it out a few times, and then it doesn’t pan out. But often, something catches, and I keep going.

And hey, it’s okay to have a few going at once. Few photos here, a few nibbles there, and pretty soon you have something strong.

Lease Versus Own

Lease Vs Own

Michael Gartenberg on the iPhone 7:

All of sudden, customers like me, who prefer to buy once and hold on as long as well can become the outliers. There’s a whole new set of buyers to appeal to who will view a monthly charge for the latest phone as just another line item.

But can Apple get enough customers on the subscription model? Will the desire to always have the latest and greatest iPhone be enough of a driver?

I held on to my iPhone 3G probably a year too long. With my current iPhone 5S, it’s the same situation. And when I do upgrade, it will probably be to an iPhone SE, not a 7.

It’s the same with photography. Sony would love for you to buy the latest Alpha 7 model every year. Adobe wants you to “subscribe” to Photoshop.

Are you on the “lease” model Gartenberg talks about? Or do you purchase things for the long-haul?

I like owning things. I like relying on my purchases for the long term, and a lot of research and thought goes into each of those purchases. The same goes for music, for automobiles, for everything. It could be that I learned a lot from my grandparents, who grew up during the Depression, and invested in things that lasted. They took pride in the things they owned. And they treated those items with care and respect, and kept them running.

The problem comes when the software updates outlast the technology.

Then again, my Canon 5D is shooting just fine, 10 years later.


Photographs As Language

Photography As Language

Mason Adams, from “On Visual Fluency“:

The devices we use to take pictures are also the devices we use to communicate, and that’s awesome.

Mason’s larger point is that photographs are being used as a type of language – everything from emoji to gorgeous mobile food photography. It’s never been easier to share the stuff we see. So what does that do to the marketing, branding, and stock photography industries? 

I really liked his analogy of the reason why we take photos:

Like layered dirt in a glass container, the act of photography IS the moment. Amplified, hallowed, the ultimate savoring of the things that bring us joy. Which is to say: Certain things can bring us joy, but not as much as when we take pictures of them.

So many photographers I know take photos to remember things.

That’s still true, but now we’re taking photos to say things—about ourselves, about the world around us—as well as to preserve memories.

(via Flak Photo)

Feel Euphoria

The morning after our daughter was born.

When my daughter was born, my wife and I spent most of a week in the hospital.

Near the end of that time, I headed home to take care of a few things—the mail, the trash, clean up a bit, that kind of thing—and I realized something:

I never felt better in my life.

There was no stress. No anxiety. No worries. I felt this overwhelming sense of relaxation – of everything being right and good with the world. It was amazing.

Thinking about it later, my euphoria could be explained by a few things. For one, my entire life that week was wrapped up in caring for my newborn daughter. I rarely thought of myself, or my needs. Everything I did was for her (and, in close second, my wife). Selflessness breeds good vibes.

For two, I was severely lacking in sleep. A hospital cot is no place to get good, quality rest. So some of that stress-free feeling could have come from a profound mental tiredness. Who knows?

Also, I felt like an older version of me had passed away, and I had taken on this new role of “father.” I was a daddy. My old life, as I knew it, was gone. A new, exciting, terrifying future was in front of me. It was awesome in the old sense of the word (“full of awe”).

People often say that, facing a near-death experience, their post-experience life takes on a new shine. Their survival comes with a burden and an opportunity – a kind of second chance. It’s the only similar experience I can think of that describes what I felt on that drive home from the hospital to run some errands.

My headaches were gone. My shoulders weren’t all bunched up around my neck. Everything was rainbows and sunshine. It was weird! And it was something I’ll never forget.

That feeling is, as of today, a year old, along with my daughter. While that feeling faded, it never truly went away. It’s hung around, a quiet buzzing along the edges of everyday life, and it gets louder every time I see or hold my baby. Lots of parents know this feeling. In fact, many people tried to tell me what it’s like before I became a father.

But you don’t really know that feeling until it happens. I relay that message to fellow parents when I see them; I give them a wink and a nod of understanding.

“You know what it’s like,” I say. “And before it happened, you didn’t know.”

So I get the chance to put that feeling into the photos that I take of my daughter. She’s had a year of daddy sticking a camera in her face, as many children and many generations before her have experienced. Usually, she’s a good sport.

What she doesn’t know yet is that daddy tries to take that special feeling, from a year ago, and translate it through the photos I make of her. I hope that someday, many years from now, she’ll see the photos and understand how much I love her.

County Fair Famous

County Fair Famous

My family took a trip to the Jackson County Fair a few weeks ago, as we do every year. It’s something we look forward to each year: the food, the animals, the people watching. All the lights and sounds and colors make for great photo opportunities. It’s a lot of fun.

Each year, in the 4H pavilion, the fair hosts contests – everything from antiques to crops to artwork. Last year, I entered some photos for the first time, and did pretty well. This year, I opted not to, just because the deadline passed and I had other things going on.

Looking through all the entries this year, it struck me: There were a ton of great photos, and I hadn’t heard of any of the photographers.

As much as we may follow other photographers that we like, and check out exhibitions of nationally-known artists, there’s a ton of great work being made right in your own community, by people you’ve never met. You may work with one of these folks. Or they may make you coffee. Or they pick up your trash.

They work just as hard as you do, find great scenery like you do, struggle with creativity and energy just like you, and wonder about getting their work seen – as we all do. They’re all out there hustling, trying to find their photographic voice, and entering a little county fair competition to get some confirmation of their vision.

We struggle so much with marketing, and self promotion, and creative struggles. Meanwhile, our neighbors are out there making stuff, and entering it into a competition to earn a few bucks and a ribbon.

Maybe they have something to teach you (or vice versa). Maybe you should look them up and go make something together.

Printing Family Photo Books

Printing family photo books

For the last few years, every holiday season, I’ve made it a point to create a family photo album. It’s a highlight reel of the most recent year, with our vacations, our birthdays, our seasons and walks and daily routines all documented.

My family photos albums were so important to me growing up. For many years, a lot of my childhood photo albums were somewhere I couldn’t get to them. It was only in the last seven or eight years that I got ownership back, and I made it a point to scan all those childhood pictures for safe-keeping (digital is relatively fire proof, as long as you have a good stable backup).

Going through those old photo albums was satisfying. I feel like I got my childhood back. And today, while we still print individual photo prints of the family, the idea of a photo book—a collective annual history—is a tradition I want to carry on. I look forward to making our photo book each year.

Another tradition: making a photo calendar and giving it away to family members. That’s become an annual tradition too, and it’s fun to see a year full of family photos and memories up on relatives’ walls. It makes for a great Christmas gift.

This year, I want to try something new: give away photo books to family members. With my daughter turning one this week, I think a photo book of her first year might make some family members pretty happy.

These are the types of things that keep memories alive.

This year, with the photo book idea, I can keep our collective family history going – and make sure that if one collection of pictures gets lost, there’s another copy floating around somewhere.

On Sharing Family Photos

Sharing Family Photos

Lately I’ve thought long and hard about sharing family photos on the various photography outlets.

It’s kind of an automatic thing on Facebook, even though I’m using that site less, because family photos are what friends and family are interested in. How are the kids doing? Where is this year’s vacation spot? How is our nearly-one-year-old daughter growing?

For other outlets—Flickr, Instagram, here on the photo blog—it’s a tougher question for me. First, I’m a pretty private person. And second, who is interested, if anyone?

How much do I share? And where?

I look at other photographers’ family work, and lately it’s some of the best stuff I see. Many of my favorite photographers have no issue sharing photos of their family.

Since my daughter was born last year, and even before that, I’ve taken a ton of family photos – some of which I’m proud of. Should I share those as a larger sample of my photography? How do I read my own slight discomfort at sharing family stuff? Why do I feel that way in the first place? Why is Facebook okay, but my photo blog not okay?

This week is an experiment. With my daughter’s birthday coming up this weekend, I hope to land somewhere by then.