If You Don’t Care About Your Photography, Why Should Anyone Else?

Voting with your wallet means buying products you believe in, supporting companies you want to see more of as well as products/practices you approve of. Buying one brand over another, buying locally rather than from a chain, or choosing not to buy from a certain industry at all would all be examples of voting with your wallet.

The other side of this is something I am very conscious of when deciding the direction I want to be taking with my output – in the same way I don’t buy products that don’t match up with my views and lifestyle, I don’t want to produce or sell a product that isn’t in line with the same.

It maybe sounds obvious; make something based on self-reflection instead of chasing trends, or copying what others are doing, but I understand how persuasive it can be to see others succeeding and want to just template their actions.

This is why even within a print-oriented workflow I am focused more towards books than individual wall pieces. This is because I personally find more value and enjoyment in sequenced books than in single frames.

I can fervently advocate for my work because my enthusiasm doesn’t begin at the point at which I want to make a sale; instead, I have the momentum from commitment and involvement at every step, which carries through into genuine passion when talking about what I’ve made, why I made, how I made it, and what someone else will gain from it.

How can anyone sell a product they don’t believe in? How can you sell a product you don’t personally value or find useful? These are the questions that inform where I draw a line in what mediums I can make sense of to sell my work. I have not spent money on purchasing digital photographs, and do not think I am the target audience of such work. I understand selling JPGs as part of a wider service when I make those files specifically for a client like when photographing a corporate event.

However, selling a JPG of a photograph I have not made specifically for that purpose does not feel like it offers much value. I doubt someone would buy a digitized photograph from me to place in a digital picture frame, so what is the use case? Desktop or mobile wallpaper? A profile picture? Background decoration? I simply can’t get excited about selling something I wouldn’t buy myself.

I’m working on my first prose book on photography theory/philosophy, and am more than comfortable offering it as an ebook because I have one myself and appreciate what it offers. An ebook has value as a digital file because I can actively use that file to derive the content. I just can’t say the same about a digital photograph image file.

Instead, I can focus my attention towards marketing towards those who are aligned with what I am working on, even if it means a slightly smaller audience than those who want to live and enjoy everything digitally.

Being fully behind your work and product in every sense means that some questions start to answer themselves. What makes your work actually special? What makes the medium or format or material you use special? What makes anything you’re offering appealing for someone to want to own? What do you offer that no one else does, or can? What is it about your photograph or book that will connect with someone to the extent that they need to have it on their wall, or bookshelf?

If you don’t have an answer to these, why would anyone else? If you wouldn’t be your own customer, why would anyone else?

About the author: Simon King is a London-based photographer and photojournalist, currently working on a number of long-term documentary and street photography projects. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can follow his work through his documentary collective, The New Exit Photography Group, and on Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs by Simon King