A Worthy Cause Promotes Itself


Humans are irrevocably voyeuristic. To varying degrees, they are also exhibitionists. Hook them up and everyone is a big, happy family! Facebook has made billions upon billions with this simplest of understanding about human behaviour (in fact, if you are not on Facebook, you must be weird, antisocial… so I’ve been told, more than once). So there it is—in the overall scheme of things, the more interesting you are as an exhibitionist (in every sense of complexity or idiocy that can be accrued to that statement), the odds are in your favour that like-minded voyeurs (complicated or idiotic) will be interested in what you have on display. It worked for pornography. Is photography really all that different?

In the past couple of months, I have been posed this question by students and practitioners alike… What do I do with my photography? How do I promote myself when it seems like such a mundane, ugly thing to do? How, then, do I get noticed? My answer… to the point of being somewhat blunt—there is the popular philosophical adage that goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” In other words, if no one has ever seen your photographs, do they even exist? At this point, almost invariably, laptops come out with requests to see the work. But this is not what I mean at all (I am certainly not the ordinary voyeur).

In a digital world where millions of pictures and stories are put out everyday, where the memory of having even released the shutter gets lost, perhaps the question to ask is what would be the most important thing you could do with your photography? The greatest legends of the subject were not legends when they made their most famous images. More often than not, they were hard at work at their commissioned jobs (possibly of their liking, but often not), and struggling to do it to the best of their abilities. Their work got noticed. And the pages of history are written on by the victors, their stories embellished in the telling.

So, what do you do? Select a topic close to your home or heart. Make it a project with a goal. It does not matter if it is short or long term, dark and heavy, easygoing and lighthearted. What matters is that the project should benefit others in some way. Work very hard at it, in the time you can spare for it. And when you think it has begun to create value, invite people to see it on your Facebook page or Instagram account, simply and unabashedly. For a certainty, it will be worth your while, and mine, and for everyone who happens to come across it.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Better Photography.