Becoming a Jaded Photographer

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Somewhere along the way I became a jaded photographer. Whether it was a few too many Golden Gate Bridge and heavily-processed HDR photos popping up on my social media feed several years ago when digital photography started becoming a mainstream hobby or from befriending too many like-minded photographers who share a similar mindset, I lost interest in looking at landscape photography for quite some time. At one time I used to gain inspiration from viewing others’ landscapes then it became looking at photos with a critical eye to just straight apathy.

I went to Nevada to hike and explore Valley of Fire State Park with a friend of mine a few years ago. My friend is not a photographer and we ended up at a Peter Lik gallery in Vegas. My friend grew up in Chicago and had never really seen much in terms of western landscapes so I could tell that he was amazed by what he saw. I on the other hand was feeling cynical and made some apathetic comments about cliched photos and marketing hype. My friend disagreed.

Now that I reflect back upon that Vegas experience, I’m realizing that I’m the one with a problem not Peter Lik nor my friend’s relative lack of exposure to art. The first time I saw Peter Lik’s work was back in the early-2000’s in San Francisco. I recall being similarly as impressed as my non-photographer friend was because I had not seen a lot of landscape photography up to that point. What happened to that young version of me that was bright-eyed and bushy tailed? It’s important to keep an open mind and find inspiration if we want to progress as artists. Negative energy is counter productive. People who close themselves off end up becoming dinosaurs at some point.

I see some photography lingo these days that appears to have originated from social media sites; words like “burn”, “skunk”, “comp-stomping”, etc… while I have never used these words myself it is a bit of a wake up call that the world moves on whether or not we choose to move with it. If I closed myself off to the photography community for the next 10 years I might not even be able to have a conversation with other photographers. I don’t want to be that way. The best way to influence change is to be actively involved and engaged. If you’re tired of seeing the same photos again and again then do something constructive with that energy and mentor people. Help progress the art. Having a disdainful attitude accomplishes nothing. People don’t want to be around negative energy. Don’t be jaded. Be motivated.

Sunset Over Stinson Beach, Mount Tamalpais State Park, California

Sunset Over Stinson Beach, Mount Tamalpais State Park, California


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3 thoughts

  1. Still jaded… for now. Don’t get me wrong I love photography, but I love nature, the outdoors and conservation a lot more. Change for me starts at home and for that reason I’m ok with my hiatus at the moment. I’m happy diverting my focus to my kids so that they enjoy nature as much as I do and to recognize its value & significance. Don’t get me wrong I really love photography, but I got into photography because of my love for the outdoors. The current state of photography online is more about attention seeking, gaming algorithms, and emulating others to the point that people lose their own identity. I don’t miss dealing with that every day. Seeing the look of wonder in my boys eyes when I bring them to a place I’d normally focus on photographing is proof I’m on the right track. Exploring, experiencing, learning and talking about nature is the way to fuel not just appreciation for the outdoors, but creativity itself. Perhaps that will fuel my boys to take an interest in photography or another art. Alternatively if they don’t have an interest in art, but just love the outdoors then I consider that a win.

    Galen Rowell had a very profound quote:
    “You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either.”

    I used to think that way, but I like to think a little differently now. You only get a limited number of days to share with your children. A good parent does the math and doesn’t waste an opportunity to spend that time together enjoying and teaching about nature.

    I don’t pass judgement on those that don’t subscribe to my philosophy, but I think there’s more to bowing out of photography (being jaded) than what you’ve noted. I have no doubt that when I apply myself to my art in the future, my creativity will be able to adapt to anything I might have missed or simply pick up from where I left off. From what I’m seeing I don’t think I’m missing much or enough to counter my kid focused approach to change.

    Great post Richard and definitely thought provoking. Enjoy the holidays with your friends and famly!

  2. Pingback: Best Photos of 2017 by Jim M. Goldstein - JMG-Galleries - Landscape, Nature & Travel Photography

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jim. We’re basically in the same boat with you a bit in front of me. You’re doing an amazing job with the kids. Photography for me is more about a creative outlet mixed in with a little bit of commercial. Not sure if I could be healthy without having a creative outlet.

    As for the online photography stuff, I prefer the platforms that allow you to self-curate what you see (Twitter, IG to some degree because I mainly follow people I know personally and not so much of the social media superstars). I can’t stand Facebook and what they’ve done to the algorithm. 500px, etc… I gave up on because they are exactly what you’ve described.

    That Galen Rowell quote is very fitting. The unspoken part of this industry is the effect it has on families. From what I have read, it seems like all those sunrises and sunsets that Galen chased came at the expense of being there for his family. Barbara Rowell’s Flying South book went into great detail about his priorities in life which often left her feeling alone.

    Happy holidays!

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