Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Making photographs - why and what for?

Harvey Benge - Auckland, January 2018

Influential writer, critic, photography professor Jörg Colberg in a recent post on his interesting, always provocative Conscientious Photo Magazine website discusses the danger of following trends in the photo world. Jörg talks about the current obsession with social media - facebook, twitter and Instagram with photographers hanging out for likes and forever keeping an eye on whose following who. And trolling the digital world to hook into what's hot and what's not. 

I liked Jörg's parting paragraph: With social media amplifying hot trends and quick, short-term success, it has become a lot harder to play the long game that artists really need to play. Even if you stay off social media, chances are your friends and colleagues will be on them... I don’t think such an approach works in your favour if you want to be an artist. After all, the one trend you really want to follow with as much dedication as possible is this one: what drives you, what provides your mental energy to pursue whatever it is you feel strongly you need to go after? Everything else is just a pointless diversion.

Jörg's piece made me think about why I make photographs. I do it because I love it, and because it's the most difficult thing I have ever done. I do it because I've met some amazing people in the photo-world, people whom I like immensely and who inspire me. 
I do it because it's my way of examining the world, asking questions and looking at my place in the scheme of things. I do it because I recognise the wisdom in Socrates statement - the unexamined life is not worth living. I do it for myself, for my own inner satisfaction. I do it because as Jörg identifies it's about the long game, a game that never ends because each image opens up the possibility of the next one. And occasionally I make a picture that's worth a second look.

I don't do it for fame or fortune. A like here or there. I don't do it to hang out with photographers with massive egos who can only talk about themselves. I don't do it to consort with shooters that mistake decoration for substance or worse still confuse clever with intelligent. I don't do it to learn from photographers who think that success is all about external gratification when it fact it's all internal - my head, my heart.

I like the Zen analogy of chopping wood, just get up in morning, metaphorically chop wood and make pictures. Finally I think we photographers should never forget how privileged we are to be doing what we are doing, particularly considering the dismal state of the world in so many areas.

You can read Jörg Colberg's full piece The Danger of Trends on the Conscientious website HERE. 

Harvey Benge - Auckland, January 2018

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