I have been toiling on my Daily Photo project in near total obscurity for almost six years now. About a year ago I started cross posting my Daily shot on Facebook. Now, I had an actual audience. Sometimes with opinions. I am coming to grips with what that means.
I shoot daily for no other reason than that it is a habit I have cultivated, that has a continuing payoff in keeping my eye alert and fresh, and that it is where I can see the trail behind me of what is visually compelling and what photographic issues I am working through.
When you have a cheering section, this can be problematic. Now, most photographers, myself included, crave recognition. As a commercial shooter, I need people to know I'm a good photographer with a particular style and presence. That's why I have a website and portfolios in it. Thousands of people use Flickr as a social network site as much as a photo display venue, and you can detect a lot of pitching for that “Attaboy, good job” response from the group.
It's not that I mean to be contrary to using photography as a personal validation. Sharing photos is a social act, and I do it all the time myself with the albums I post on Facebook. Here's how I saw this event, this place. I think you might like to see it the way I did. And I get lots of feel-good comments.
However. Adulation does not help you grow. It can keep you stuck in a place where you know how to provoke the same, complimentary response. What you learn is how to get very good at doing the same thing. A useful skill in the right circumstances, but it doesn't get you to the next thing you're going to be doing when this one runs its course.
Since I started getting a steady series of comments on my Facebook posts of the Daily Photo, I have caught myself falling into the adulation trap. More than once I've gone, this shot's awfully strange, I'd better not post it. People will like this other one better. I found myself mildly crestfallen when no one commented on an image. Facebook was training me to make a different kind of image.
Which, on a commercial level, is useful. Sometimes I see that an image gets a disproportionate reaction for reasons I don't understand, and I pay attention. But the Daily Photo is a personal photographic venue that I want to start bending back to it's original function—a place for me to tally where my attention is drawn, and to get hints for what is to come next.
But if you like what I'm doing, go ahead and say so. I'll try not to take it personally.