During one of my recent Instagram binges I came across a story from incredibly talented photographer Elena Jasić that I’ll sum up as follows. There are too many photographers right now taking way too many photographs. This is something I’ve grappled with myself. The game is oversaturated, a fact my self-doubt loves to point at and reiterate. Everyone is a photographer nowadays. Everyone! Thanks to software advances, your 70 year old great aunt can take a properly exposed photograph and share it within seconds of snapping. If you add her and her snaps to the pool of traditionally trained professionals, the self-taught pros, and countless levels of amateurs, you can see why the pool is overflowing.
In addition to the sheer number of photographs being created every second, there is also the issue of getting your work in front of others. At the dawn of social media this was much easier than it is now. In the olden days, chronological timelines were the norm and you got to see what your friends, family and favorite artists posted. But now algorithms have been tasked with controlling who sees what and when. The AI gatekeepers know what you like better than you do, or so they say. I don’t think anyone believes that the algorithms running social media feeds are built for the common good or even for the lowly consumer. Even those of us who voice a frustrated opinion towards the respective platforms ultimately understand what drives them, revenue, pure and simple.
So how are we supposed to create meaningful work without being discouraged and swept away by the flood? First, we must filter. We must limit what we ingest. Pick what inspires you to be a better photographer/person and immerse yourself. Then, once you feel the pull to create, kill all of your expectations, all of them. Just create expecting nothing in return. Don’t expect the piece to come out how you intended. Don’t expect likes and comments. Don’t expect money, which is easier said than done if you’re currently making a living off of photography and wish to continue doing so. But I’m quite certain the number of you doing that and reading this blog is considerably smaller than those of you who are looking for inspiration to create.
Ultimately, there needs to be a “fuck it” moment for you. Who cares if the Walnut Street Bridge has had more photos taken of it in the last year than the prior 50? Do we really need another photo of the Fulton Bank sign? Nope. How about another shot of the Market Street Bridge from the Walnut Street Bridge? Nope! But fuck it. If it asks you to takes its photo while you’re out and about, train your camera to your eye and snap that mah-fucka unapologetically! Each time the shutter gets snapped beauty is punctuated. Remember what drew you to the medium in the first place, and please create your art for self-expression and not self-validation. You are already worthy, there’s no need to ask.