To share or not to share

Being an amateur photographer gives me an enormous amount of freedom in deciding how, or if, I want to share my photographs. Having just read an article by professional photographer Bruce Percy entitled Should Photography Be A Private Endeavour I must confess his conclusion really hit home for me, as I have been struggling to find a level of sharing that I feel comfortable with. The conclusion he reaches is that “We do photography for no other reason, than we do it for ourselves”. This is something I know deep down ought to be reason enough, but I have doubts about my ability to enjoy my hobby if I don’t share my photographs.

Let’s see if I can break this down. I am old enough to have enjoyed 35mm film photography for a couple of decades before I got my first digital camera, a 2MP Fujifilm point and shoot. During the years I shot film I was usually the only person to see the results of my labour. I may have put some of the pictures into photo albums and bored my friends and family with them, but largely they just went into storage boxes and were viewed only occasionally, and in recent years not at all. I don’t remember this being an impediment or discouragement to going out and taking pictures – it was the cost of film and processing that did that – so I was capable back then at least of enjoying photography just for the sake of it.

Roll on nearly forty years later and I have multiple ways of sharing, and believe me I have tried many: blogs, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and now Instagram. But I have never felt more unhappy about my photography.

Why this is so is, partly, a bit of a mystery to me. Who doesn’t want to get that little buzz that comes from a ‘like’ or a ‘fave’ from friend or stranger? Is there anything wrong with that? Well perhaps there is. My motivations have changed and I feel it whenever I raise the camera to my eye and think – how will this look on Instagram? It has changed how I look at the world, and I now tend to dismiss the kind of quiet images that I secretly love to see and produce. I love black and white photography, but I know that on sharing sites I get fewer likes for most of them than I do for the colour images.

So I have decided to only use Instagram in the way that the designers first envisaged – hosting photographs taken with my smartphone. I’ll keep it for fun and creativity, as I actually find using the smartphone quite liberating. For my ‘serious’ photography I am going to try what Bruce Percy suggests – keeping it back for myself. I’ll do this on a private Flickr account and if I want to share a few images I’ll do it here or make them public on Flickr. I will not worry myself about sharing potentially hundreds of photographs I like that I have taken in the last ten years. It may not work as a way forward but I will give it a try to see if the desire to produce personal work for myself is enough to sustain my photography.

Mountain scene, with haze.
San Bernardino Mountains, 2008.