Whose Vision Are You Chasing?


Alabama Hills –  Yes the sky was working this day!

Whose vision are you chasing?  Chuck Kimmerle’s latest post is excellent, stop now and go read it.  No really, go read it, it is essential reading.  Alright, now that you’re back, his post validated what I have been teaching in my new lecture “Discovery and the Creative Process”  The last slide in the presentation is a quote from Emerson, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”  My commentary is typically something like…. in the end we need to be confident in our own vision, in our ability to discover worthy images that make our hearts sing.  We should not be worried about what others think, rather we should be worried about how we feel about what we are creating.  As Chuck says, and I agree, we are human so positive feedback is good and oft times welcome.  BUT, it should not be why we make images.  My friend Donnie Fulks said this when responding to Chucks post, “when I joined 500px, it took me about two days to figure out what kind of image will garner 5,000 views. Yes, I admit that stokes the old ego.”  Then Donnie went on to talk about sharing a “personal favorite image” that only received 50 views let alone any likes.  What now?  Does he abandon his vision?  Does he post only images that will resonate with others and get him to the front page, lots of hits?  Or does he continue to create images that comply with his unique vision?

Might I ask why you photograph?  Is it for the joy of it?  To create images to sell?  To create images so that you can earn a living?  To create images that feed your soul?  To create images that others like that make you feel worthy, stroke your ego?  To create images that remind (memories) you of the journey you are on?  Why?  There is no right or wrong answer, however, I think it instructive to understand why we do what we do.  I photograph because it feeds my soul.  I don’t print many images.  I don’t actively market my images for sale. I love the process of making and processing images.  Yes, I enjoy the positive feedback, however, ultimately I’ve come to a place where I don’t need others approval to like what I produce. 

So, whose vision are you chasing?

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This entry was posted in B&W, Chuck Kimmerle and tagged , , .


  1. Paul S. Bartholomew April 18, 2014 at 8:34 am #

    This is a wonderful topic. I’m on my 16th year as a commercial photographer, a profession that requires developing a mindset of pleasing other people and compromising for the client. After a while the brain becomes a bit rewired and the personal work and art suffers. It’s been difficult going out for my own images without that voice in my head telling me to do this and that to make it popular. It really sucks the life out of creativity. I’m getting better at undoing bad habits, it will take years to separate the commercial photographer from the fine art photographer.

    Thanks for sharing this John!

    • john8276 April 18, 2014 at 11:46 am #

      Paul I would think it would be VERY difficult to disassociate from your paying job. We really do need to go out and shoot together soon. I’ll help you forget about your day job! 🙂

    • Chuck Kimmerle April 18, 2014 at 1:45 pm #

      I’ve been where Paul has been. I think that is probably the main reason why I have gravitated towards b/w landscapes. It was way for me to be personally creative in a medium which I used for my less creative day job.

  2. Karen Newman April 18, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    Best blog posting I’ve read that made me stop and think as well as ask myself the question. Thanks

    • john8276 April 18, 2014 at 11:47 am #

      Thanks Karen. Thinking is good! 🙂

  3. Linda Russo April 18, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    JB, some heavy conversation for a Friday morning. I’ve only had my first cup of coffee!
    Personally, my passion for photography fuels my soul. When I am hungry, I create images to satisfy this hunger. For me, as an ammeter photographer, my passion has gone through various phases. As a novice photographer, I needed affirmation from others that they liked and approved my style of photography. Camera club judges can easily destroy one’s ego if you let them. As my experience matured with technical abilities, I was able to discover a style that grew into my creative vision, but I still needed positive reinforcement from others.
    I think the passing of my dad 4 years ago, transcended me to self-realization where I shoot for me to nourish my soul. I still belong to a camera club & other various groups, but I no longer need their affirmation and verification that my images are good.

    • john8276 April 18, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      🙂 Great thoughts Linda, thanks for sharing.

  4. Scooter Lowrimore April 18, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    Almost feel guilty “liking” this, but I do!
    Loving your work. Thanks John!

  5. Rad April 18, 2014 at 11:43 am #

    Awesome post, John. I shoot out of curiosity. I can’t stand to pass an opportunity to create an image! To see what I can do with it. It kills me! I love the praise of others, but I’ve come to accept that sometimes the praise I most yearn for never comes, and sometimes I get praise from places that I don’t value as much. So, bottom line, I do what I like and create what I want to create. If it works for others, that’s a bonus and a pleasure. For awhile I did journalism photography that required me to pursue a certain style and subject. Today, I love the freedom that I’ve found in my photography and how I’ve been able to explore and discover and evolve my approach to seeing and processing images. I just love FUN and photography is SO FUN for me! Thanks for a great post!

    • john8276 April 18, 2014 at 11:50 am #

      And your attitude shows in your excellent work Rad. Which leads me to my next blog post. If we are having fun and NOT worried what others think, do you think our photography gets better?

  6. Bruce Sorrel April 18, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    John, your posts are always good food for thought, but this one is especially invaluable. You should put it up annually in hopes of bringing us back to our senses. Social media’s ability to allow us to share our work surely has its merits, but there’s a dark side to it as well to which your excellent post reminds us. Consider how the genius, Van Gogh, died penniless. Had Flickr existed in his time he would have seen very few, if any, favs. So much for relying on the mood of the masses to pass judgement on others’ art. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know full well when we’ve nailed our initial vision, and we also know when we’ve missed the mark. Compliments or criticisms from others should neither enhance nor detract from what we truly know about our photographs. IMHO 🙂 Slainte !

    • john8276 April 18, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Excellent thoughts Bruce, thanks for sharing. I’ll make a note to share again each year! 🙂

  7. Donnie April 18, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks John, some Russians have now taken an interest in my blog. Presumably a good thing. 🙂 Seriously though, I’ll continue for the joy of it: For myself and hopefully for others also. To sell a few along the way would be a nice bonus. Somewhere along the journey my photographic vision might even come into focus!

  8. Daniel Ruf April 19, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    I’m chasing all those things, but I think my wife would tell you that when I’m not creative I’m not a very happy person…heck, I’d even admit that. However, I will also tell you that funding my “passion” is also important, and, yes, it does feed the ego. There, I’ve said it and it’s the truth. I teach beginning photography classes to the people of our community, I have work on exhibit in a couple of galleries and, in the last couple of years, I’ve learned that buyers in our small community lean toward certain themes. I’ve adjusted to that and my sales have increased. That by doesn’t mean that I’ve sold out my own artistic values or passions, which seems to be something that many of us have to deal with during our creative journey…our life journey for that matter.

    John, your work continues to inspire as does your writing and the ability to “poke” at our thoughts. Keep this mission alive. To everyone…a blessed Easter.

    • john8276 April 19, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      That was was a very honest comment Dan, thanks for chiming in.

  9. al campoli April 19, 2014 at 5:39 pm #

    Good post! I take photo’s for the joy of what I see through my eyes and hope that is how I capture it through the camera. I create images for the memories and to share with my family and friends. I’ve sold a few but that’s not my primary goal. My goal is to enjoy taking pictures and to get better at it as time goes by. I enjoy having others looking at my photos and appreciate comments both good and bad. The long and short of it is, I shot for the fun of it, enjoy what I shoot and hopefully others will enjoy my photo’s.

  10. Rich Lewis April 20, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Thank you for sharing that post. It took me over 30 years to learn what Chuck wrote about and it is still is a big challenge not to think of what your friends, the public and some exhibition judge will thing of what you are creating with your camera. Unfortunately we photographers tend to do it to ourselves by banding together in photography clubs and societies designed to judge our work against pre-established standards of what makes a prize worthy photograph. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be in a camera club. In fact it is one of the best ways to improve your craft. Unfortunately if you start listening to your own voice, all the other voices outside of your head will attempt to drown it out.

  11. marty golin April 22, 2014 at 1:04 am #

    Whatever the yearning some people have to express/create/capture, I believe for those who seriously even attempt any artistic medium, it starts internally. I expect very few have even the vaguest notion of what they are chasing when they are starting. I’d bet many don’t even recognize that they’ve “started” something; it’s just what they do.

    However, at some point, to keep the process entirely to one’s self just doesn’t cut it. The decision is made, on whatever level, to put one’s work “out there.” That decision inevitably leads to feed back which is exactly the point. Some form of feed back is required to give some perspective to the maker of whether he is even connecting at all to other beings.

    Curiously, honest, frank critique which initially generally causes at least some discomfort, but sometimes assists the process. On the other hand, the dark side is that uninformed flattery feels good, but that’s all.

    It is way above my pay grade to determine how one separates flattery from honest compliments for producing images that actually strike a resonant chord in the viewer similar to the one of the photographer. Bruce’s remark above “If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know full well when we’ve nailed our initial vision,…” seems key; be honest with yourself & you can be honest with the feedback.

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