So… I didn’t get shortlisted for Landscape Photographer of the Year. I started off being quite disappointed by this but on reflection I’m not really upset or surprised. I’m sure there were many much more talented photographers who didn’t get shortlisted. After all, it’s not as if I’ve been doing this seriously for that long, I’m still learning and experimenting and making mistakes. Nearly every image I make I feel I could improve the next time. Which I suppose is a good thing. I find that when I’m not learning or improving at something (the guitar springs to mind) I get bored of it.
However this recent “rejection” did make me question a few things, and made me reflect on what it is actually important to me in terms of my photography. Mainly -why do I choose to make images? Why do I choose to get up at silly o’clock chasing a sunrise when I could be lazing in bed? It could be the instant gratification I get from seeing the image come together as I’d envisioned or it could be an unplanned moment which arises. I think this uncertainty appeals to me. The luck of being in the right place at the right time.
Is it for a new challenge and the urge to create? Definitely. I know it’s a cliché to say you are a “creative person”, I mean who doesn’t think they are creative? But I do love to be creating things. I like having wee plans and schemes and projects on the go and I like the satisfaction of achieving the goals I set for myself.
It could also be that it just gives me the reason to get out of the city and into the highlands. But then I could equally just do that without my camera, so there is definitely something in the actually act of creating an image which makes that experience more enjoyable for me.
I think it’s probably a combination of all these factors. Whatever it is I know that I enjoy it. Enough to get up early and get bitten by midges. So it must be enjoyable. But it’s definitely a question I’ll return to again. Or maybe it’s just a question which can’t be answered like why people bother spending days arguing on DPReview articles about lens sharpness and sensor size, or which is better; Canon or Nikon.
Or…. could it be that I do it for recognition and to make money? I don’t think it is; I’m not famous (and don’t want to be!) and I don’t make much money from photography- although getting paid to travel the world taking photos in amazing places is kind of appealing. Recognition from fellow photographers is nice, but that isn’t why I make images.
But obviously recognition for my work is important to me, otherwise I wouldn’t bother to share it on the internet. I think sites like Flickr and 500px are a useful way of displaying work to a wider audience and they can provide inspiration and feedback from other photographers. But is that feedback necessarily a good thing? Do the likes and favourites and thumbs ups help your development? How much attention should you pay to these reviews? Can a popular image on Flickr go to your head and make you think your images are better than they are?!
I’m not going to lie, when I get an image in Flickr Explore (even in the knowledge that it’s full of awful pictures of cats, lurid HDR sunsets and Japanese girls on subway trains) I am pleased. It’s only natural. But I think the satisfaction has to be tempered with the understanding that popularity doesn’t necessarily make an image good. It also shouldn’t change your own perception of an image; if other people don’t like an image you’ve made, then it shouldn’t change how you feel about it.
So what is important to me at the moment in terms of photography is that I make images which I’m pleased with and that I consistently improve. If other people like them, then that’s great! If I win a competition it’s a bonus and therefore if I don’t win a competition it’s no big deal. By putting myself under pressure to either make money or win competitions from photography I could end up spoiling something which I really enjoy. Saying that though… I did win the WexMondays photo competition the other day and was well pleased…