Publish and be damned!

It’s estimated that over 2 billion people have active social media accounts. For many of us, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have become an integral part of our lives, even for those old enough to remember life before mobile phones and tablets. Social media is being used to forge connections, empower people, and give a voice to many who have struggled to be heard in the past; on a more mundane level, it’s a great way of staying up to date, sharing ideas and keeping in touch with family and friends. But there are few people who haven’t, at some point, regretted sending sending a tweet, message, photograph or text.

Reflecting on how I’ve used social media and image sharing sites for my photography, I realise that my development has been on display to the world (if it cared to look). Perhaps there’s nothing wrong with this. But once images are in the public domain, there’s no turning back. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, it’s a case of “publish and be damned!”1

As a result, I’ve become much more selective about the images I publish. It’s not easy. Resisting the temptation to publish images I like, but which don’t reflect my artistic vision, takes discipline and self-awareness and some hard critiquing. International fine art photographer, Michael Levin, has said that he sometimes lives with images for a year before deciding whether to release them to the public domain. His approach requires far more discipline and patience than most photographers (myself included) possess. But perhaps a little short-term pain is worth the long-term gain of protecting your own personal photography brand.

I’ve also reassessed where I publish my images. I began by sharing images on Flickr and 500px but have now stopped using these sites. I found it all too easy to get caught up in the quest for ‘Likes’ which resulted in comments predominantly along the lines of ‘nice shot!’.

It feels like we’re in the midst of a photograph-sharing frenzy: in 2015, over 700 million images were uploaded to Flickr alone2. I believe the sheer quantity of images being shared is doing photography and photographers a disservice. It’s putting undue pressure on photographers and creating unrealistic standards of output, particularly if you bear in mind Ansel Adams’ view that, “twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”. Undoubtedly, there are some wonderful images online and a lot of very talented photographers, but there’s an awful lot of mediocrity to wade through too. At times, it can feel overwhelming.

That’s not to say I disapprove of photo sharing sites; the popularity of photography as a hobby is due, in no small part, to photographers being able to share images and make connections. But personally, I prefer to use my website and my dedicated Facebook page (Lisa Katsiaris Photography) as my ‘shop front’ to promote my images.

There’s no right or wrong answer to what you publish and where you publish it, but the next time you’re ready to publish, you may wish to pause before you hit the ‘Send’ button.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Enchanter’s Wand, Venice, 2016. The title is taken from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold,

(1) When Harriette Wilson, a courtesan and former mistress of the Duke of Wellington, was about to publish her Memoirs, her publisher offered to remove the Duke’s name in return for payment. The Iron Duke replied famously, “publish and be damned!”.

(2) Based on statistics compiled by Franck Michel:

Images uploaded to Flickr.webarchive