Photographers often take photos for their own pleasure, but I wonder who should we expect our viewers to be? A lot of us get upset when we don’t hit the nail (as it were) when it comes to Instagram, Flickr, 500px etc, but is that not telling us that we haven’t yet figured out our audience?
It seems super obvious to answer this at first. Anyone, everyone, everywhere is our viewer, because our stories are about life, the universe and everything right? With the insane amount of potential and ongoing growth of photography and social media — the access to a viewership has never been made easier so the more the merrier right? But the number of people on Instagram, or any other platform for that matter, isn’t a good way to gauge your potential viewership; it also assumes too much about the demographics of people on these platforms in relation to your own work.
To get back to where I want to be, I need to assess where I currently am. Aiming to photograph for everyone or the wrong group of viewers, is a critical mistake most of us make. I personally don’t think this is a good approach, and likely, this approach has stifled my growth and imagery development too. Rather than sharing a narrative with people interested in seeing it, I’ve been trying to create work which will get noticed, but with no real plan on who I want seeing my photos and what I hope to achieve on them viewing it.
My story and drive has always been placing people in weird and wonderful scenes as a question to what reality is, but I never really considered who would want to look at that and why? I think many photographers have lost this view as a reality. We create images for viewing, for exploration, but we are not the viewer. We get so lost in the process of photographing we forget to realise that we are the thinker, the creator, which doesn’t result in having an automatic viewership handy and waiting to view our talents as we bleed to create.
It stands to reason that time is required to allow this idea to proliferate, but furthermore, means I may need to adjust the complexity of my ideas to make them more palpable.
So who are we photographing for? And why? If I come back to my own idea and current viewership status, I’ve noticed that my potentially global demographic has been narrowed to a very small group of individuals keen on or part of the street photography scene, or in some way aware and interested in it. Beyond that, my narrative might be too grim and narrow for most viewers; or this isn’t a topic of interest on the minds of most people.
I also realised that I had begun filtering out photos from my edit reel based on their potential success on Instagram, which as I’ve argued before, is not a really good way to gauge the success of an image. The lack of knowledge about my view has also lead to my own struggles in finding a purpose for my imagery.
To get back to where I want to be, I need to assess where I currently am. So, as a photographer, my objective is to take ownership of scenes and deliver them as objects in singular form — that is to say; the photo does not have individual elements which makes up the scene. The scene is simply the sum of all its parts so as to be ‘the photo’. For me, clarity, flow, rhythm and simplicity are important elements of my storytelling — from there a person close or far who is seemingly lost or stuck in a scene that is bizarre is the icing on my narrative cake. But who do I want to present this to?
I photograph to question reality by creating images which place people in weird and wonderful scenes, not of this world (but of this world)On review, part of my target audience are curators, art collectors and knowledgeable street photographers would view my work, all in hope of recognition and glory. In totality, not having an understanding of my viewer is seemly the undercurrent as to why I feel like I’ve failed as a photographer so many times. I realise this as I tally the awful viewership choices I’ve made. I sought a tough margin of viewers who are likely too busy on their own endeavours to see my work. Not having the right understanding of viewership lead me to this point.
The other half of the issue is basically that I need to stop sporadically throwing photos to the wind and hoping my 30 relevant hashtags which I spent hours research will also nail the demographic of people I don’t know exist.
Recognising that I’ve fumbled on not understanding my viewership, gives me arsenal to look at the ‘why’ of the situation. Using myself as an example again: I highlighted before that I photograph to question reality by creating images which place people in weird and wonderful scenes, not of this world (but of this world). Assessing this idea leads me to realise that this by no means is an easy thing to view.
And likely a conclusion difficult to achieve in the complexity of images I enjoy creating. It stands to reason that time is required to allow this idea to proliferate, but furthermore, means I may need to adjust the complexity of my ideas to make them more palpable. I want the image visible and understandable by most people because I’d like to see the narratives they uncover from my own thought in an image. Specifically, I want to hear what the younger generations think about the place and time of these images. In discovering this, I’ve already begun creating a purpose for my photos again, and furthermore, I have begun planning how I can adjust my complex ideas to allow more palpable viewing, without losing my integrity as a creative and photographer.
The other half of the issue is basically that I need to stop sporadically throwing photos to the wind and hoping my 30 relevant hashtags which I spent hours research will also nail the demographic of people I don’t know exist. As an artist and creative, this is a very lazy approach to my viewership, and likely the reason I’m having a hard time finding a voice amongst the Instagram crowd too.
My approach henceforth is to literally stop filtering my work for Instagram likes, as it dwindles our ownership of art and images and devalues them into dusty hashtag graves, and start finding ways to maintain my narrative but include and expand my viewership targets so as to find eyes interested in viewing my perspective, but also willing to discuss it.