Negativity in the Photographic Community
I’ve been toying with the idea of writing this piece for a little while now. I have a draft of it going back two years, and every time I try to write it, I stop, for fear of the inevitable backlash. You see, for me, while the internet has undoubtedly been a positive influence on photography as an art form, and as a way to help new and up and coming photographers, it can also be an overwhelmingly negative force.
The reason that I’m writing this now is that recently, I’ve seen a few people really bucking this trend, and it has really shown just how stark the contrast is between those who push a positive message and the rest. I’m not just talking about trolling, or badly behaved people on forums and facebook either, although that is a factor too. The negativity I’m talking about is far more pervasive, and it often masquerades as good advice. You’ve undoubtedly seen articles like this…
“5 mistakes that your making as a photographer”
“Things you shouldn’t be doing”
“Avoid making this mistake”
“Why you shouldn’t do this or that”
Every day in my RSS feed, I see some variation of this kind of piece. I find it interesting because in almost all cases, the articles in question could equally be written from a positive slant. Instead of “5 mistakes” how about “5 ways to improve your photography”. Instead of putting other photographers down, why not encourage and nurture them? Why is it so many photography articles are about what not to do instead of what to do?
I’ve often found it quite depressing, that these kinds of articles are so popular. It had me wondering if the only way to gain traction was to be negative and patronising to your readers. You often see in articles that advise you how to grow your website and so on, say that the best way is to be controversial. But is it really? Have we really stooped so low?
It’s not just these kinds of articles too. On forums where people turn for advice, instead of helping, there are always people who are patronising and down putting, without offering any real assistance.
Only today I saw a horrendous response to an innocent question on a Facebook group. I normally avoid these, but someone had mentioned me on it so I was checking it out to see what they had said. (It was a kind reference to one of my guides, but that’s neither here nor there). Someone had asked a fairly simple and innocent technical question, and someone attacked them, saying that there was no need for “beginners” to know technical details and that it was all about artistic expression or some other bull. This is such a nonsensical argument, as, whether you like it or not, you can’t avoid the technical side of photography, but even worse, it was a really innocent question, and instead of answering it, the entire thread was hijacked by people arguing with this troll.
I know it may seem naive to be annoyed or upset about this, as this kind of thing happens all the time, but that’s the point: this kind of thing happens all the time.
It really is everywhere, and I find it really disheartening at times. I’m not talking about obscure blogs either, I’m talking about many mainstream photography sites and communities. I’m sure some smartass will point out that I’m a hypocrite because I’m just being negative about the negativity. I’ve actually received that exact hate mail about a previous article I wrote on this subject. I’m sure, again, some people consider this naive, but there are times it really puts me off photography altogether. Another form of it is the “quality doesn’t matter” crowd. I’m not saying that you can’t have any opinion that is negative or complain about something. (Although, that can be difficult in the polarised environment too, but that’s whole other discussion) I’m talking about the widespread general attitude of shooting others down or patronising your readers in order to make you seem better or smarter.
Lately, though, I’ve seen some people doing the exact opposite, and it's quite a tonic. Since becoming more active on YouTube, I’ve discovered some great artists, creators and photographers on the platform. In particular, Peter McKinnon and Casey Neistat (of course) come to mind. I kept wondering what it was about them that was so compelling, and then it occurred to me. They are almost completely positive in their approach. Instead of putting other photographers down in the name of “helping”, they are constantly supportive and encouraging. Even if they are expressing an opinion about something, they do so in a balanced way.
People keep posting various videos and blogs about how to “Vlog like Casey” but most of them seem to miss the point about why he’s successful. He doesn’t suffer from the “tear others down”, negativity that pervades the artistic community online. He is always encouraging, and almost always positive, and he’s passionate about other creators being given the opportunity and being allowed to create.
I’m not really sure what the point of this has been. Perhaps it is a form of therapy because I’ve found it overwhelming lately. (Maybe I need to unsubscribe from certain sites) I like to think that I always try to be positive when writing or talking about photography in general. If I say anything negative, it’s generally only in the context of a review or talking about a product, and that is just to be honest and open because I think that’s important too.
Anyway, rant over… we now resume our scheduled programming!