Work that Matters

July 3, 2016

<b><i>The most awesome thing I photographed last year was this soldier's homecoming. He came home early and surprised his children at school. It was very emotional.</i></b><br><br><b><i>The photos were picked up by the Baltimore Sun and got a bigger social media response than anything I photographed during the year. Part of doing work that matters means capturing things that matter.</i></b>

The most awesome thing I photographed last year was this soldier's homecoming. He came home early and surprised his children at school. It was very emotional.

The photos were picked up by the Baltimore Sun and got a bigger social media response than anything I photographed during the year. Part of doing work that matters means capturing things that matter.

I saw a video today titled, Brutal Truth: Nobody Cares About Your Photography. The speaker told of a friend who didn't post his photos on social media. When asked why, he said, "The truth is, nobody cares about my photography. Nobody cares about your photography. Nobody cares about anyone's photography."

This struck a chord with me as I had much greater expectations for my photographs when I first ventured into social media. I expected that I would post my images and people would flock to my web site to purchase prints of my awesome work. Instead, a few people clicked "like" and the images were forgotten as quickly as they appeared.

Now if you are taking photographs for your own enjoyment, then it really doesn't matter if anyone cares as long as you are satisfied. But if you want people to care about your work, then it's up to you to make it more compelling. So I found photographers I admired and followed their work. I rediscovered some principles I had forgotten after setting my camera aside for several years. (There were children to raise and a family to support.) And I spent most of my spare time honing my skills.

My work did improve but, to be honest, I still get a better reaction to photos of my dogs than to the images I thought would make my mark on the world.

The video continued to suggest the way to make people care about your photography is by doing work that matters. "Work that matters" also struck a chord with me, as I found it in a place I didn't expect, a local high school.

Five years ago, I started taking sports photos at my daughter's high school. I photographed my daughter and her teammates. People liked the photos and, before long, I was photographing all of the sports teams and other school activities as well.

Somewhere during the process of taking tens of thousands of photos, I realized that these images had great meaning to the students and their parents. I realized while I set out to capture the action and emotion of these events, I was really capturing  memories of all-too-fleeting times in these families' lives. I realized that my legacy was not going to be a collection of great art, but rather a collection of memories that will be treasured for decades, perhaps generations after I'm gone. People probably won't remember me, but they will value my work. That matters. 

I'm thrilled whenever one of my landscape photos is published. But that feeling pales in comparison to seeing a teen-aged girl post a loving message about how her father is her hero accompanied by one of my images. When one of my photos illustrates those feelings, that matters.

Last week, another of my photos popped up on social media with the hashtag, bond that can't be broken. When a young man looks at a photo and it reflects the bond he feels with his brother, that matters.

I am also thrilled when I walk into someone's home or office and see photos I've taken of family members hanging on the wall. When my images reflect the love they feel for their family, that matters.

Does any of this matter in a change-the-world sort of way? No.  But the fact that those images will outlive me as memories for the families -- that matters. And it makes me feel like I matter.


Leave a comment.

  • Gerry Herman

    on July 11, 2016

    Your work is truly appreciated by everyone who has the good fortune to get photographed by you

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