Monday, December 27, 2010

Updated Post (Again): Don't Care What Others Think Of Your Work

Due to the response to my original two posts on this subject, I thought I'd update this post with a few notes here – as well as a few of my own comments in the Comments section.

New stuff:

1) Very insightful comments from everyone. Thank you!

2) Another quote about caring: " There is no audience as far as I am concerned, I am the audience." – Joel Meyerowitz

3) And yet another quote about caring: "I don't care if you make a print on a bath mat, as long as it's a good print." – Edward Weston

4) And check out this quote: "I want my sitters to be noticed, not my work." – Lord Snowden

Below is the original post. Again, post a comment here (rather than on twitter and facebook) so others can gain some insight into caring. I sure learned a lot.

• • •

This past week I saw Johnny Depp on The Late Show with David Letterman. Letterman and Depp were talking about the acting advice that a seasoned Marlon Brando gave the young Depp when the actors met.

Brando's advice: Don't care.

Brando's concept: Once you stop caring what others think of your craft, you can truly be yourself – and do your very best work.

Deep agreed.

Hey, that's easy (I guess, but I could be wrong) for guys like Brando and Depp to say. But what about artists (and that includes photographers) who are just staring out, and what about artists who need to care what others think in order to get a paycheck?

And what about you as a photographer? Do you care what others think of your work? Would you like to not care?

Post a comment – or maybe a suggestion – here (rather than on twitter or facebook) to start a dialog with other talented and artistic photographers. I think this is a very interesting topic – one which might help your fellow photographers.

Explore the light – and follow your heart.
Rick

P.S. My mother had a religious card on the kitchen counter at all times. It read: To thine own self be true. Maybe mothers know best. . .

50 comments:

Sabot Images said...

Photography as any art is subjective. We all should be aware of the rule you cannot please 100% of the people 100% of the time also goes for photography. Clients must be satisfied with the product but most of my pictures anyway are not for clients but for me. I make my pictures and display what I like. Clients purchase what they like. In the end photography is like people, some will like you, some will be indifferent and some will just hate you.

Rick Sammon said...

Sabot - Since I am on line and you were the first to comment, I thought I bounce back. I like your comment, "some will just hate you." My mother kinda said the same thing... Not everyone is going to like you!

- Rick

Loybuckz said...

I think at times you can afford not to care like if your client gave you the permission to be creative. But in times where in you need to meet a client's expectation then you should really care.

For beginners like myself I think not caring would be helpful in building my own identity as a photographer.

Just my two cents.

loybuckz

Henry Stradford said...

I don't care what anyone, anyone thinks about my photographs! But, I have a day job :)

Bruce H said...

Hey Rick:

I think it makes you feel good if others like your photos. However since people who observe your photos are all looking for different things in the photo that are appealing to their eyes, they may not see what the photographer was trying to capture and what was appealing to them in that particular shot. Also as you have said, some people do not like HDR because it alters the picture different from what the scene looked like.

Brian said...

It's easy (and natural) for new photographers to be nervous about their work because they're trying to please others. That's true for lots of jobs where the finished product is public.

But Brando and Depp are right. Once you don't care as much, you get confident. That's happened to me. And then I was willing to take new risks since I didn't care what others thought. Turned out well, glad I took the risks, and more people liked my work.

lone mtn photos said...

I'm a new photographer, at least as far a crowd pleasing goes..I have read that you should focus on one or two specific venues, and work hard to perfect them. I have several subjects that I love, architecture, landscape, macro, florals..all are special to me, and I shoot what I want - not in selling mode yet, but I know that some of my photos are just what I wanted..someone will think they are just what they want, too! Thanks for the article!

Bertha said...

‎" I cannot give you formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is :Try to please everybody"
~Herbert Bayard~

Carolyn Fox said...

I try not to care what others think of my photography, but anytime you're wanting to sell art, you have to be aware of what the client wants. As you grow more confident in your work, though,you depend more on what you think and less on what others think. The quote "To your own self be true" should be followed by any artist who values their work and wants to create art that reflects their vision.

Christopher R. Gray said...

Some will.....Some won't......So what next.

Shoot from the heart. As long as it is technically top drawer.

David said...

I care what other people think of my work. I especially find it upsetting when they don't care at all about my work. When they don't like or hate it. When they have no reaction at all.

The worst photographers are those that seem not to care about their own work. Sometimes Brando did not seem to care what he was doing.

Paul Pomeroy said...

I "get" what Brando was saying, but since photography (like acting) is intended to communicate it seems rather pointless not to care. I mean, if you don't care what you're saying via your photographs, then why bother?

What I assume Brando was getting at wasn't "don't care how well you communicate," but "don't worry if the person on the other end of the communication doesn't appreciate it." Once you've put something out there, what happens next is out of your control. You can't make people react to what you've said in any particular way. All you can do is say whatever it is you feel needs saying and to say it with as much honesty and skill as you can.

In my experience, the bigger problem is a different type of "not caring" -- not caring enough about what you're photographing. It's never a good thing when the photographs I'm posting on my blog or on Flickr amount to no more than idle chatting.

Rick Sammon said...

David.. re Brando...I think you are right. "When asked about Acropolis Now, he responded, "What that the movie in which I was bald?"

Bertha.. good formula!

Others.. great comments. Thank you, Rick

David said...

I think most artists care what others think of their work. They want others to enjoy their work. I also think it is better to get an unfavorable reaction to one's work then no reaction at all. Also it is better to please a few interested people a lot (potential buyers) then please many people a little.

The worst is when some photographers don't seem to care about their own work.

Rob Dweck said...

Rick,

From what I can tell, the biggest innovators in the arts didn't care what others thought. They also received some of the harshest criticism when they broke new ground in their art form. As a fellow musician you can probably appreciate this: Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" premiered to boos and rioting, Miles Davis was trashed by many critics and listeners and is one of the most important figures in music, and then there are those four lads from Liverpool who were considered by so many stiffs and parents to be the death of real music.

It reminds me of the polarization of photographers over HDR. Maybe after the debate finally settles down, those who are so fervently against it will accept it as the art form that it is. And if they don't, I don't care, I'll still do it anyway!

-Rob

Robert said...

I like it when people dike my work. I never let it bother me when they don't. I've heard that Brando only cared how much he got paid, and not how good his work was, twards the end of his career(post superman) No one should ever create art with only money on their mind. just my opinion though.

JimC said...

I have to admit I do care what people think of my work - but I take criticisms and compliments with a big grain of salt! I take photos not only for myself, but I do hope somehow they appeal to others as well and I hope I've grown enough as a photographer to realize my photos won't appeal to everybody. I care, but I don't let it bother me!

Susan Carroll-Seger said...

The priority for me is to be passionate about my work, to care about the subject, the honesty and the overall technical quality of the image. Then when I present it to the world its a 'leap of faith'. This formula works for me. In life,most of the time, you get back what you give.

Kelly Mann said...

The other day I shot a baby session. I was disappointed in my work but the parents were happy. Today I shot a session with 4 year old triplets. Thought I got great images but parents rejected many of the shot. There were some winning ones, though. Caring about what others think may need to be considered with the end result in mind. Am I serving my clients, or am I creating to say something personal? I think, too, the lines get blurred.

Dwight said...

I don't depend on photography for a living, and don't do weddings, etc., so I don't have the pressure to produce mass-market photographs. This gives me a lot of freedom. I know from music though that, whether you like it or not, your audience influences your art. Just make sure that they're getting the "real you". It's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you pretend to be.

GaryG said...

I like to listen to the song "Garden Party" by Rick Nelson, at lest once during a post processing session.

bobwyo said...

I once had a very well-known photographer do a critique in a workshop. When done, I wanted to burn my camera (could have, it was a wooden view camera). After the session, I sat in my living room crushed, ready to quit.

But then I realized that while the comments were extremely subjective (our styles were different), there was an objective element (related to generic photographic issues). After looking back at the images, I found that there was truth as well as disagreement (won't say untruth, that suggests the comments were objective).

Take home lesson: I learned to look at my photos as objects apart from me and seek the objective in my own work. Improved my photography by leaps and bounds. Do I care about others' opinions? You bet I do, but I can hold them at a distance and sort them out. Hard lesson to learn for a creative, to be sure, but it's a good one.

Trudy said...

I don't think it's easy for Depp and Brando not to care. I think it's harder for them being in the spotlight. Also people think of them in terms of who they are at this moment. They were small potatoes once before too. Maybe this method has helped them all along. :)

Take opinions and critiques into account but they shouldn't have more weight than one's own view on one's work. Too many photographers create hoping to please some ridiculous camera club or other photographers online instead of themselves and if applicable, their clients. People can tell when an artist enjoys their own work versus not and coming from a place of insecurity not artistic exploration.

Maxis Gamez said...

Hi Rick,

I do care a great deal because that will affect my career.

Some people will like your work and some won't just like buying a car. However, there is always room for improvement and the learning never ends... which is good!

Good topic! I'll keep reading!

Thank you for sharing!

Tim Grey said...

I completely agree. In fact, I made this point in a recent keynote presentation. I don't care if anyone likes my photos. First and foremost, we take pictures for ourselves. Feeding the ego is great, but even more important is pursuing a passion. So set your ego aside and take pictures you love, and stop worrying about what everyone else things. Great topic Rick!

Bull said...

My parents raised me to be my own worst critic. I follow that guidance in everything I do. If I apply the highest possible standards to my own work and am satisfied, I have done everything I can. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to like my work. For example, Apple recently told me via channels that some of my favorite images are offensive. Not going to lose any sleep.
With that said, if I am shooting for someone else on a commercial job I will apply my standards but ensure I follow their guidelines and exceed the client's expectations.

Rick Sammon said...

This comment is from my friend Steve Inglima:

Hey Rick,

I think all photographers care about what others think of their work, but...and here's the important part, that doesn't mean that it will change what they do. Since photographers use the medium of photography to document, and then communicate their thoughts and feelings about visual data, sometimes the document and communicate part of the work is to yourself.

If you can summarize your thoughts and feelings about something in a photograph that you can then appreciate by looking at it, there's the pride of creation and satisfaction of completing that task in the mix. The more work that goes into your photographs, the more satisfaction upon a successful completion with that sense of accomplishment.

People save mementos...and look at them years later, where that visual data jogs their memory of a thing, a place, a person, etc. Since our memories, however good that they are, are not perfect, it's really enlightening to see something as it actually existed and have THAT jog your memory.

IF the photographer's primary reason to produce images is to communicate to and please others, and others don't like the work...well, that would be cause for disappointment, and then a reevaluation of what is lacking in your work. But...if in your deepest psyche, your photography is satisfying and communicative to yourself, you might owe it to yourself to persevere and let the rest of the world catch up! Many artists were not appreciated at first, some even in their lifetimes.

Steve

Rick Sammon said...

Hal.. top advice from a top gun!

Cameron said...

Is it easier not to care if your work is liked, if you know it is?

Ron C said...

Many years ago I realized that I took 3 types of photographs. There were those I took for the client. There were those I took for myself. There were those I took for family and friends. As you can easily guess, these 3 categories all have their own different levels of caring what others think and why. I could not reasonably apply the same standard to each situation. I don't consider stubbornness to be a virtue; I consider it to be an unnecessary limitation.

Dale said...

Hi Rick, thank you for the invitation to contribute.
First, for me its about the "image" and whether or not works. Focus, noise, DR, blur whatever are secondary to whether or provides what was intended at the moment the shutter was snapped.
This does not mean to suggest that even extreme PP is not appropriate. Just that it was considered at the moment of capture. So with that said the personal satisfaction of executing a concept trumps other opinions. Now, once this has been effectively completed and presented to its intended audience. Acknowledgemnt of its success in meeting its intent is certainly fulfilling. Some of this goes out the window when meeting a contracted purpose that may restrict the freedom that the photographer may otherwise engage.
My favorite review quote, paraphrased here because the person quoted is a rather famous photographer. But he ststed " I don't think you cared about taking these pictures, because I don't care about looking at them....

Dale said...

Hi Rick, thank you for the invitation to contribute.
First, for me its about the "image" and whether or not it works. Focus, noise, DR, blur whatever are secondary to whether or not it provides what was intended at the moment the shutter was snapped.
This does not mean to suggest that even extreme PP is not appropriate. Just that it was considered at the moment of capture. So with that said the personal satisfaction of executing a concept trumps other opinions. Now, once this has been effectively completed and presented to its intended audience. Acknowledgemnt of its success in meeting its intent is certainly fulfilling. Some of this goes out the window when meeting a contracted purpose that may restrict the freedom that the photographer may otherwise engage.
My favorite review quote, paraphrased here because the person quoted is a rather famous photographer. But he ststed " I don't think you cared about taking these pictures, because I don't care about looking at them....

kelvindickenson said...

We SHOULD care that others see quality in our work. It must be well exposed, in focus, sharp, well composed and technically excellent. As for taste, the artistic vision, we cant expect others to love our work if we do not love it ourselves. Therefore, we should create what we love and then find the right audience for it as opposed to creating something insincere because we think others will like it.

Jeff Kane said...

Rick -

The title seems that it can be both advice, and a question.

Great comments so far.

While more a technician than artist, I would say that the best photos are those where the work is done up front, allowing the model/scene to tell the story. I would say it's a "frictionless" feeling - much like a golf swing when you are into "unconsciously competent"

My personal perspective is that someone should like every picture I show, but not always the same someone. I also find that I'm generally more critical of my own work than most others are.

It's sort of interesting to see how different "eyes" view work differently - but in the end I think that we all have our own "style" (as a aside, operators of Manual Morse (like the Morse key from another post) developed their unique "fists" based on the patterns inherent in the way the formed characters.

Despite this "big boy" approach, I get pretty testy when I'm showing a photo of which I am proud - only to have people say "that's nice."

Cool topic, keep them coming.

Go Navy - Beat Army (again).

Jeff

Trey Ratcliff said...

Funny that you mention this.. I just finished posting an HOUR LONG (!!) interview where I talked about this stuff too... I could care less what people think of my work. If they do like it... well hey... come on in, the water is wam!

You don't want to be like those girls in the back of the limo at the end of the Bachelor that didn't get a rose... sitting there crying away... it amazes me that all these people base their own self-worth on what other people think of them. I think that is a complete waste of time.

Anyway, that question comes up SOMEWHERE in this mammoth interview that I posted (still not mentioned yet on the main blog) at http://vimeo.com/17604803 - may be in part 2 or 3...

Keith Plumstead said...

It seems to me that the only people who question my photographs know nothing about photography and/or do not appreciate art. I don't like it when I feel like I have to defend my images. However, I welcome constructive criticism by those who know what they are doing because they have "been there" before. Those people and their comments will make me a better photographer, and develop the artist within.

Anonymous said...

Can't help thinking that there's a difference between "not caring" and working.

Not caring doesn't apply to composition, or exposure.

Not caring doesn't apply to knowing the various tools and techniques that are available.

Not caring doesn't mean asking and accepting critique and guidance.

Anonymous said...

Can't help thinking that there's a difference between "not caring" and working.

Not caring doesn't apply to composition, or exposure.

Not caring doesn't apply to knowing the various tools and techniques that are available.

Not caring doesn't mean asking and accepting critique and guidance.

Rick Sammon said...

Hi All... What I like here is that almost all of you have something different to say, and that you took the time to say it and share it.

More on camera to come....

Thank you,
rick

Eddie Tapp said...

I don't care what other's think when I have a personal connection with an image that I have created...

however,

To not care if you like my photography work or not... is something that I do indeed care about... I want persons to like my work and as a professional, that is important to me...

I love what I do (photography) and when I create a photograph for myself, it comes from within, that connection comes first...

When I view the works of others... I always view with an objective viewpoint, and if I have to stop and think about what is being revealed... then it makes an impression on me...


thoughts by Eddie Tapp

Puggle said...

If you are self conscious of what others think of your work, it will affect your free thought, and creativity.

If you love what your doing, keep doing it.

Nevertheless, it's good to hear other view points and opinions, good or bad.

Accept the good as validation, and the bad as a challenge.

You must have thick skin and NEVER take criticism personally.

Ted Johnson said...

Don't care what others think of your work? Then why display it? Sure we care - let's not kid ourselves. And if someone cares enough about one of my pieces to buy it, I'm thrilled. Not because of the money but because they liked it so much that they parted with their dollars to have it and display it.

Joe said...

I create photographs to tell stories, to share my experiences with others, to invite people to enjoy the feeling of a place and to try and inspire others to create and share their perspectives with me.

I suppose the best outcome would be to have a percentage of people each hate or love a particular image - that would certainly be better than having no reaction at all.

I still appreciate feedback from others, even if I disagree with them. That helps me refine my technique and storytelling so that I know I am communicating my intentions for the photo.

Lightchaser said...

All who walk the earth care what others think, whether in craft, opinion, etc. Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. Regarding photographic art, I love it when photographs have a voice of their own so photographers don't have to lend their own.

Dale said...

I remember seeing an interview with Dustin Hoffman, he said that when he was working with Olivier on Marathon Man. He was being introspective and asked why actors "Did this" Olivier's response was " Look at me, look at me, look at me".
So as a previous post suggested, if ou don't care about what others think why display it?

Matt Golosinski said...

It may be worth considering that a photo can make an impact even on a person who does not necessarily "like" it. Like implies an aesthetic sense that may or may not get far beyond traditionally "pretty" images, leaving, say, a lot of documentary work out. Nothing against pretty, mind you, just trying to tease out a distinction that could bear on the discussion. I enjoy both more or less conventionally pretty images but also those that depart from convention to make a stronger, sometimes more challenging statement. Room enough for all this work, to be sure. I guess I prefer people to have a more visceral reaction to my photos. Great if they "like" them, but perhaps better if they remember them. Not that I'm any Rick Sammon! Cheers from stupidly cold Chicago.

Raychel said...

Absolutely fascinating conversation here in this post to me. It really speaks to me right now because I've recently felt subjected to both sides in a way that felt sort of like some kind of blunt force trauma *heh*

When I first started shooting it was all about me and what I wanted and I loved my images and I got a lot of great feedback about them from others.

Once I decided I wanted to make a business out of this and started shooting for other people I started finding myself not feeling the same about my art.

So where is the happy medium is what I started to wonder... in finding the same joy in shooting for myself while shooting for others. I have currently resigned myself to the fact that maybe it has to do with the fact that I am not quite there when it comes to finding my niche in shooting other humans.

But for a while there, I got so focused on how other people viewed my work. It was a really negative thing for me. I limited myself because of it. I felt like so many people were pulling me in so many different directions telling me what to be and how to do it. It's easy to lose your identity as an artist if you start to listen to everybody and their mama.

You have to care to some extent obviously, especially if you are working for somebody else, but at some point you also have to learn to let go. If you are good, you will find people who like your style and your work.

When I am moved by any artist, it is always an artist who has found their true voice. This is ultimately what I strive for these days. And the most successful photographers I see out there, are those ones that have found their true voice. All the marketing and business aspects aside, I think the major way to be successful is to be true to yourself and your vision.

Laurie said...

I would say "I'm interested" in what others think of my work. That is why I post some of my images online and enter into contests to see if I get the same reaction that I got when I clicked the shutter. I know what I think and feel about my images, but it is just confirmation. It is when I'm doing work for a client that I truly care.

Bert said...

Fascinating topic. As an amateur photographer with a day job paying the bills, I tend to be a much harsher critic of my own work than others. That said, I still look for the validation of the appreciation of others. My opinion is to meet your own expectations and the rest will follow. Love what you do, and it will show.

Kimber Images said...

I have been taking photos for years but, new to the business end.
I care to a certain extent what others think but, over all, I am my worst critic. I have also read that you should focus on just one or two venues. I enjoy photographing many venues such as wildlife, still life, florals and lanscapes just to name a few. I don't think one needs to or should limit oneself, they should photograph what appeals to them. As others have said, some will like, some wont.