Sometimes I am really amazed by how many messages you get in a day that you don't have or are enough. An awful lot of stuff on Internet and in "advertising" is about what you don't have. This is different than being inspired by something. I think this has a big impact on how we look at photography and nature.
I understand that is what advertising is about. It's purpose is to show you things a company makes or distributes and let you know what it can do that whatever you have now cannot do.
Advertising and promotion is not necessarily what the Internet has to be about, yet a lot of it is, and I am not talking just about the manufacturers now. A lot of folks promote gear or a unique way of photographing or a place you "have to go" in nature. This is largely not sponsored, either, yet it is a lot about what they have and you don't.
Part of this is human nature. We want connection with others. We want to share ideas about products that work for us, partly because of the need for sharing, but partly for the affirmation that we are connected to a group who shares similar ideas to ours. There is also a need that all of us have at times, I believe, and that is to feel secure in our own choices by convincing others they need to make the same buying decisions as we did. You see a lot of these things going on in the passionate Nikon vs. Canon users.
I wonder, though, if the Internet and advertising could not offer something more. I think Apple has shown us what might be possible. Apple now has an amazing series of commercials based on Robin Williams passionate speech about poetry from The Dead Poets Society. They played a lot during the Winter Olympics. The visuals of the ads show people photographing and video recording life around them, from sports to stunning natural scenes and much more. If you have not seen it, here is a link to the full-length version, http://youtu.be/jiyIcz7wUH0.
Those commercials were inspiring. They were about Apple products, absolutely, but much more than that, they were about photography, about engaging with life, about connecting with subjects such as nature, about what you could do with your own voice as a photographer, as a creator. You saw the Apple products connected with this pursuit and that gave you ideas on how they might be used. But more important, these commercials made you think about getting out and creating your own work.
I would like to see a lot more of such work both in advertising and on the Internet. I know that is unlikely to happen, but think of the possibilities. Instead of another blog doing the same old reviews of equipment, for example, how about a blog showing what is possible with photography using that equipment, photography that is inspiring. Most of the time photographs on equipment review blogs are uninteresting and uninspiring. They might show what a lens or camera can do, but they don't inspire anyone to get out and photograph. Unfortunately, such photography encourages a cultural impression of photography that it is more about better snapshots with good gear than it is about creating meaningful and interesting photography that engages both the photographer and the viewer.
Imagine what it would like to open a magazine filled with inspiring ads instead of a lot of pretty pictures of cameras and lenses. Now think about the message that comes from an ad, no matter how beautiful it is, that just features a camera and similar gear. That photography is about pretty gear, not actually taking pictures?
I have seen ads that try to do better than just showing the gear. I do understand the need to show something of the gear. Apple did that really well. But still, a lot of the ads imply that you are not enough, that you could never take such pictures that they are showing without that gear. The Apple ads do not imply that (though they do try to show that shooting with Apple products is cool and fun).
I have struggled over my life at times with "not enough." I had to do more, be better, match someone else's work. This came from many parts of my past, including deep psychic wounds from not getting support for who I was as a photographer, a creative person as I grew up through my teens. I have resolved much of that today, and in going through that resolution, I discovered that this is not uncommon.
Maybe that is why so much advertising and Internet stuff about photography is about implying you are not enough without this or that camera, lens, software, technique, and the list goes on. Get that (__________ fill in the blank) and you will finally have enough, you will be enough! So often we don't feel "enough" and this plays into some of our deepest fears.
Of course, the messages continue. "You thought you were enough, but that was before we introduced this new product. Now you cannot be enough without it." And the culture, especially a lot of the photography culture, buys into that. How often do you see people with new gear that does nothing for them photographically, but they "have to have it"?
This is actually a bigger issue than you might think. Sales of DSLRs and mirrorless (or DSLM) cameras are down across the board. People are starting to realize that they have enough megapixels, that their gear is weighing them down. The Apple ads actually say nothing about megapixels, sensor size or anything like that, but they do imply that using their "cameras" can be fun and inspiring. Maybe if camera manufacturers started thinking fun and inspiring, both in terms of their products and their ads, they would sell more, but in doing so, they would be encouraging people to be more, to be inspired, not to feel that they are "not enough."
My goal is to stop paying attention to the "not enough" messages. You can't avoid seeing or looking at them if you are part of today's world. They are everywhere. And I am going to start working on inspirational messages to myself that what I do and how I do it is up to me and that engaging with the world through my photography is enough, always.
My friend, Dewitt Jones, has a wonderful website, Celebrate What's Right with the World, that is inspirational and has nothing about "not enough." For Dewitt, the world is always enough. I think it is, too.
It seems that I am constantly drawn toward a deeper look at photography, so I am thinking about changing the name of my blog to something that reflects that. Part of that, I know, is due to a lot of thinking about photography and my connection to it and nature over the past year. I have been working on a very personal ebook about that journey that I will hopefully be able to share soon.
The photos here are a Sonoran bumblebee on locoweed flowers in Southern California, a wood stork in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida, a primrose willow flower in a cypress swamp in the Everglades in Florida, and two winter scenes from the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.