On the train into Seattle a few weeks back the morning sunlight streamed in the window and onto the face and wonderfully braided hair of a young Latina woman sitting in front of me. I asked her for a photograph and she said it was ok. After a few photographs I gave her my card and my standard “Send me an email so I can send you a print.” then showed her a couple of samples of my work that I “just happened” to have in my shoulder bag. I She oohed and aahed at them and asked if I was on Instagram. I allowed that I was not and she said “You should be! People would see your photographs!”
I get that comment from time to time.
I’m certainly not averse to people seeing my work. Rather to the contrary.
I do have a website. The traffic to it is, well, modest — a couple of hundred page views a month (not counting mine). I have made some contacts, met (in a virtual sense) some interesting people, sold some prints, sold some books through people finding my website by keyword search. One as far away as Poland. So far it’s just enough to make keeping the website up to date worth the trouble.
I do have a subscription newsletter with a vanishingly small (by internet standards) audience that grows slowly. (Unpaid advertisement: see ronfstop.com to subscribe) However, the “open” rate is 80%. The average “open” rate for an online newsletter is 20%. Hmmm. I would rather have my newsletter go to a few people who are interested in what I’m doing than go to a larger audience most of whom don’t even bother to open it.
But Instagram? I suppose I could let those who subscribe to my newsletter and those who reach me through my website know that I’m on Instagram and ask them to “follow” me. So what? I just looked it up: there about 40 BILLION photographs on Instagram and 95 MILLION go up each day. The probability of anybody who isn’t already familiar with my work finding it amidst that tsunami of images is vanishingly close to 0.00000. If I went full court press and did all the right things with marketing tricks to bring my work up out of the noise level maybe I could get the probability up to 1% (but I doubt it).
This leads to an interesting question. How does an aspiring photographer “get the work out there”? The signal-to-noise ratio of the image sharing sites is so low that’s no it. Neither are the portfolio reviews that (see a previous rant) are little of anything more than a cash cow for the sponsor. “The media” is depending more and more on underpaid gig photographers or volunteer PWC (persons with cell phone). You don’t get your work in a gallery without a reputation and you don’t get a reputation without gallery representation.
It is no shock that in an annual survey of professions “photographer” was rated as one of the worst — both in getting into it and in making something vaguely resembling a living out of it.