Musings on Photography

Sharing

Posted in art is a verb, process by Paul Butzi on December 6, 2009

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Via Kathleeen Conally’s twitter feed

“If nobody sees your photos, do they exist?” http://bit.ly/5oyIt9 RT @Expert_Photo #photography

Paul’s simple answer: Yes, they exist.

Paul’s longer answer: You bet they exist. If you make a lot of photos, and never show them to anyone, you’ve still showed them to the most important audience: yourself.

Don’t misunderstand. I think sharing your work is good. I share a lot (but not all) of my work. This blog and my static website exist partly as a way for me to share my work – to get feedback and comments from other folks. I founded a group of photographers who met every other week to share work; I was a member of that group for years, and left only with great disappointment for reasons unrelated to my feelings about sharing work.

But when we start talking as if sharing is the only thing, that the work is unimportant or doesn’t exist until we share it – that’s where I get off the train.

I share a lot of the photos I make, but I’ve made work, liked it, and destroyed it without showing it to a single soul. It wasn’t about sharing, it was about figuring something out. It was deeply personal, it was about how I felt and what I thought, and it was, dammit, private. Making it was important. Keeping it wasn’t. Sharing it would have been counterproductive.

If you share every piece of art you make, you’re never going to make deep, personal work. You’re always going to hold back. Privacy is a basic human need, like air and food and water.

So.

I think there’s a sharing/utility curve. At one end, we have never sharing your work. I think that’s sub-optimal. At the other end, we have always sharing your work. I think that’s suboptimal too. In between is a balance of sharing some stuff and not sharing other stuff, and somewhere between the two extremes is the optimum. Where the optimum is probably differs from person to person and changes over time.

6 Responses

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  1. Jason Gor said, on December 6, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for your writing and your photos Paul. I read your blog regularly, but have finally stirred myself to comment.

    I’m not sure how you think your “train the neural net” is going, but I really love your more recent photos. I’m using them as part of training my own “neural net”.

    I’m way on the private side of the spectrum you write about. I let my wife see my photos, and almost nobody else. Possibly I could loosen up a little bit!

  2. Gordon McGregor said, on December 7, 2009 at 9:00 am

    There’s also probably a tendency to get stuck in a style that you are good at, if you share your work a lot. People tend to expect a certain style and quality from you, so you share that sort of stuff and it gets positive feedback.

    If you want to branch out or explore new avenues, it is likely that you’ll be bad at it for a while, sharing then can limit the exploration, or force you back where you came from, or generally stop interesting things happening.

  3. Robert said, on December 7, 2009 at 9:51 am

    “If nobody sees your photos, do they exist?” Frankly, I find that question a bit insulting. Don’t you think?

  4. Vijay said, on December 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    I have both a private online gallery and a public one. Your point hit home for me when I was editing photos from a recent trip to NYC. Mid-stream during my edit session, I decided that I was going to post the photos in my private gallery. Totally changed my approach to the editing.

  5. Robert G. Longpré said, on December 8, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I agree with the post in its entirety. Photography is both for sharing with others and with self-discovery. I literally take between 5000 and 10000 photos a year and only share about 500 of them either within the family or on my blog site. I have a few books as well, but they seem to be non-issues as sales are near non-existent. But then again, it really isn’t about the money, is it?

  6. John NYC said, on December 12, 2009 at 9:18 am

    “I think there’s a sharing/utility curve. At one end, we have never sharing your work. I think that’s sub-optimal. At the other end, we have always sharing your work. I think that’s suboptimal too. In between is a balance of sharing some stuff and not sharing other stuff, and somewhere between the two extremes is the optimum. Where the optimum is probably differs from person to person and changes over time.”

    Right on. You got it. And it doesn’t matter what art form we are talking about. I believe this also applies to internal thoughts and belief systems — basically everything in life.


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