August 26, 2009

The problem with trying to please others is that you end up pleasing no one, including yourself.

Why do you create?  Who are you trying to please?  If you have an image that you love, but the public does not, how does this affect your opinion?

Several blogs ago I had related this story about Edward Weston as recounted by Ansel Adams:

“After dinner, Albert (Bender) asked Edward to show his prints.  They were the first work of such serious quality I had ever seen, but surprisingly I did not immediately understand or even like them; I thought them hard and mannered.  Edward never gave the impression that he expected anyone to like his work.  His prints were what they were.  He gave no explanations; in creating them his obligation to the viewer was completed.”

We all would like our work to be appreciated, but do we sometimes depend too much on the opinions of others?  Do we sometimes define our work or even ourselves as artists by what “they” think?

When you focus on producing work that others might like, your work will lack power and confidence. You can never please others, because there are just too many “others” out there and their tastes are fickle.  Only when you follow your own creative compass can you be strong, confident and truly creative.

So choose to please yourself, because when it comes to your art, your opinion is the only one that really matters.


P.S.  I chose the above image, Urban Starfish, specifically for this topic.  It’s an image that I really like, but rarely do others appreciate it.


18 thoughts on “The problem with trying to please others is that you end up pleasing no one, including yourself.

  1. Cole,
    Succinctly and well said, nothing else matters. I personally like the photo you presented with this post, but I can understand why you would get the reactions you do.

  2. Very timely in our house! R and I are working on a collaborative project (TBA) and she needed this one. ‘course I don’t! 🙂

    Yeah, I like the “Ford starfish”. Not enough to purchase it, but I like it:-)

    (I have to add the smiley emoticon, you might think I’m seriouos)


  3. Thank you Derrald, sometimes an image carries with it the feelings and emotions of your life at that time. Kind of like a song from high school or the perfume of your first girl friend. Perhaps this is why I like this image so much.

  4. Thanks you so much for this insight – too many photographers waste too much time trying to suck up to galleries! No wonder Kim Weston has nothing to do them.
    Love your work!

  5. I can really relate to this one. I have been editing my images from a recent trip and found myself debating over some of them because I did have that thought – “well, I like them but what will other people think?” What usually happens if I go with my gut and print my favorites, is that I feel better inside. Much of the time, these same images are liked by a good majority of viewers. It is hard to turn those voices off though.

  6. I do think that when you have to earn a living from your art, it really complicates things. I am fortunate that I have no such need and can create just for myself.

  7. Dianne, you are exactly right. Worrying about others will always leave us feeling uneasy and eventually disappointed.

    I used to use friends and family as a jury to decide which images to submit to exhibitions. What I found was that it’s all a crap-shoot because of the juror, so I ought to at least feel good that I chose the images I felt passionate about.

  8. I totally agree that trying to pick something for a juried show must depend on your own emotions, not others’. I have a photo called “Beware of Bull” that has been in a gallery rack for months and shown several times in exhibitions. The gallery manager told me this week it sold… finally. He also told me that invariably the people who go through the rack pick it out and comment on it. Why then did it sell this week? Obviously a lot of people were struck by it… but my wife would not say she liked even. BUT I DO!

  9. You bring up an entirely new area of discussion Gary, the relationship between our favorites and those that sell. Mine rarely are the same, in fact much of mine that sells are on the bottom of my favorite list!

  10. The youtube video is great! Also, I think the things you are teaching are exactly what we need to hear; to learn from others but develop in our own ways, and to please ourselves with our “art” instead of trying to please everyone else. I have been having a wonderful time using what you taught me in Moab about burning and dodging, but remembering to figure out what I want to achieve with it instead of trying to make it look like your style. The dodging and burning tips that you showed us are my favorite thing I’ve learned at the Moab symposium so far.

  11. I was googlin on BWs and came across ur site. I am no photographer but I just love the emotions stirred up in me with BW photos. Besides tweaking photographs to suit not our own, the same is true for our lives.. many times we have done so much just to please others.. which otherwise might have been a completely endeavour. “follow ur heart”

  12. Melvi, you are so right. Trying to please others is frought with dangers.

    When I was a boy and just starting in photography, that is what I loved about b&w images. They really got me excited and I’d feel a chill when I saw a great b&w image.

  13. I too find that the images I like best of my own work, are the ones that are least liked by others. I have posted some images to flickr that really didn’t inspire me, but they attracted lots of comments, and yet ones that I was going ga-ga over were lucky to attract one or two comments. Depending on which way you look at it, either I have bad taste or they do!! 🙂 I now just please myself, and only occasionally do I also please others. 🙂

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