AUDIENCES and INSTITUTIONS
Most likely the goal of every photographer is having his or her work seen by other people. Perhaps it’s important to indicate, predict and understand your target audience. The work of a photographer can be seen with the help of different mediums, starting from online platforms and popular social media sites to newspapers and institutions that organize fine art exhibitions.
‘Cameras and photos have become increasingly liquid, the image that once existed as a solid and comparably heavy paper object is now near-weightless digital information, which thus moves across space with increasingly little effort.’ (Jurgenson 2019: 25)
Due to the technological developments, visual representation of moments has become a part of everyone’s life. With that said, everyone can be perceived as a photographer sharing his or her work with the immediate audience of friends and family through the use of private or social media.
‘With every passing decade, it is always said that photography now matters more than ever, and the statement is always true.’ (Jurgenson 2019: 17)
The audience with whom a certain photograph is shared is as important as the photograph itself. The wrong audience will not appreciate a certain moment frozen in time as good as the right audience would.
Fig. 1: Saksens 2021. The Explorer [digital photographic image]
My photographs are taken with a NIKON DSLR camera and I use several different lenses covering a range from 18mm to 600mm. The technology that I use is appropriate for achieving professional-looking photography results. NIKON cameras are designed to have a full control over the technical settings unlike smartphones that don’t offer such possibilities. When it comes to audiences that see my work, I can mention several of them. I show my work primarily on my own website, Facebook page and Instagram account. Such online platforms as Facebook and Instagram certainly imply their own ‘rules’ of use like putting hashtags, liking and sharing posts, even simply being ‘active’ on these platforms increases the chance that the work is seen by more people. Social media has made it easier to find audiences for one’s work.
‘Without an audience for every snap, photography before social media had to work much harder for attention; it had to be important or special or worthy to justify being seen. While the barriers to taking photos have certainly been lowered due to user-friendly cameras that are always carried on the person, it may be even more significant that the barriers to an image being seen have also been lowered dramatically, bringing photography into the stream between the scenes.’ (Jurgenson 2019: 19-20)
I would certainly agree with Nathan Jurgenson that cameras have become user-friendly, however I disagree that a camera is something that is always carried around unless it’s a smartphone camera. For those who use other types of cameras, for example, a DSLR camera, the process of taking photographs is often well-planned in terms of when, what and where. It’s unlikely that somebody with a DSLR camera with 600mm lens is going to carry it around just in case not to miss a great opportunity to photograph something.
Fig. 2: Saksens 2021. Vogelfeest [newspaper photograph]
I have recently started to actively send photographs to the local newspaper ‘Weekblad voor Ouder-Amstel’. The target audience of this newspaper is all the people who live within the Dutch municipality of Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. This newspaper is delivered to every property within this municipality once a week and is provided by the municipality to its population for free. The photographs that I send to the newspaper are related to current events and they are taken in locations within this particular municipality.
Fig. 3: Saksens 2021. Ik zie jij [digital photographic image]
Another audience that sees my work, like the photographic image ‘Ik zie jij’ (the translation from the Dutch language is ‘I see you’), is bird lovers – people who visit the website of Vogelbescherming Nederland, the Dutch national bird protection site vogelbescherming.nl. The bird photographic images that can be found on this site are related to all the birds encountered within the borders of the Netherlands. Every month there is one photograph that is selected as a winning photograph of the month.
Fig. 4: Saksens 2021. De Veluwe [digital photographic image]
Every month I upload digital photographic images, like the image ‘De Veluwe’ (De Veluwe is a region in the Netherlands), on the Dutch nature association’s Vereniging Natuurmonumenten website natuurmonumenten.nl. The audience of this website is Dutch nature and animal lovers, as well as professional and amateur photographers who also share their work. Every month one photograph is selected as a winner of the month.
I certainly have some certain taste in nature and animal photography. There are some limits to what I would ever offer to my audiences to look at. This week we (the students) were asked to think about certain styles or subjects of photography that we could gladly live without and never see again. The subject that has been showed in photography and that I could absolutely live without and never see again is photographs of dogs defecating. Yes, apparently it’s a thing to photograph dogs with their poop. Seeing dogs pooping is really not in my taste. Although I have all the respect for the well known dog photographer Elliott Erwitt, he has included such a photograph in one of his books about dogs.
Fig. 5: Erwitt 1956. No title [printed photograph]
The photographer Beth Dombkowski has taken the topic of dogs defecating to the next level with her exhibition ‘Poopface: Dogs of Philadelphia’. The concept behind the series is to reveal funny dog facial expressions while they poop. For me this seems like going a bit too far with the dog photography. Although it’s an animal and doesn’t care about being in a photograph, it still seems like it’s the intrusion of privacy during such a private activity as defecating, not to even mention that poop is not the most aesthetically pleasing subject to look at. I’m wondering what’s next – perhaps photographing full diapers of babies?
Fig. 6: Dombkowski c.2018. No title [digital photographic image]
To further my own photography, I wish to engage with other institutions relevant to my area of photography. Those could be institutions related to nature and animals, including dog related institutions, as well as I could consider showing my work in an exhibition (including online exhibition), perhaps the local municipality’s open house gallery or a local art gallery, and publish books, including photobooks, further in the future. I have several projects in mind for the future that are related to both, the study process at the Falmouth University and personal goals. I believe that my skillset will continue to develop over the coming year, and I need to continue actively photograph to gain more experience, as well as I should continue building an adequate portfolio for the future.
At the moment I don’t consider myself as a ‘professional’ photographer yet as being a photographer is not my daily job and I don’t have multiple years of experience in this field, nor do I consider myself an amateur photographer. I don’t think anyone becomes a ‘professional’ photographer in one day, it is a process that happens over a longer period of time and ‘becoming a professional photographer’ is something that develops naturally. At the moment I prefer to be referred to as just a ‘photographer’ without categorizing it further in the direction of amateur or professional photographer, but if I had to put a label on myself, I would rather go for the ‘semi-professional’ title.
JURGENSON, Nathan. 2019. The social photo: on photography and social media. London: Verso.
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. No title [digital photographic image]. From Saksens Photography [online]. Available at: https://www.saksens.nl/human-canine-bond?pgid=klyz3sxu-6b7aa3a8-2cf0-4f05-ba6c-ead750864913 [accessed 16 March 2021].
Figure 2: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. Vogelfeest [digital photographic image]. From ‘Weekblad voor Ouder-Amstel’ 17 March 2021 (p. 13).
Figure 3: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. Ik zie jij [digital photographic image]. Vogelbescherming Nederland [online]. Available at: https://www.vogelbescherming.nl/ontdek-vogels/zelf-doen/de-mooiste-vogelfotos/ingezonden/?beeld=8831 [accessed 16 March 2021].
Figure 4: SAKSENS, Ruta. 2021. De Veluwe [digital photographic image]. Vereniging Natuurmonumenten [online]. Available at: https://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/foto-van-de-maand?foto=cc6b2c93-1f24-4fbc-8ff5-3ca2446a3f93&undefined&fbclid=IwAR1mqRGE-_d_tpHejA_u71G1Xrp-On70UNU52Quyx5IwVAj8qmBpyy392Hs [accessed 16 March 2021].
Figure 5: ERWITT, Elliott. 1956. No title [unknown]. From Elliott Erwitt. 2008. ‘Elliott Erwitt’s Dogs’ (p. 40). Kempen: teNeues Media GmbH.
Figure 6: DOMBKOWSKI, Beth. c.2018. No title [digital photographic image]. From Philly Vloice [online]. Available at: https://www.phillyvoice.com/dogs-faces-they-poop-philly-photographer-photo-gallery/ [accessed 15 March 2021].