Ted Forbes, on the site called "The Art of Photography," states that "Nobody Cares About Your Photography". No one likes to hear this but this is a realization that leads him to say that "photography that matters" is what counts.
The essay is called
Brutal Truth: Nobody Cares About Your Photography
and can be found here.
This can serve as a wake-up call, putting us on notice that the world moves on and no one knows or notices your hard work.
Photography that matters can mean all sorts of things, of course; news, reportage, events, prominent people, disasters, and global changes. But art can matter too, a seminal Cartier Bresson, the kid with the hand grenade in Central Park by Diane Arbus, even Ansel Adam's Moonrise as it has become so iconic, a picture from Robert Frank's The Americans, all those matter.
Go on that photo trip. Shoot a lot. Get home. Print a lot. Make the work into a portfolio or perhaps a book. What've you got? Work that no one cares about. As viewers we are callous and while it is wonderful you had such a great time and made pictures so unusual of such exceptional things, we really don't care that much.
Let's look back to shooting film and/or slides. Same thing. Someone went on a trip, shot a lot of slides, got home, made a slide show, invited friends over, looked at the slides. I don't know about you but I was subjected to this kind of abuse when I was a kid by my dad and those were some deadly boring evenings.
In that sense Mr. Forbes is correct: nobody cares about your photography. In the world of still imagery these days no one is going to slow down and consider your work, judge its redeeming value, place it on a pedestal of praise and awe, make the necessary connections to link it with other works of yours, to place it in your oeuvre.
First of all they don't know you exist, secondly, they aren't going to spend enough time with your work to get it, third, they're not going to pay attention unless they've been told by some authority they read or know about who tells them how wonderful your work is. Even then, no guarantees.
So where does that leave you? Well, one way to differentiate your work from the masses posting on Instagram is to make your work into prints and display them somewhere. Just that separates you from most. A print is a real thing, something you can stand in front of and look at for a while. But also build a website, make it very good and direct people to go and see it, perhaps use the site to promote your shows. Make your prints extraordinary, learn your craft, and excel at it. And own your pictures so that they are not derivative. That seems hard I know, but listen to your own inner artist, follow your own instinct in your work. Pay little or no attention to "influencers," or "mimickers" that are so prevalent online. And don't travel to "great locations" for photography or get trapped into believing you need the great picture of any given place. It blows me away to see a row of workshop attendees standing in a line with cameras making the same picture. Is this what you want? Make work that stems from real projects, not just an hour out with a camera. Scratch deeper and learn to use the medium to say something, be it actual as in a story or a narrative or more figurative or emotional, a dream, a setting, or to, as Ted Forbes says, make pictures of things that matter.
And, oh yes, good luck. You'll need it. Photography is now so very tough, no longer a small thing, but a ubiquitous thing, with so very many vying for attention that almost no one gets any. Facing the realization that no one cares about your work is that splash in the face with ice water we need as a wake up to the situation we are all in now. Face reality. If you want to be a player, figure out a way to differentiate, stand apart, make a distinction. These days, good work is nowhere near enough. Try to figure out a way to make work that matters.
With thanks to Ted Forbes.