Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To Blog or Not to Blog

(Click on the thumbnail to view larger image)

After reading Niels Henriksen's thought-provoking post this week about reasons for blogging among other things, I realized that I am approaching an anniversary of sorts here at my blog thinking about some of the same issues Niels discusses. Just a few weeks short of a year ago, I chose the name for my blog on the spur of the moment and started this venture with some rather vague notions as to its purpose. Like Niels and many others, I am still trying to clarify exactly why I am doing this. Paul Butzi had a short, but fascinating series of posts on this topic of why we put ourselves and our work out there and his comments had been, in turn, partly motivated by a post from Joe Reifer (Paul includes a link to that post).

For me, blogging is partly about getting permission to sit in on a remarkable round-table discussion peopled by photographers who could well teach workshops that I couldn't afford to take. Alone, I don't have the expertise to carry on an intelligent technical discussion with probably a single one of the people whose blogs I read regularly. Yet, because the talent and skills of these people are matched by graciousness and generosity, I have been welcomed to sit at the table picking the brains of individuals who have decades of experience to go with their talent. My persistence and my effort has allowed me to feel part of this community. Since I don't have a local community of photographers, I have come to depend on this web-based community and it has now plays a vital role for me.

For quite some time I was a lurker on the web. While I read avidly, I rarely left anything behind. Finally, I got brave enough to post comments (often questions) and that became a little easier when I learned how kind so many photographers are. I still have far more impulses to post comments than the number of comments posted. Often, I am intrigued or inspired by the articles written on a blog that I frequent, yet I can't seem to put into words thoughts that are worthy of the original post.

When I began to get comments on my own blog, I was, for a time, a bit intimidated. Because I was keenly aware that these people had forgotten more about photography than I will ever know, the notice of my existence rendered me virtually mute. When I did get my bearings, I looked back at another reason for starting the blog. I wanted to thwart that part of my being that gets stuck on perfect. (Like the typical perfectionist, I am a million miles from perfect in any thing I do, yet I have long struggled with the need to get an “A”.) Any virtue can be carried to a vice and my work ethic and determination to do the best I can frequently veers into paralysis brought on by that nasty thinking circle: I can’t do it as well as others, so why do it at all. And this in spite of understanding full well that if you don’t do it, you will never get better at it. It is a struggle to stay on top of that—old habits don’t just expire and can’t be wished away—new habits must be cultivated to replace the old ones. The discipline—erratic though it is—to post frequently, urges me to let go of the need to put up worthy work (thoughts and images), and helps to keep me focused on doing the work. Meanwhile, the ongoing conversation helps considerably to keep me grounded , even when I am deeply discouraged.

Occasionally, a conversation with a friend or acquaintance in my non-web world leads me to mention my web-based community, and often that individual concludes that I am referring to a group where one posts photos for critiques by other photographers. Invariably, I find that once the person makes that assumption, I have almost no hope of explaining to them the real nature of a community that is based upon the exchange of ideas, support, and sharing of knowledge and/or experience, rather than ratings. Like anyone else, I'm sure, I welcome an occasional “well-done” or (with equal enthusiasm) the periodic “I wonder what would have happened if you …” Still, comments on the individual shots are almost incidental to the stimulating exchange of thoughts about the struggle to create. Being a part of this web community certainly does provide a form of validation and a critical one for me—just not the sort many people assume.

I have come to depend upon this exchange so much that when we make our trips to Bear Valley and I am without Internet, I feel a bit lost. It’s more than a trifle strange to feel so connected to a group of people I have never even laid eyes on.


  1. Excellent, Anita. You've managed to capture the essence of blogging for me. I rather like the description of it being a round table discussion in which everyone gets to participate. Further, we all get some feedback and validation, no matter what our experience level.

    I guess that I like the free exchange of ideas and the validation of thoughts. Usually, the things that I am thinking are exactly the same as someone who is reading my blog, or perhaps it is a slightly different view that I had not heretofore considered, like your post!

    I'm glad that you started your blog; it is certainly one that I look forward to reading!

  2. I keep finding myself reading photo books without pictures (How to be a Photographer by Hurn and Jay) or reading graphic design books without any graphics (the one I mentioned on my blog)

    The reason being, I'm fascinated by the creative process. Or frustrated by the creative process. Perhaps fascinated and frustrated in equal measure, but it is the process that I really enjoy and enjoy discussing, studying and trying to understand.

    I listen to podcasts of interviews with photographers too (The Candid Frame, LightSource) Again, not many pictures, just lots of struggles and process.

    I also enjoy teaching, mostly for the selfish reasons of breaking down something well enough to teach it requires you to really understand it and also find out the limitations of your own knowledge. Teaching teaches me more about myself than I can ever really share.

    The blogging thing is fun too, if you happen to like to write.

  3. To All: I got a bit overwhelmed yesterday and I am quite tardy in responding to the thoughtful comments left on this post. My apologies.

    Colin: Thank you for dropping by and for the thumbs up. I have long been a fan and I am delighted that you visited.

    Paul: I'm glad the round table idea resonates with you. You are a terrific model for blogging—indeed you set high standards for frequently updated content and quality of same. So, I am happy my thoughts make sense to you.

    It certainly is fascinating, isn't it, how often we find ourselves rolling a topic around in our minds and then discovering that others in the community are thinking about and writing about the same subject? Still surprises me sometime.

    Gordon: You are so right to mention equal parts frustration and fascination when it comes to our relationship with the creative process. The exploration of this phenomenon is no less than a life-long pursuit .

    I loved teaching with a consuming passion. I don't think there is any better way to learn. When I am running the educational system, students will be required to write how-to books and teach classes in their specialty subjects.

    You would make a superb teacher. With your sense of joy in life, humor, generosity, and frighteningly keen intellect, you would be amazing. Alas, I wouldn't wish the current academic system on anyone. You seem to be far to nice a guy to wish that on. I got out of it decades ago; but, because of my field, I was able to be an independent, running workshops without any large or small government interference. Still, there is nothing more satisfying than watching that light go on in a student's eye and witnessing the blossoming of talent. What a blessing that you are sharing and learning with your lucky students.


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