Why Showing Your Work is More Important Than Showing Off Your Camera

I’ve been reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

Show Your WorkTo quote the blurb from the inside front cover:

SHOW YOUR WORK! puts an end to the destructive myth of the lone genius by showing artists and writers, makers and creative entrepreneurs how to join the new ecology of talent. It is about getting found by being findable, about using the network instead of wasting time networking.

The book is full of fairly straight forward and sensible advice on the importance of getting what you do “out there” even if it’s in an unfinished state. As Kleon says in the chapter Share Something Small Every Day:

Be open, share imperfect and unfinished work that you want feedback on, but don’t share absolutely everything. There’s a big difference between sharing and over-sharing.

This is why, for the past several months now, I have been posting something to do with photography in my never ending photography blog on Tumblr. It forces me to think about doing something with photography every day, most times it’s an actual image I have recently taken or processed, sometimes it’s a quote that has caught my eye but always it’s about “sharing something small every day”.

As sometimes happens when browsing the web you come across an article which triggers a link in your mind. I came across this somewhat lengthy (and for some reason across two blogs) article All serious cameras are now better than they need to be which can be summarised by the final paragraph:

If you shoot at ISO 100, 200, 400 or even 800 just about any interchangeable camera on the market will do a really good job making images. If you make reasonably sized prints every camera with 16 megapixels or more will do the job well. If you don’t shoot sports for a living all of the current camera models will focus quickly enough to make most of us happy.

So there you have it, stop fretting over getting the latest and greatest camera, just get on with showing your work. The tools we use are just that, tools. All the truly great photographers know this and often barely seem to realise their cameras are there, or at least are such masters at using them they become like a part of their body. Don McCullin famously said:

I only use a camera like I use a toothbrush. It does the job.

If you think about it, right down at its core, photography is all about communication. It’s about using images to communicate (or sell) an idea, a concept, a point of view or a product. The British photographer Tim Hetherington, who was tragically killed in 2011 at the age of 40 during the Libyan civil war, had a mission to create a better understanding of the world and one way of doing this was through photography. However that was just one way! More than anything Tim was primarily a people person as well a great communicator. If you get the chance try to see the film about Tim called Which Way is the Front Line From Here? made by his friend and collaborator Sebastian Junger. It comes across very strongly that Tim saw the camera as a means to and end. It was his way of communicating the messages he wanted to send about war and the effect it had on the people involved in it. Powerful stuff!



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