Just as a boat is chained to the sea, sometimes I feel chained to Flickr.
I am now going through the 420 photos I took during the six days of my trip. Four hundred and twenty photos that all came out well. Yes, there are some things that I took multiple shots of in order to get the best one, but still… how do you work your way through all that and post it on Flickr without boring people? I’ve been limiting myself to posting only three or four photos a day so that people will look at them, which seems to be working, except I have to ask myself why I share all these photos with the world. I took this working vacation on my own, and one of the reasons I took these photos was to share them with my husband, Andy, who couldn’t come on the trip with me. That makes sense to me– to want to share with my husband everything I wish I could have shared with him while we were apart. And I suppose it makes sense to want to share photos with family and close friends. But I’m starting to wonder why I care whether people I’ve never met will stop and look at my photos. I hardly make any money giving my photos away. I could write travel articles and get paid for the work I put into taking, geotagging, editing, organizing, naming, describing my photos… but I don’t. Instead, I spend several hours each day on the computer and on Flickr. I post photos and look at other people’s photos. I enjoy this, but often it seems like work.
I sometimes look at what I do as a creative outlet and a chance to share information with others just for the sake of sharing. I guess there’s a part of me that appreciates all the hard work other amateur photographers and bloggers put into what they publish, and I want to give back. I’ve always had a work ethic that demanded that I contribute to my community, be it local or global. So I guess this is my contribution.
But I have a B.A. in English, and I often think I should be writing for a living instead of writing for nothing. And with my 18 years of experience as an American Sign Language interpreter, I think I should be developing and presenting workshops on interpreting, or even writing books about it. But I’m not. So why do I keep giving away hours of my day, day after day, to Flickr? I don’t know. I guess, in a weird way, I’m lonely. I have a husband and two dogs, a few close friends and family who love me, yet I still crave an audience. I want to communicate with people, have them listen to me, receive their response and feedback. But couldn’t I do that as a writer? Sometimes I fear that in the process of communicating with images I am losing the ability to communicate with words. Perhaps it is my purpose in life to paint images with words, not just by capturing them in photographs. It is harder to say what you want with words than it is with images… or is it? I guess if the image above said it all then I wouldn’t be writing this now; would I?
I don’t have answers to any of these questions yet. But I need to keep thinking about what else I should be doing with my life and how being chained to Flickr may be stopping me from fulfilling my potential as a human being. I don’t need to prove that I can take a good photo. I know I can. But then again, one doesn’t do something again and again just to prove he can do it, does one? I mean, if I write a best-selling book, I will have proven that I can write a good book, but I’d still probably want to write another book, and another, and another.
I do know that I get a lot out of photography. The act of shooting photos is meditative; it allows me (or forces me) to really look at things, to see them from various angles, to see them as they are and to capture them as I imagine them. And when I take photos of people or other animals, looking at the photographs afterward helps me to see them, to really gaze at them and take them in in a way that might not feel comfortable for either me or my subject in the moment. I also get to explore my moods and the moods of others, including the earth’s (if you can consider a cloudy day or the flowers of spring as an expression of the earth’s “moods”). My moods often mirror those of the earth, and through capturing images at those times I can share my own feelings with other people.
I do have a need to be seen and heard. Always have. Call it what you will, but I accept it as a fact about myself. I have almost never worked behind the scenes. Even the work I have done behind the scenes (writing, photography) ends up in the public eye. So just about everything I’ve ever done for money or for nothing has been for an audience. Heck, look at what I make my living at today– interpreting phone calls, being heard by hearing people and watched by deaf people.
I hate to think that I need to keep writing, acting, singing, photographing, etc. to feel loved and lovable. I would like to believe that I am loved and lovable regardless of how much I produce or create. I sometimes wonder if it is the occasional photo that gets a lot of response and/or ends up in Flickr’s Explore pages that keeps me going, makes me feel like a star for a day, gives me the feeling of being not alone, but a member of a global family. I don’t know. Whatever my reasons are, I aim to practice moderation and feel completely unchained and free to choose just how much Flickring I do.