Photographers Should Write More

©Don Hudson

Photographers should write more. And I don’t mean blog more, I mean writing, actual writing. The type of writing that takes at least an hour or two to complete and then is edited the next day. That type of writing. Once it’s ready, then it should be published on a blog with one or two or ten photographs.

This probably isn’t something that most photographers really want to hear. But I think writing is important.

When I talk to photographers, inevitably the topic of social media will come up. Often, they ask what’s the point? Or does it do anything? My answer is always that it depends. It depends on your objectives and it depends how much effort you put into it. What happens I think is that many photographers get going with Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, a blog and soon realize they don’t have much to say. Their blog might consist of sporadic updates about projects, or a mention about a group show, but that’s about it.

Then they often end up just Tweeting, blogging or Tumbling things that ‘inspire’ them. That’s fine. That’s part of the social media deal, but what happens is that for many that becomes all they do. They end up in this cycle and soon start to question why they’re doing the social media thing in the first place. And they should because what they’re doing probably won’t help them much in the long term.

The missing piece is writing. Not blogging. But writing. Most photographers have a blog. And many photographers have blogs where they just post photographs (I’m guilty of this). For some this might work. It depends on the photographer, and their objective. But the thing to keep in mind is that it’s incredibly easy to post photographs. It doesn’t take much, and tons of people are doing it.

Writing takes effort. It’s hard work. It sucks. I cringe at most the words I write, but at the end of the day I’m ok with it because I know my audience is primarily made up of photographers who aren’t here because of my wonderful prose. It’s about the ideas and opinions. The same holds true for other photographers. I know photographers aren’t primarily writers so I tend to give them a break when I read what they write.

Photographers shouldn’t lose sleep over their prose. Instead, they should focus on communicating their ideas and telling their stories. That’s what I want to read from photographers. I don’t care much about gear, contests, tearsheets or group shows. Sorry, I just don’t. I know everyone should be proud of their accomplishments and should let people know but if that’s all you do on your blog, then I’m not interested. Put that stuff in your newsletters.

©Shane Lynam

Ideas and stories, that’s what I want to read. Photographers are interesting people. They travel frequently, move to different cities on a whim, hang out with interesting people, get lost in unknown places, are interested in science, sociology, psychology, sexuality, pop culture, weird hobbies, they go broke, take impossible chances, assist professional assholes, date crazy photographers, etc. They’re curious. They’re explorers. They live in a world of ideas. They have stories to tell.

But shouldn’t all that be in the photographs? I hope so, but words will still be important. I might be wrong here, but I think we’re moving into an era where words are going to become increasingly more important to understanding photographs, if not absolutely necessary. People don’t trust photographs and we’re inundated with so many on a daily basis that it really becomes difficult to make sense of them. Writing helps us find our bearings.

Words can provide clarity and context. Whether it’s a simple caption, a funny anecdote or backstory. Just think about it for a second. When we see a photograph on the web, we generally look quick and then move on. When words are included, we stay with the photograph just a bit longer. It maybe subtle, but I think it makes a difference. The words keep us with the photograph.

Photographers should write more, and I don’t just mean about photography. I want to read about their daily lives, their motivations, the funny stories, the challenges, the frustrations, the big breaks, the heartaches, the new ideas, the failed projects, their weird new obsessions, etc.

This might be contentious, but when I know a photographer personally, it changes the way I look at their photographs. I feel more connected to their work, even if my inner critic is telling me the work isn’t that great. I don’t know why this is. Maybe this is the same for writers, painters and filmmakers. I’m not sure.

Writing is a good way to build a personal connection with people. Writing is a creative act. Writing will last. If you put the work into it, what you write today will resonate with you the rest of your life, just like your photographs. Can you say the same about your tweets, Tumble’s and Facebook messages, or blog posts about contests?

Photographers should write more. It doesn’t matter if it’s not polished, or if you ramble and rant, just write and then re-write, and then publish, and then get into a habit of doing it over and over again.

  • http://champastreetproductions.com/ Joseph Powell

    Late to the party. We ARE interesting. Or at least we do interesting things sometimes. I think writing can be therapeutic as well. Working now on putting some of the emotion I experience in my job into words.

  • Simon Prunty

    I’ve long now been avoiding the leap into being a photographer/writer; someone who has developed skills in both but who -for reasons unexplained – is scared to death to combine the two. This is a great opinion piece and I have to say you’ve convinced me to change my entire creative approach. From now on I’m going to work my arse off to fuse my photographic work with passages of background prose that will hopefully enhance a photo series with nuggets of background inspiration and threads of storytelling. Cheers mate – Simon

  • http://www.GinaMizzoni.com/ Gina Mizzoni

    Oh, you mentioned journaling here. Okay. So, you get it then. :-)

  • http://www.GinaMizzoni.com/ Gina Mizzoni

    Jasmine, I understand what you’re saying. But, writing allows us to connect with our inner-artist. Just journaling for ten minutes a day and dumping out all of the crap in our heads makes room for more creativity. Writing offers an avenue to our soul and in the meeting with our soul we learn how to “see.” At the very least, journal. It WILL make a difference.

  • http://www.GinaMizzoni.com/ Gina Mizzoni

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Photographers are storytellers and learning to become better writers makes us better photographers. I, fortunately, have been writing since I could hold a pen. The passion for photography came much later. For me, personally, writing is just as much the meat and bones of what I do as the photography is. I know that not everyone is a writer. But, I do think that learning to become a better writer will help make your images more powerful. (Just like for us writers, images make our words more powerful). <3

  • ErikaPerales

    Great article, great conversation. I will be sharing this with my high school yearbook staff. :)

  • http://twitter.com/ph_k pHzero

     pensa che scrivi in francese, lingua che comunque ha un grande bacino:)

  • http://www.startwiththefirst.com/ Ann Mitchell

    100% agree with you – writing gives us a longer space in which to really think about what’s important to us and how we view the world…or think it should be viewed. Too many people got sidelined by the “a photograph is worth 1000…” idea and forgot to remember that words and images work very well together and each gives more dimension to the other. 

  • http://www.cultnoir.com/ Chris Fitzgerald

    Really well said.  I think writing is to the thought process what drawing is to the artistic process.  Basic, but an invaluable foundation.  In school I was always resistant to over thinking anything but I realize that writing actually de-clutters my artist mind.  (Which is crazy cluttered!)  And that makes room for more ideas.  I keep a blog now and write a lot about pop culture and current events.  I’m influenced heavily by both and enjoy my own commentary, even if no one else does.

  • http://photographywritingandmore.blogspot.com/ GC

    I enjoyed your article and I agree that photographers should write more about their captures.  Of course, I also appreciate allowing a viewer to have their own perspective of a photo – similar to a painting.

  • Frankie Sinclair

    Excellent advice. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Partly because I’ve noticed the same about enjoying image related blogs more when they have writing. But also because I’ve been to lots of talks and discussions about social media. And the general consensus is that using it to promote things by simply listing them is not interesting. It’s really pretty much spam.

  • Joe

    Great post, and I agree. Everyone gets caught up in the technology, video, etc. Stepping into a more thoughtful state of mind would help everyone, not just photogs. Thanks

  • Dop

    and what about writing on their on mother language? I was thinking about that the other day, and then i read this, and thought again: what about mother language? i mean, i speak Spanish i read Spanish. Mostly i  have to used English to communicate with other people, or Italian. I am totally agreed with this point. But i dont know if you though, what about if it becomes in a narrative think and have just 5 photographs and more tan 500 words?. Maybe yes maybe not. We don’t know. 
    I though this and i’ve created a post called ” un encuentro de a dos” that happens to be in Spanish, what about other people who doesn’t read Spanish? Exist google translator, you would’ve said. And i just go down again. Did one post, unfortunately tumblr has eat  3 post that should be the continuous part, just gave up. 
    To finish, you are right, from my point of view, but then some others questions came.

  • http://twitter.com/37milimetros 37milimetros

    brilliant article, I am a photographer who tries to write and couldn’t agree more with  Bryan. It is important to shoo as Jasmine DeFoore says, but isn’t writing empowering the photographs? is not more the merrier. 

  • Nick

    …people can ´t read images anymore. I belive the question in everybodys mind when they see a photograph should be: “how did the photographer take this picture?”. Looking at the way or just imagining the way it could have been done (the practice) gives me more than reading a whole story. Of course we´re missing a lot of information´s but to proceed with more and more text, will help the most people to stay illitirate in terms of pictures and images. Reading is a form of communication, the same we can say about photography and images. To explain one with the help of another is conflicting. People who can´t read and write can still understand an image and people who can read and write need an writen explanation next to every image to fully understand it.
    I think we should push both ways (in that example) of communication, because both have different perceptions and philospophys and to minimalize the flow of communication, feels like limitating ourselfs. Isn´t it the beauty about a photograph to have this free space to imagine what ever you want.

    Photographers are present in here and now…They´re more political than most poiticans are.

  • Geo

    photographers, artist need to wake up and  rethink who they are and where they are going as well as maybe break out of the “camera” box they have built around themselves and jump out of the ivory tower with out a parachute – photography today is part of what i call the moving/still/audio image-making movement – its all integrated and we need to suspend our imaginations – we are visual poets and look at the future through a different lens – look at integrating audio/text/music/writing/thinking/dreaming/ what ever tickles your imagination - the future of story telling will be nontradional. non-linear, no longer a spectator sport but something where people will  want to know all the questions they can imagine and beyond and no matter who we think we are we will need to communicate out of the box and have relationships that are more meaningful because its meaninful to us not because the gate keeper,  the PR agency or the person on TV or wherever tell us we should worship somebody – the future will be about niches of participants not users, visitors, but people who enjoy playing with you in the playground of the imagination- some food for thought geo geller

  • Adelaide Ivánova

     great statement.

  • http://www.ellenrennard.com Ellen Rennard

    I’m a writer, teacher of writing, and photographer, so I’m intrigued by this conversation and plan to write a lengthier response on my own blog. Here and now, though, I’d like to offer my help as a writing tutor/editor/consultant to photographers who are interested in sharpening their writing skills, improving their artist statement, or generally becoming more confident and competent writers. (My M.A. is in English, and you can read the rest of my C.V. on my website, plus I’m happy to supply references.) I’m testing the water — if it proves good for swimming, then I’ll start charging money for my time, so if you’re interested, don’t wait! My contact info is on my website.

  • http://profiles.google.com/epicureanpiranha Marie Lancup

    Excellent article ~ I feel better about what I do after reading it :-)

    I’m not a professional photographer by any means. These days my photography centers mostly on the food I love to cook and post on my gourmet blog/webzine. But I know a large part of what attracts people to what I do is what I write (and I’m not a professional writer either!), despite perhaps having had their curiosity piqued by the image. But often I think it’s the combination of image and title or caption that does it :-)

    Have a delicious day

    ~ marie, the EpicureanPiranha

    http://www.EpicureanPiranha.com

  • http://wayoutwest.tumblr.com Harry Snowden

    It needed to be said! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505275778 Anonymous

    Awesome read, you are correct on every point here, including this… “assist professional assholes, date crazy photographers” which I have done both haha, its amazing how accurate it is.

  • http://twitter.com/Frenetisk Bjarte Edvardsen

    Yes, we should write more. But what it always comes down to is priorities. If we don’t shoot on a regular basis, why should people want to read our blog posts?

    I’d like to believe that if I take pictures every day, look at the work with my most critical eyes on a regular basis and simply trust my own instincts regarding the always-big-question ‘what’s next?’, then the rest will eventually fall into place.

    My priority list
    #1 – daily goal: Shoot
    #2-10 – weekly goals: Edit, work on the portfolio, show the portfolio to the right people, work on the archive, look at photographs (of others), read, write, brainstorm, plan

  • Marcel Verschaeren

    I agree !

  • Trippdmnh

    I’ve been encouraging the same thing with a number of photographers I regularly talk to and share work with, photographers I’ve had professional relationships with for years from my days of working as Picture Editor/Dir of Photography for a number of magazines and publications in SF and NYC. For most photographers, they do what they do because they love it, and hopefully (on a good day) it brings in enough $ to put food on the table. That said, there is often a high level of frustration for all the hundreds and sometimes thousands of stories shot through the years, or that one wanted to shoot, but felt it would never get published or never seen. While I understand completely the need to get paid for work, the web and other social media tools have created a space for photographers to share their work with a broad audience, regardless of whether the work is seen as “commercially useful” or not. Personally, as a story-teller, puppeteer, writer, and occasional photographer these days, there’s a satisfaction I feel when I know that I am slowly building an audience for work and stories I feel are important, an audience that cares as I do about the stories I’m trying to tell, which these days are very personal stories about the hidden treasures of the region I live in. Sometimes words are important with the stories, sometimes not. It’s less about the words, than building an appreciative and caring audience. So beyond just words, the sharing of stories, verbal, visual or otherwise, to me is the important part.

  • http://www.myephemerality.com Luis A. De Jesus Rodriguez

    I spend a lot of time over at Jez Coulson’s blog precisely because of the writing that accompanies his work. It’s not always about the image –not that what he has to share isn’t as interesting as the imagery or the other way around– but the getting to know him as a person without getting into the entire BS about how an image was taken, the camera, etc. It’s like sitting with someone chatting away while he or she shares a photo album or images from the latest trip to some place you may have been to or may never see in a lifetime.

    Now that I think about this further I recall another blog (Sagelikephotography.com) that I followed not only for the imagery. The author put just as much thought into the words as into the imagery. I was hooked from the start; I include this blog among the most inspirational I’ve followed and painfully miss. Photos involve people, even humans are being photographed as it’s a person who is making the choice of what to shoot and share with the world. I like to know what motivated the taking of the image and how the person felt about that moment. Photos function in the way the story-teller of old captivating the tribe around the campfire; I don’t agree with those opining images are better off without words and that the quality of the image its ability to avoid any sort of narrative. I am drawn to Gary Winogrand’s assessment of pictures: moments interesting to him, framed in white, nothing more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexbuhl Alex Buhl

    I am sort of addicted to social media, and I certainly do not question the value of it. I am not sure I know what the opposite of writing on my photographs would be. I don’t like writing about my photographs, but I do like writing about photography – and other sources of inspiration.
    I thought I remembered you once writing that it was bad to use your blog to write about all the stuff that interests and inspires you..? Or maybe I remember wrong, and that wasn’t you.. Maybe what you mean is not to write about individual photographs, but rather write on the more general perspective? On daily life as well??
    Like you say, we are all different people, and I really can only write about what interests me. Then hope that I am not the only person in the world who feels that way! The only other thing I can write are awkward lyrical descriptions… It has always been sort of an ambition of mine to combine those two things, but sadly so far I am unable to properly edit my work, and far from ready to collect it into a book…
    I hope to eventually share my dissertation on my blog, illustrated etc. If I do, I hope you will like it.

  • http://twitter.com/DPinDC Dave Phillipich

    Agreed, but they need to be careful. In most cases, photographers haven’t trained to be writers (I’m certainly no exception), so it’s easy for things to get out of control in a hurry. I’m a believer in the “baby bear’s porridge” mantra regarding writing on photo blogs – there’s an appropriate amount. I also think it should be common knowledge that writing too much is worse than not writing enough. I’m not going to be disappointed if a photographer only posts photos, but I will skip directly to the photos if I come across seemingly endless paragraphs.

  • Tina Remiz

    Agree.
    … although it leaves EVEN LESS time for taking photographs (which there isn’t much lest anyway)

  • Bert Danckaert

    Can’t agree more ! And if your Dutch is ok, check this out : http://blog.potaarde.be/

  • Bert Danckaert

    Can’t agree more ! And if your Dutch is ok, check this out : http://blog.potaarde.be/

  • Anonymous

    There are so many types of photographer with different objectives that it’s really hard to make blanket statements. The LPV audience is made up primarily of passionate, studious amateurs who don’t really have aspirations to become pros or have gallery shows. I was speaking primarily to them but I think it’s also relevant to editorial photographers who are using the web to market their work. There’s on substitute to creating original, engaging content, and for me, writing needs to be apart of that mix.

    I tend to find the ‘shoot more’ advice to be basic and over-stated. I mean, if you don’t have the drive to go out and make photographs in the first place then none of this is really relevant.

  • Anonymous

    The core of my argument, which probably wasn’t articulated all that well, is that I think if photographers are going to participate in the conversation on the web and run a blog, then they should spend more time writing thoughtful blog posts than just posting photographs on various platforms, or hanging out on Twitter/Tumblr/Flickr. Not that any of those are a waste of time, but it’s much easier to do that than actually sit down and write. But in the long run, I think photographers will feel more creatively fulfilled if they spend time writing.

  • http://twitter.com/jasminedefoore Jasmine DeFoore

    I’m talking about quality, not quantity, when I say photographers should shoot more. I’m talking about evolving, exploring, spending time coming up with new ideas, journaling, doing whatever it takes to gain some inspiration and improve your personal style and vision.

    Writing can often be a means to that, and that is great. But so often I talk to photographers who are scrambling to do so many different things, and the actual art and craft of thinking about and making photographs doesn’t get the attention it should.

  • http://twitter.com/jasminedefoore Jasmine DeFoore

    Very, very few photographers are as good as Soth.

  • Daisy

    Photography is a form of art, as is writing. A picture speaks a thousand words and all that jazz, I agree that images without words can sometimes be bizarre online, but I also believe that the image shouldn’t need an explaination – or that when reading a blog, that I’m proof reading the next novel.

  • http://edgeofblur.tumblr.com fernando

    yes, excellent example with Soth.

    personally, I find that with time, I have a lesser need to photograph, but it counts more when I do. of course, this could go out of the window if one is in editorial work and having to deliver work to print or stock photography to make a living.

    there are “gimmick” photoblogs that can write little, and if flickr is any indication, repetition draws an audience. then, the focus is on posting photos that feed the urge of the audience, and create a go-to site for a type of photographs.

    as for those seeking a way to maximize the talent we have, there is nothing that says that writing would not help. and yes, writing to give a personality behind “enigmatic” photographs is not a bad idea. doing photos of how the toothpaste looks on the toothbrush ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/toothpastery/ ) — not so sure.

  • Anonymous

    There’s not really a formula here either, and why should there be? Every blog will have it’s own distinct tone if done right. That’s the point.

    I think of all the friends I’ve through photography that have become Facebook friends. I learn more from them than just about photography.

    Everything we do, read, look at, absorb should inform our photography to some degree.

  • Anonymous

    I know plenty of photographers who aren’t shooting all the time, nor do they desire to. I believe Soth has even famously said that making the actual photographs is a very small part of his process.

    Bottom line, it depends on the type of photographer you are and what your objectives are. For me though, if you’re using a blog to attract and build an audience (for whatever reason) you’ll be more successful if you write and not just post photographs.

  • http://edgeofblur.tumblr.com fernando

    while we can have our reactions to what Bryan writes, the negative reactions seem to be based on the idea that writing and photography are at odds, and that writing somehow robs from the photographic effort. there is no such notion that is true. while it may be the case for some method-focused photographers (e.g., those that love rules, for instance), writing, like photography, is mainly a creative effort, and writing about what we are doing photographically can lead to ways in which our photography is enhanced — we get to better understand what we are trying to do with photography.

    in engineering there is the same problem. engineers, generally, hate to write and do so poorly, and they also fail miserably at understanding the application of their gizmo, or explaining it to someone else — the much maligned “stereo instructions” label given to poorly written manuals.

    there are good writers that do decent photography, and it is great that they write more than they photograph, and even work as editors or write how-to books for the masses. to use this as a starting point for photographers to photograph more if they are communicative through their images is a shortcoming into the (well, I guess) greater picture.

  • http://edgeofblur.tumblr.com fernando

    still… your notion does not exclude that those that can take fully-communicative images should not write more, just that those that can write and take just decent photos should write more. there is no conflict in either advice, nor is it detrimental to either talent.

  • http://edgeofblur.tumblr.com fernando

    if we are to go by many blogs and flickr-like sites — and that site itself — photographers already shoot more than enough. the aphorism form Ansel Adams about the “sharp image of a fuzzy concept” is rampant on the internets. sometimes more is just more, and that seems to be the case with the call to “shoot more,” rather than, say, participate in forums or write properly.

    while writing well is hard, there is nothing to say that writing does not help flush out concept that can help one’s approach to photography.

    if the photographer is one that just does things “by the book” and clings to method, then they could be better helped by shooting more to make those method be better repeated. I do not think those photographers are writing anything anyway, as they may not be the expressive types, and just love to have technically correct photos.

  • Martinbdx

    And if my aunt had some, they’d have called her my uncle (french saying)

  • http://danielpellarini.com Daniel

    Now this sounds better. If you write with a “photographic approach” this whole thing can make sense. But I don’t know if it is ok to write about really everything on a photography blog. If a photographer writes a post about his travels then it looks perfectly fine with me. But if he writes about something totally unrelated just for the sake of writing I wouldn’t probably like it.

    I completely agree with you again on the fact that we are being influenced a bit too much by conventions. I think that this is because unfortunately many blogs now are created with the intent of getting a lot of traffic and as a way to generate income. Not many people publish something because they are passionate about it (at least, not as their first goal). If more people were to publish content because it’s something that they really want to do probably we would be somehow more creative.

  • Anonymous

    “I mean, if I have a photography blog, most probably people subscribed to it because they want to see photography posts.”

    The point is that it all can be seen through the “lens” of photography, pardon the pun. I’d much rather read about a photographer’s observations while traveling to Miami for a shoot than their review of the Canon 5D Mark II. What’s happened is that we’ve been inundated with so much BS about what we’re suppose to publish on the web. Find your niche and stick to it! Fine, for professional type websites that’s probably a good idea.

    But for photographers, I’d rather learn about them and how they view the world. It’s more interesting. It’s more personal and I believe it changes the way I view their work.

  • http://danielpellarini.com Daniel

    This is a very interesting point of view Bryan. However I must say that I agree just in part with what you wrote. Let me explain.

    I totally agree about the fact that we, as photographers, should add some context to the pictures we post. As you say, it’s something that makes the user look at the image a bit more, and that is something that is good for us. Also, I think that it may help looking at the photo from different perspectives and hence improve the value of the photo itself.

    I’m not sure if I like the idea of writing about our interests, our lives and so on. I mean, if I have a photography blog, most probably people subscribed to it because they want to see photography posts. I can imagine that users don’t care about things that are unrelated to the topic of the blog. Therefore, it feels to me that it would be a waste of time since probably many of them wouldn’t even read what I wrote (or maybe not everything). Unless, of course, you take writing also as something personal, that can help you express your creativity, and in this case I agree with you again. But maybe, in this case, it would be better to separate the personal writing content from the photography posts.

    In any case, your article is nice because it makes you think, which is something that unfortunately doesn’t happen very often in blog posts.

  • Fabiano Busdraghi

    Hi,
    I really enjoyed reading this article and I share the same thoughts. I also think it’s a pity that there are so many blogs that are limited to reposting existing content, without no original content.
    For this reasons I invite photographs to write long and in depth articles about their work and vision, articles that I publish weekly on my own site. If you want to visit it the address is:
    http://cameraobscura.busdraghi.net/
    cheers
    Fabiano

  • Fabiano Busdraghi

    Hi,
    I really enjoyed reading this article and I share the same thoughts. I also think it’s a pity that there are so many blogs that are limited to reposting existing content, without no original content.
    For this reasons I invite photographs to write long and in depth articles about their work and vision, articles that I publish weekly on my own site. If you want to visit it the address is:
    http://cameraobscura.busdraghi.net/
    cheers
    Fabiano

  • Anonymous

    Writing on the internet is different. It’s more casual and conversational. I’m by no means saying that photographers need to be polished writers.

    But if they’re going to put forth the effort to have a blog, then they need to sharpen their writing skills. Simply posting a few photographs without any context doesn’t resonate as much as a post that includes anecdotes, insight or a story.

    I’ve seen writing pay dividends for the photographers I consult and they’ve told me the feedback they’ve received has been extremely positive.

    And the fact that there are photographers out there writing well on their blogs already disproves the notion that it can’t be done.

    Just as most people have had to learn new skills in this economy to keep up, so do photographers.

  • Anonymous

    The point is that if you’re participating in social media, and especially if you have a blog, then you should put in the effort to write. Too many photographers simply post a few photos from their shoots on the blog without providing much context. That has been the norm for too long.

    They don’t need to be “well thought out essays.” This is the internet. It’s a different form of writing. It’s more casual and conversational.

    At the end of the day, it boils down to your objective. Some won’t spend too much time on the internet. That’s understandable. But if you do, then you need to sharpen your writing skills.

    I stand by argument and from the private response I’ve received, many others do as well.

  • http://twitter.com/DarylLang Daryl Lang

    Great points about how words and storytelling can help an audience appreciate photography. That said, as a writer I’m hopeless doing photography, just as a lot of photographers are hopeless when they write. Rare is the artist who does both well. I’d rather see someone figure out what they do best and get insanely good at it, than struggle with a creative form they don’t enjoy.

  • Shaun O’Boyle

    As a way to get past writers block or fear, I recommend an online writing class for us photographer. The Gotham Writers Workshop has excellent online writing classes, one of which I’m starting this week. Hoping it will help with the writing on my blog, since most of what I post is images with no text.

  • http://twitter.com/jasminedefoore Jasmine DeFoore

    Photographers should shoot more.

    Don’t get me wrong, in an ideal world where there are enough hours in the day for everything, then yes, I would be thrilled to see some well thought out essays written by photographers. But more often than not, I find that photographers are overwhelmed with all of the things they “should” be doing and what suffers is their photography.

    If you’re going to prioritize your time, I say shoot first, and if there is still time at the end of the day after editing and sharing images with people whose opinions you value, then sure, sit down and write. Added bonus: You’ll have more to say.

  • Anonymous

    “I’m afraid of reducing it somehow with a text or even a title and it being seen in only one particular way.”

    We do this all the time already. We show the image as a stand alone, on a blog, on Flickr, on Facebook. That changes the context and creates a different interpretation so I find it strange that people believe adding words would some how be significantly different. And as I’ve mentioned, the words don’t have to relate to specific photographs. The bottom line argument is that I think we’ll all benefit if people take some time to write instead of just throwing up photographs on a blog or on other platforms. I think as we look back we’ll find more value in those type of posts and feel that we were more productive than just posting random photographs all over the place.

  • http://simonkossoff.blogspot.com/ Simon Kossoff

    Great article Bryan, thanks for this and you’re absolutely right. I used to post a lot of writing on my blog, mainly from my U.S. travel journals, but now I only write sporadically and this is mainly in the form of perhaps an artists statement for a series I’m working on and I only share a little about my working creative process these days. This is partly down to laziness, telling myself that the image alone will do the talking for me (a common mistake). Having said this though, I really do think sometimes that an image should be left wordless and open for interpretation – I’m afraid of reducing it somehow with a text or even a title and it being seen in only one particular way. It all depends on what one is working on though at the end of the day.. Your article is certainly food for thought and like many photographers I find writing is often a headache, but important, occasionally. Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Photographers don’t need to be polished writers. People understand they’re photographers first and will give them a break. Even compelling photographs aren’t good enough these days. I can find dozens upon dozens of them every day.

    Like I’ve said in other comments, if you have time to read this post and comment, then you have time to write a few words on your blog about your photographs or your experience or your ideas.

  • http://reciprocity-failure.blogspot.com Stan B.

    I agree photographers need to write more- as long as they have something to say about life itself, and less about the glory of their own lives

  • http://twitter.com/JasonSMoore Jason S Moore

    Photographers who are good writers and have interesting ideas that can’t be fully communicated through their images should write more.

    While “it’s incredibly easy to post photographs” it does take a ton of effort to create compelling photographs. I would rather photographer’s concentrate on creating compelling images.

  • Pierre Wayser

    I would like to write more but… si je dois écrire ce sera en français pour ma part.
    Serai-je lu pour autant ? Quelle serait mon audience ? En définitive, I must spend a LOT of time to write in english if I expect to be read…

    Et que dire des langues les moins pratiquées sur le net ?
    De fait, les idées dominantes sont seulement celles qui s’expriment le plus correctement en anglais.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Victor. I think you’re right on the money with your analysis.

  • http://twitter.com/africanlens Victor Acquah

    Bryan: I have just written a bit about this issue ( also referred to this article). Check it out if you can. Would love your input.

    Article: The Evolution of Photojournalism http://t.co/8BhwGSX via @vacquah

  • http://bluetwothree.blogspot.com cybergabi

    I probably rant more than I write. It’s rarely about photography, and the photos I post aren’t always related either. But yeah, I live an exciting life.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth: http://bluetwothree.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    I’m not saying you have to write about your photographs. In fact, more of the opposite. Write about other interests. Write about ideas. People keep wondering what value they get out of social media, and for me, writing is one way to be creative and connect with people. There are tons and tons of people posting photographs every day, but not many photographers are writing about their work or their interests in a formal way. It’s a good way to be more productive on the internet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nick.coyne Nick Coyne

    I suffer from the same problem. In the end I get so frustrated I just write nothing.

  • http://www.christophercain.cc Christopher

    I felt like I as nodding my head most of the way through this post. It’s something I’ve been feeling greatly lately and something that I have regretted to not do. Notes taken. Thanks for the time taken to write this post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexbuhl Alex Buhl

    Very interesting and well written ;)

    Personally, I am not really sure how I feel about the whole word vs image discussion. I have been reading a lot of photography theory which claims that images are without contents if they do not have words attached to them. To me, words (and titles) can be very reductive too. Some things are translatable, other things are not.

    I think it would be bad if writing depended on photography, or the other way around… But I do appreciate that if you want people to follow your story, or to be interested in how you see the world, then you need to make it somehow relevant to them. Writing can help people understand what you are trying to do, especially if what you are doing looks like it might be careless and not very considered.

    & Certainly the beauty of social media is that you can get involved and connect with other people. That may be the only thing that is important in the end. Most of us are very curious about other people :)

  • Federico

    these, not this

  • Federico

    Hmm… In theory I agree, but I happen to be a perfectionist and when I try to write myself, which I do from time to time, I get inevitably into this obsesive loops, that suck up my free time and what not. This extremely modest comment was, for example, written and re-written about ten or twelve times. And I struggled about twenty minutes with it. Imagine when I have to develop an actual idea…

    If I had to name a preëminent photographer who carries out your commandment really well that would be Alec Soth. His blog was fantastic. I envy his talent as a writer -as an exposer of interesting ideas, with clarity and elegance- even more than his actual photography.

  • Anonymous

    You don’t need to be a great writer. That’s what holds people back. Plus, it’s not about trying to become a great photographer and a great writer. It’s about using writing to contextualize your work and what you’re thinking about photography. If you have time to mess around on Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, Blogs, etc, then you have time to write.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=589705287 Lee Gumienny

    This topic touches on some similar thoughts that I’ve been having recently. However, I personally find that writing and photography are two separate skill sets. Being competent in one does not translate into being competent in another. And for someone with limited free time, a choice to write can be a decision that gets in the way of taking pictures. I’m still looking for ways to reconcile that.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sacriste Frank Sacriste

    Very inspiring, Bryan, thanks.

  • http://profiles.google.com/dstrohl David Strohl

    thanks for the kick in the ass…

  • Patrick

    And read. If one is going to write and wants to write well, reading is key to the practice.