Photographs For No-One

When you make photographs, forget about who else might see them.

Forget about trying to produce images you think your parents or friends might approve of.

Forget about trying to capture shots that look just like those you’ve seen online with the most “likes” and “favourites”.

Forget about creating compositions to gain recognition from people on social media you don’t know, will never meet and whose opinions and approval in fact have no significance to you whatsoever.

Instead, make photographs for no-one. No-one, that is, but yourself. 

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Only when you seek out and make the images you want to make can you find a true sense of freedom and enjoyment, one that is immediately diluted any time you compromise.

How often do you make photographs for no-one?

Let us know below.

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what I’m into right now.

18 thoughts on “Photographs For No-One”

  1. Dan, my photos are just for me. Every so often I share one. I took a photo of a friend’s cat sitting amidst a whole lot of cat objects and it looked splendid. I wanted my friend to see her cat in this way. I like the freedom of just doing photography for myself. My other art I share with one person maybe two

    1. I wonder how our photograph “portfolios” would change if we all did this? What proportion of our images we made just because we thought someone else would like it, or indeed “like” it?

  2. You’ve got a good point here … and I think this can be said about many things in life. Do what YOU want to do, dress as you want to, write as you want to, be whom you want to be. I’ve been a people pleaser all my life (another phrase for simply being a doormat) … but now I’m working hard to remedy this. Lovely post. Katie

    1. Thanks Katie. I’m not sure people pleaser is another phrase for doormat, its’ not that simple. I think we can all strive to be kind and considerate, and look after other people, but we don’t have to be a doormat in the process. It’s finding that balance I guess, like most things!

  3. There are certainly times when I make a photo because I *know* it will connect on Instagram, Flickr, or my blog.

    But most of the photos I make are because I’m trying to improve at something, or because the scene was interesting to me.

  4. Once upon a time, I posted a question akin to this (on Reddit, where I am about 50 years and two cultural generations out of my demographic):

    “If no one but you ever saw them, would you continue to photograph?” As Vivian Maier had.

    There was a bit of an uproar. Most answered yes, that it was a personal expression; some directly cited “art” as a vital motive. But I was surprised by the numbers who said that the pictures they took were a sort of medium of personal connection, a validation tool of their relationships and of themselves – a kind of visual Twitter. And some replied that absent that use, they would leave off at once.

    In this sense, it is become a tribal patois, and will look, as it does, all alike; auto-reflective, self-referential. And that is at the core of laments about the trivialization of photography, enabled by the ease of perfect exposure and focus with modern equipment.

    1. Quite.

      I’ve bemoaned how the internet has impacted photography before (we spoke about the particular post again very recently).

      It becomes another way for people to try to fit in and belong, by taking and sharing images that are just like other people’s. Also it becomes a kind of currency to measure our acceptance and how liked we are by others – the more “likes” my photo gets on Instagram, the better/more loveable person I must be.

      I understand the drive – to belong, to be accepted – but there are some areas in life where we have to navigate with a much stronger sense of individualism and experimentation. Others we never find out who we are.

  5. I have definite (and some vague) notions about the aesthetics and creative values I want to be reflected in the images I make. Part of the intrigue and reward of photography for me is the struggle of getting my skills and effort to match up with those lofty ideals. But do my images have any value whatsoever if I’m only making them for myself? This is an exceedingly complicated question with any number of contextual sides to it, for such a small-brained, ponderous-thinking knuckle-dragger as myself to answer. But contemplate it, I do. Thank you for the recent, steady stream of thought-provoking essays which you’ve published, Dan.
    -Jason

    1. Jason, thanks for your thoughts and encouragement, much appreciated.

      Have there been times and photographs where it has all come together and you’ve reached your “lofty ideals”?

      You’ve noticed I’m quite a thinker, often too much some would say!

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