A Twist On Validating Your Photography
Almost every artist is looking for some type of validation for their work. We want to know if we are getting our message across, our point taken, or an emotion transferred, and I wonder, as I scroll through my own social media feeds, whether I am one of those that relies on validation for motivation. I think I know the answer. We probably all have an answer to that question, but this validation doesn’t always come by way of “likes” and “shares” we may be used to.
I see images on other photographer’s feeds with really high amounts of “likes” and “shares”, and I automatically think, wow, they are doing it right! Instantly I reverse engineer the image’s lighting, survey the composition, and try to define the depth of field and shutter speed. I note the location or backdrops used, scrutinize the subject… filing all this information categorically into my mind under the label, “This is what it takes to be successful, it has lot of “likes”.
Of course, a certain amount of jealousy sets in, and it plants itself firmly into the dirt. “Man, I wish I could have thought of that first!” -whatever ‘that’ is. Yes, I want to be accepted, to grow a tribe of followers, to achieve some level of success, but I’ve found that validation can come in ways that hardly can be quantified or measurable by analytics on a computer – It comes in ways we don’t always see.
My sister is an inspirational rock to my writing and my photography. One day, I was whining, needing a dose of validation/motivation from someone who won’t let me down. I was struggling with how I’m a little eccentric in my methods and thoughts, and wondering if I was “doing it right”. In the middle discussing all that by way of text messaging, she sent:
“While to some of the world I am just a mediocre teacher, I know that on an individual level I have influenced lives, and those people go into the world and contribute their little part. I will never know the extent to which I’ve made an impact. That’s not my business.”
Wow! What a powerful statement, and with such understanding of how she fits within her world of teaching (and as a person for that matter). She is doing what she knows is best, what she feels is the best delivery method for her teaching, and she is happy that after all she has done, she may not fully know her success. That is confidence. I might be a little biased, but I know that her capabilities are hardly “mediocre”. She gives everything she has to her students, and after doing so, she’s satisfied- let the chips fall where they may.
Applied to the art of photography, we can view our work in the same manner. Only a few will ever “like” or “share”, or even comment on your work through social media, but you’ll never know how many see your work, is affected by it, but continue scrolling .
We can never know how our images truly affect some people unless they voice their affection. Even then, few can express their thoughts and emotions through words as they truly feel- this is difficult sometimes for most any of us. Some may have private issues or thoughts they can’t (or won’t) express about your work. We have to accept that we may never know the impact we’ve made. That’s not our business.
Our business is to continue shooting what we are inspired to shoot, allowing that inspiration to transfer through the photograph and impact our viewers at some level wether or not they give us feedback, or validation.