The Social Photographer

DaveKaiPiper | Photography and Photographers | Published Jan 29, 2013

There are many types of people and many types of photographers. There are many ways to see the world and they are all valid in their own ways. Something that is interesting to me is how all these people mix together in the melting pot that is the increasing world of social media. During the last couple of months there has been a slight increase of people who have voiced their views about my work directly and indirectly to me via the wonderful world of social media. The internet has given direct contact between creator and viewer in a way never seen before. The artist, writer, blogger or creator of content shall we say, has started to have to think about some new things due to this ,increasing, direct contact. Not only is it faster to create and share work be it is also faster to be cut down when people do not like it.  Having a thick skin and understanding of how to take negative comments has always been needed, but thicker skins than ever are needed in this fast and brutal way of presenting work and being represented.  The problem is this, back a few years ago the creator of content was never in such contact with the Ramblings of people who viewed their work. Years ago, the only time people would get critique was if the content maker actively went out looking for it. It was then given with the correct understanding that someone is looking for constructive guidance. A photographer would take work to a camera club and sit among people who would explain views and offer guidance. These days we just have people press a like button, not so dissimilar to a simple cheap version of X-factor. These days putting work out to the masses can be a very un-fun process and something that many people do not enjoy doing. In the electronic world photography and all forms of art are displayed out of context and just fodder for people to pray on. It takes a certain knowledge or thick skin to wade past many peoples short, narrow views that can be taken personally thus damaging for the person who reads these ill-thought comments.  Artists are people too, critics will be critics and people will be people. But never before has a creative person been in such a firing line of people who want to blindly fire insults and hurt. Editors and publicists used to help advise and deal with negative input when it arrived and things were controlled. If people think I don't take criticism of my work well, that may be some truth to that, however this can be explained. Most of the comments and harsh critiques come from a 72 dpi Facebook photo placed into a context of their own and no way representative of a final output. Some people forget this. People have told me I was not taking criticisms well on Facebook, but forgive me if I do not value your view as high as you might wish and please don’t mistake this as arrogance, it's just that sometimes people are commenting out of context and therefore really cannot be that valid. We all know how attacking some people are and the worrying, damaging effect they have on people. But also, if you don’t want people to comment, then don't place your work in a public space. However, the next time you are commenting on someone work and they are not aside you, please do think about how and where you deliver your blow that you think their work is crap.


A recent example is this. I use Facebook in two ways, I have a personal account and a Photography page. I am open and welcome people on both pages and regularly engage with people. I do my best to try and keep things nice and flowing on both pages. Due to the nature of the things I shoot, many of the girls are pretty and slim. This alone causes unwanted comments such as “wow, great tits”. These sorts of comments get removed and repeat offenders get blocked using the FB settings. I think this is fair for me to do on both pages I look after. Some see this as censoring or monitoring the comments and only letting things I like being posted on my FB walls, to an extent yes. After all it is my FB and I can do what I want with it. I am not going to prevent people from commenting like a few photographers do and I am not going to remove comments that criticize the work either. So long as the comments are not personal about me, or the subject. Another story I can remember was when a student seeming only out to cause a problem and offend, added me on my personal Facebook account then proceeded to go though all my personal photos and give a harsh, near nasty comments under the name of critique. Was I right to have a problem with this ? When I asked the person what they were doing the response of “You have photos, you’re a photographer. Don't over edit, blur the f*ck over them and not expect comments about it”. She was talking about personal snaps taken on phones and photos that other people had tagged me in. A little strong, I thought. As to the editing of the photos, she was talking about the normal Instagram and the app type editing style. The problem is that due to people having such direct access to comment on someone’s creative offerings with the world can be bad as much as it can be good. This happened a while ago now and it really did shock me how blunt some people are. Trying to explain to my family why I can not post family snaps on my Facebook account incase someone comments that my Mum is not up to my normal standard of model is not nice at all. It really does seem the element of common sense and decorum is lost these days. This incident was not nice and it did upset me as much as it upset others. In this world of free speech, people can say anything, but still, they have no right to be rude or offensive. I have and always will remove rude and offensive comments on Facebook. Some people will see this as me not removing views I don't like or agree with. They are right in a few ways. I do not agree with non-constructive, mean, nasty and hurtful words said over a public network. To sum up, we should all remember how worrying and daunting having work out in the open media it can be, some people can be very hurt when the right things are phrased in the wrong way. Speak to people how you would like to be spoken to and remember there is always other ways to say something and be tactful and aware that we are not all used to having critiques.

As I only just got my Facebook back from a 4 day block due to me posting sexual and offensive images, (displayed above) I have now to be more careful than ever as what I post. I know for a fact that some people just click report if they don’t like a photo. I understand that Facebook is free and it is “their party” and they can set the rules however they like, but I am sure they need a better way to control the problem of people just having a problem and getting people banned. I really do think that  when you are blocked it should say who reported you. That only seems fair in my eyes.  My next ban is only going to be longer and their seeming is nothing I can do about it but not use Facebook, which is not what Facebook want. I guess is the way to make sure the people who misuse the system are not on my page. Harder said than done. I love other peoples views and opinions, I love to engage in debate and get lost in arguments about the world we love and live in. I love to be challenged and engaged, after all I am a photographer. Surely that should tell you that I want to communicate, but in a nice way with other nice people. On the Fstoppers Facebook forum a photographer posted a photo of a girl dressed in a US flag, seemingly nude but for a pair of boots.  The story was that a girl's mother wanted some senior (high school for us Brits) photos taking of her daughter draped in a US flag. Nothing super crazy you would of thought but the reaction that some of our American flags had was quite a reaction indeed. As I was writing this, I just click over to the group to ask the photographer if I can display the photograph here but it looks like someone has reported the photo. Crazy… I guess because the flag was used in a way that someone didn't like it has to be removed. Why can people not just think, I don't like that and move on ?

Instagram again. So Snapseed was bought by Google and Instagram was bought by Facebook for nothing short than a shed load of money. I bet there is a fair few people that do not understand the fuss. So, how can these tiny editing apps be worth so much money. I guess the truth is they are not, but the ideas behind them are. The iPhone really started the whole movement and the Hipstamatic was the catalyst to the fire that has now turned into a global photographic genre. I use apps in this way. I am shooting using a mixture of two cameras at the moment, the Fuji X-Pro and the Nikon D800. When I get back from a shoot and start backing up my shoots I normally like to have a day or so, or as much time as I can to digest the shoot and preview what was captured I normally do this in Bridge or Lightroom depending on the shoot. I then make a rough cut of the shoots, export them at a low-res size on to my phone or tablet and have them to carry about with me. I will use programs like Pixla-r-Matic to play about and create interesting previews for FB and Twitter and post the shootout to keep a social flow of work leaking out into the world.  In a nutshell, I use apps to create fun and fast previews of my work to let me see what can look good and experiment with editing styles for my shoot. A great fun way to preview work in my eyes. Below are two versions of the same photo.

The top colour version was an edited version that was produced about 5 weeks after the photo beneath it that was tweeted about 10 mins after the shoot was finished. I like to be able to share work, and apps give me that chance to do so while being playful and creative at the same time. Having a fast quick way to see how photos look with fun interesting presets is great. If you have not embraced the world of the app, I encourage you to do so, bring it into your own work flow in your own way and let your imagination roam free.

Another interesting debate is the world of film and the place that it has in today’s world. Once again the world of Facebook brings different views clashing together like never before giving for great and wonderful free speech. I myself have never used a Darkroom for any sorts of commercial work other than when I worked for a portrait company years ago. In the commercial fast world today, there has just been no room for the film other than when the idea is that the media is part of the concept or project. It is just not what photographers coming through are looking for or need. However, this is not saying and I am not saying that there is no place or film or the idea of the traditional state of photography in towards the world. Yes, I understand where cameras come from and how they work, but I can read that. I don't have to be anti-the-future to understand that film only really plays a very minor, educational role with photographers studying or working today. During an interesting FB post – Photography teacher and Photography guru  John Hodgett say: “I would argue that there are times when understanding what is happening and why can help give you better control of situations, unless you only want to be a passenger? So perhaps some knowledge of analogue photographic theory and practice; where the photographer determined how things came out, can help you better understand digital technology, where somebody Elsie algorithms sort stuff out for you? . . . .many “serious” analogue photographers would invariably tweak the chemistry, process times, dilutions, temperatures, etc, to regain control of saturation, hue, contrast, apparent ISO, grain, highlight and shadow detail when developing the film, and then repeats the whole process again in the darkroom to make the prints. I agree that there is no need for photographers (or drivers or pilots) to have a complete technical and theoretical understanding of the tools of their trade, but it can help? Similarly, I have known some excellent fashion photographers that haven't a clue about technique, and they have no interest in “craft” skills, either because the aesthetic of their work makes technical quality irrelevant, or they just employ good assistants that sort out all the technical stuff for them. In my view, photography is such a great media to work in just because it can become whatever person behind the lens wants it to be?”  http://www.johnhodgett.co.uk/

I can fully understand what John is saying. John has had work in Tate’s Britain’s archives as well as being a Chief External Examiner for a number of years and very well respected lecturer for many years. John knows photography from all angles and provides a great rounded insight into areas that many people miss. My view is that we should be able to look back and take the best of the film world with us as we move forward.

There is a vast number of people who see photography as a single person event or process. In the world of fashion and advertising, a photo shoot can consist of many many people. The fact that the photographer is using film or digital is one of the smallest and least worrying factors. It is also really not that important that the photographer knows how to use the camera in every single mode or setting. The thing that is important is the content. Content is ALWAYS king. Getting tied up and in a bother over the fact that some people use Film , Digital or even iPhones and apps is only wasting your own time and showing you really have missed the boat. Photography for me is a team sport where everyone is a vital cog in the process. I even see other genres of photography in the same way. The photo below was shot on the Fuji Film X-Pro1 and is one of my recent favorite shots. I think it shows as a good example of a photographer and model working together. It would be nice to see online forums building up chatter about how to work with models, not the ISO performance or another major geeky camera related tech. Maybe this is a good topic for the ‘Photographer or Artist’ debate. A photograph should never be critiqued with one eye on the technology used. It should be the last factor when enjoying Art.

Enjoy shooting !!!