15th April, 2014
I sometimes feel like I'm living on a small island in the middle of a vast and fast flowing river of images.
Every time I go online I see amazing pictures. This cascade of images should be a joy, but there are so many of them, and they are moving so fast, that only those that shout the loudest can catch my eye. Photos with grace, beauty and finesse race past me so quickly that I don't have time to comprehend them. And even when a picture grabs my attention, it is gone so quickly that I can never go back to it. Sometimes I save pictures to my hard drive, but what can I do with them after that? Shorn of their context, these orphaned pictures are like ghosts of a reality long past.
And what to do with my own prints?
Should I simply make digital copies to throw into the maelstrom? But what a waste that would be! I don't spend hours making fine prints only to file the originals in a box and show people a poor quality digital reproduction. My prints deserve more than that.
There is a view that you have to be actively showing your work online in order to be taken seriously in photography: you have to have a website, you have to have a Facebook page, you have to be out there. But except for when I have sold prints through trusted intermediaries, I have never – I repeat, never – sold a print to someone who has only seen an online image. The people who buy my prints want to see them in the real world first. And who can blame them? It is impossible to judge scale, fine detail, pure tones, or paper texture in an online image. All the nuances of a fine print are lost in an 800 pixel compressed JPEG.
And what about artistic development? The online world is great for networking and learning basic technique, but it is of no help for artistic development. In fact, I am increasingly convinced that the online world actually hinders artistic development. In the online world you get a digital response from viewers: 1 or 0 – either wild applause or total silence. Both undermine creative exploration, without which there can be no artistic development.
I think that it's time to ask what is important. And for me, that is the real world. It's only in the real world that people can fully engage with my prints. It's only in the real world that I get valuable creative critique. And it's only in the real world that people buy my prints. So that's where I'm going to concentrate my effort.