Making Things In The Instagram Era
May 28, 2020 • 3 minutes
I got really burned out on photography a few years ago because I felt like posting photos online had become a game of trying to appease an algorithm that was based on making people addicted to staring at teabag sized images on their phones.
I felt lost in trying to fight to be seen when the content I make is not really popular or trendy. So I gave up, as I felt that the work and time I spent with that medium wasn’t valuable anymore—people’s focus and attention had shifted. There was and is a surplus of images to the point of saturation. And maybe I wasn’t really taking all that interesting of photos anyway.
But now, I am finding my way back into taking photos again, but with a different purpose behind the work. As I can’t find the energy to try and compete on social media for likes, views, and followers, I want to take the work back to the medium where it started, in print. The problem is, printing is expensive, and the audience, without a following, so small I can’t imagine breaking even on a small book series.
I’ve explored all avenues and done many of them, such as having lots of followers on Instagram, running a newsletter, blogging, running a kickstarter, getting grants and residencies, etc. The problem is, to get a lot of reach or success with all those things essentially requires two things: either you become your own agent of promotion with a stacked CV or a lot of followers, or you find an agent ie: pay someone to promote you. It’s all mixed up with money and ego, which really have nothing to do with what I’m trying to create and why—it might even be antithetical to the work itself. I’m being idealistic, I realize, when I don’t want to play all those games. But if a person doesn’t compromise their vision, is it necessary that they have to settle for something different than those that do?
I guess it is.
But at the same time this doesn’t really lead me into wanting to spend effort making things that no one will ever see.
I think that this last thought gets down to the root of the matter, which is “why make anything?” Discussing that, however, leads down a rabbit hole about ego and meaning and contribution. To keep it more simple, this is why I make things: I write and take pictures because I love to. And from past experience I feel people benefit when they encounter my work, or at least enjoy it.
So in order to continue in this way, it seems like I need to really give up on the idea that I will ever be canonized, famous, or important to anyone other than a small group of people.
Honestly, what a relief.
It would be nice to just keep living the life I have now, now that I think about it. Yeah, it’s not so bad after all! Maybe I’ll even start taking photos of things again.