Sunday, July 31, 2005

Photo upload sites - audience opinion

Having uploaded to numerous websites which allow photographers to share their images with a world-wide audience I've come to some interesting conclusions.

Each website has it's own audience and character, although I have noticed that like me there are other promiscuous photographers who upload to more than one site. I may upload the same picture to different sites and the reaction will be completely different.

Some sites, like altphoto are open about their preferences. They want to see 'alternative' photography and warn photographers not to upload sunsets and flowers - two subjects that are very popular on ephotozine.

In many ways these websites for photographers to showcase their work and get feedback play the role of amateur photography clubs, albeit on a much bigger scale.

Conforming to any of them, in the sense of pandering to the predominant taste on the site, can be detrimental to your photography. This is especially true if you take photographs to please a specific audience rather than pursuing your own artistic vision with integrity.

One of the most important things to realise about the camera club mentality is that in order to get members to conform, or measure their progress against their peers it is necessary to follow a set of dogmatic principles. They try to get you to fit a mold. It is easier to measure people against pseudo objective criteria, the received wisdom of photography classes than it is to judge each work by the artists intention. So they hammer on about things like keeping your horizons straight and various other criteria all to do with presentation rather than content.

Beware and remain true to your own vision, no matter how many clicks, ratings or whatever else the online camera club deals out. Don't let yourself get pushed into their way of thinking. Rather seek the audience that suites your work.

I think that there are many different audiences each with it's own set of values and preferences. Art directors, marketing executives, picture editors, amateur photographers, professionals, art critics and museum curators will all look at the same image in a slightly different way and their judgment will reflect their viewpoint.

The thing that really surprises me though is that so many truly great photographs get ignored by the masses. I try to judge pictures in terms of how effective they are at achieving the photographers intention. Do they really communicate something? Do they evoke an emotion? Ultimately I think the judgment of whether a photograph is good or bad is not very useful. Images should instead be looked at in terms of whether they are interesting or not, and this will often depend on context and content.

Your feedback is always welcome. Click on my name below to send me an email.

Paul Indigo
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