There’s a saying that goes like this: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
This is largely why my photography blog has been silent for a while. But alas I need to vent and writing is often how I vent. You’ve been warned: get ready for some hot air.
Let’s start with this truth: I believe that people are innately good. In general, people are well intentioned, but they can also be selfish, proud, and ignorant. This is relevant because, when it comes to nature photography, people are largely both why I love and hate it.
I tend to be a social person, even though I definitely enjoy my alone time too. I love the company of good friends, and great moments shared with others always seem to trump the great moments I have alone. Photography for me has always been a personal and private pursuit. I love sharing my knowledge and passion for photography with others, but that is often very separate from the act of me actually creating photographs. So photography as a full-time career choice didn’t work for me because it was too lonely – too much time spent alone or only interacting with others from behind a computer. Now I’m finding that a good number of the people in this industry are so rotten to deal with that I’d rather be alone than have to deal with them with any sort of regularity anyway.
In all fairness, when it comes to nature photography, I have met far more wonderful folks than rotten ones. Online, the ratio seems a bit more skewed towards jerks because just like in the real world, bullies are often the loudest, boldest, and most obnoxious, and they are compelled to be even more so in virtual space. Just having to tolerate a handful of them consistently is enough to leave a sour taste in my mouth. With so much of the photography world online, those self-centered, egotistical, and ignorant personalities are emboldened by the lack of real face-to-face interaction and seem to have popped up in greater numbers recently. And while it’s far easier to throw around hateful words and slanderous opinions from behind the shield of a keyboard, it doesn’t make dealing with it on the receiving end any less painful.
When I go out into nature to take photos, I often find peace there. I love it. When I’m at home, marketing my work, sharing my photos online, or otherwise existing virtually, I discover validation is often mixed with poison. Is it worth it? Sometimes I’m not sure.
Let’s get this straight: online friends are not real friends. No one who randomly friended me through Facebook* or started following me on Instagram is going to run into a burning building to drag me out of it, but I sure have real friends that would. I am as disposable to photography colleagues online as the next photographer and you are too. To them I am not a real person, and therefore it is perfectly acceptable to send harassing messages or leave hurtful and inconsiderate comments when some click of a keystroke that I make offends their sense of entitlement. Online, ignoring someone you know, stalking someone you don’t know, or picking a fight is perfectly normal behavior. Sadly, I have found that this happens more often with photographers than with any other industry I have ever been connected to. Lately, these unpleasant interactions seem to be more prevalent than usual, so I’ve just shied away from posting much because most of what I feel about nature photography is unfortunately pretty negative at the moment.
Fortunately for me, my current job is fulfilling and surrounds me with amazing people every day. I work in an environment that inspires me and motivates me to become a better person and the best version of myself possible. I see people every day, and every day I smile and laugh. It’s long hours and sometimes hard work, but I have fun, and I enjoy what I do and who I work with. If I get a nasty email I counter it with a positive one, and then someone I love is there to make the sting of angry words go away. People get angry, upset, and frustrated from time to time, but every day I work is filled with kindness and joy. I miss spending time out in nature, going on adventures, watching sunrises and sunsets, and framing the beauty of those moments in photographs, but don’t mind having left the photography industry behind.
*I no longer accept friend requests from people I do not personally know in real life. When I worked for NatureScapes, I felt obligated to accept requests from random nature photographers because I felt it was a commonly accepted professional networking courtesy, even though it was never asked of me. At this time, I am connected via Facebook to only a handful of individuals who I have never met in person and these individuals are only those whom with I have maintained a positive, professional, and mutually beneficial virtual friendship with for years. Now if I receive a friend request from a person whose name I do not recognize with no message or prior communication, it is declined automatically, regardless of the number of photographer friends we have in common, and I periodically cull and unfriend photographers who I do not know that may be left over from that time period. This is not personal, but a way of protecting my privacy and respecting my own network of real life friends.