When I was a kid in school, in math class once you got the math problem solved the teacher would say, “Show your work.” If you were going to do the work, show it, show how you got there.
I use that same phrase with photographers. “Show your work.” What are you making it for if it’s just going on Instagram and Facebook for a few likes and then forgotten? I wrote recently about how Fred Herzog, a street photographer from Vancouver would photograph the city with Kodachrome slide film and schedule slide shows in his city. That’s not anonymous likes from followers, bots and whoever else the algorithm throws your way. It’s real feedback.
There’s a different way people look at photographs when at a photography exhibit or at a museum versus on a screen. There’s a different view they get when on a projector screen for 15-20 seconds than the 1-2 seconds most photos get online. Which is why I get them up on a projected screen.
I run a monthly event in Boulder Colorado called Beers+Cameras:Boulder. It started as the “Photo Jam–like a music jam but for photographers–at my photo studio and got renamed when we moved it to a local pub. The 10-20 photographers who come each month bring work and we screen them from a projector on a large six-foot screen.
They come to show their work.
If you haven’t screened your work in person, where people can respond to your photographs in real time, you don’t know what it’s like to show your work. The photographs each photographer chooses to show each month says a lot about them. “This is what I like and what I make, what I think is good.” That’s what they essentially say through their photographs.
After all, all photographs are self-portraits. Revealing the photographer who made them.
I look forward to photographing with slide film and bringing a real Kodak Carousel projector slide show to a future Beers+Cameras:Boulder. The images from a slide projector are many more times more brilliant than the brightest digital projector out there. The difference is truly night and day.
To any photographer who wants to grow, I say step out of your comfort zone, your IG feed, your FB page where people will like anything you post, without even really looking at the content, because they like YOU. Take 20 or so photographs to an event like ours (or start your own) and show your work to the group. Some people even come to B+C:B and bring darkroom prints they made. Hand-printed photographs on real photo paper. We always find those to be a treat.
Our event is the first Wednesday of the month, so tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Trident Bookstore in Boulder. It doesn’t have a hard start. We chat and eat and get some beers for the first 60-90 minutes, then start the slide shows. It’s inspiring–there are so many different kinds of photographers showing work.
That’s the key, they’re showing their work.
Be a photographer who shows your work. You’ll get real usable feedback from the other photographers and learn who you are by what you choose to show. Because showing your work isn’t just about the photography, it’s about the curation. “This is what I chose, what I like, who I am.”
Show your work.