Courtesy of Ferlinka Borzoi
By now, most photographers who have a website probably also have a blog of some sort. And I think I’ve covered my thoughts on the formats for photography blogs and zines sufficiently enough by now, so I’ll try to cover a few different angles here. My one confession is that I actually don’t subscribe or follow too many photographer blogs. I’m not sure why. I suppose too many are simply comprised of updates about new projects, shows and accolades. That’s fine, and necessary, but not really that interesting to me.
Of the few photographer blogs that I do follow, there’s one that stands out. Emily Shur. I’d come to know her work through the photography grapevine and at first I didn’t pay too much attention to her work because commercial and celebrity photography are not necessarily of much interest to me. But I followed her anyway because she seemed interesting. Then over the course of time she started to post her personal work which I think is exceptional. But that wasn’t what really drew me in. Her blog posts are always thoughtful and have a feeling of necessity, like she’s posting because if she doesn’t she won’t be able to get whatever it is she’s thinking off her mind.
The tone of her blog posts are typically conversational, like she’s talking to friends. She doesn’t reveal too many details about her life, but just enough for you to understand a bit more about her and what drives her to make photographs. Through her blogging I’ve come to admire her and her work much more, and feel like I have an insider perspective on the challenges professional photographers face these days.
I think there are lots of opportunities for photographers to do interesting things with their blogs, but I get the sense that for the vast majority, they’re simply an after thought, and at worst, a burden. Blogs are certainly challenging as well because you need to be comfortable writing, and from my experience the majority of photographers really want very little to do with writing.
The Separation of Self-Promotion and ‘Curating’
When photographers started blogging, they started ‘curating’ as well, or editing as I prefer to call it. One of the main components of many early blogs was to feature the work of peers the photographer felt deserved wider recognition. This was the norm, and you still see it today. I understand the impulse. We’re all influenced by other photographers, and that influence plays a big role in our own work, so why not share the work that resonates with us?
Indeed, we should. I’m a huge proponent of ‘sharing’ as you can see by virtue of this fiefdom to all the work ‘I think is great and everyone should know about.’ But awhile back, I developed a personal code of conduct. There should be a separation between self-promotion and editing.
I know this can be a touchy subject and I believe there were debates about it in 2006, 2007, and 2008, so I’ll just throw in my two cents. Naturally, in the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal
I much prefer when the photographer uses the work of a peer to demonstrate something they’re thinking about in relation to their own work. This can very interesting when done well. But if you’re going to really promote and share the work of your peers seriously, then start a separate blog, or a Tumblr, which is great exactly for those purposes. I know there will be plenty of people that disagree with me, and I’m sort of going against a social media axiom, but I think photographer blogs are more interesting when they focus on their craft, insights and philosophy rather than specifically promoting the work of their peers.
Again, I’m obviously not opposed to sharing and promoting the work of others, but for me I think if you’re going to do that seriously, you should keep somewhat of separation between that and promoting your own work. These days it doesn’t take much to grab a few photographs from someone’s portfolio and say something like, “This is great you should check it out.” In essence, a blog is a marketing and self-promotion tool, so I think it can a be a bit opportunistic if you primarily use others work to bring people to your website.
Besides, there a lots and lots of places to find new work, but there aren’t too many photographers who take the time and effort to share insights about their practice and philosophy. I hope to see more in the near future though.
[Please note: certainly if you dig hard enough you'll find times where I've perhaps blurred the lines too much]
The Tumblr Community
I don’t follow many photographer blogs, but I do follow plenty of photographers on Tumblr. Tumblr is the great web scrapbook for me. The platform makes blogging/Tumbling so easy it’s no wonder why it has become popular. But that’s only a small part of why Tumblr rocks. What makes it thrive and what makes it interesting is the community. It takes the ‘follow’ principle of Twitter and enhances it. Through reblogging it becomes incredibly simple to share and respond to posts you find interesting. Because of this, content organically spreads through the community.
When you use Tumblr, you’re mostly working from inside the dashboard, and because of this you rarely see the design of most blogs you follow. For some, this might be an issue, but I mostly view standard blogs via Google Reader so I’m accustom to it.
My personal Tumblr is basically a photoblog. I post photographs, that’s it. For those who don’t like Flickr or want a really simple photoblog, you might want to try Tumblr. There aren’t many organization tools but if you’re savvy with tags you can parse your content effectively, but it’s not really about that for me. It’s more about the daily flow of content, images and ideas.
The LPV Tumblr is where I aggregate all the photography/art content that I find worthy of passing along on a daily basis, primarily quotes and photographs from other blogs. Naturally, I post all the LPV content as well, but typically only excerpts that link back to the blog. We’ve gained a modest following by Tumblr standards, but I’m certain there are followers of LPV that only know about what we’re doing through Tumblr. For bloggers and publishers it’s a great way to reach another audience, and the Tumblr audience tends to be media savvy early adopters, as well as very design and art oriented.
Spreading Your Work Through Blogging
Whether you use a blog, Tumblr, Flickr or all three, if your objective is to build an audience on the web, it’s important to spread your work on a consistent basis, and reach people on the platforms they use. Blogging is also a great way to show work in progress and discuss your objectives and intent with the work. The web tends to be single image oriented which I know is problematic for project oriented photographers, but if you’re thoughtful, and creative I think there are opportunities to use blogging platforms to present your work in a way that emphasis the serial nature of your work.
If you know of any interesting photographer blogs, please let me know.