Mobile Photography On-line Artist Groups: A Personal Love-Hate

(My first blog post, I know you've been waiting)

It’s been eons since I’ve been wanting to start this personal blog. I won’t get into the details of why it’s taken so long but I’m finally here. Blogging as an artist is important to me because I’ve realized that very often, an audience is hungry to know whom the person is behind the work. I get a handful of ‘friend requests’ on my personal Facebook every week and new followers on my Instagram each day. But what has struck me most by surprise are the heartfelt messages I’ve received from strangers telling me how much they like my art, how they identify with it, how it has touched them deeply, and/or how they want to know more about the person who is behind it all.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, though it has played a large part in my artistic journey, and the evolution of my art. It started about eleven years ago when I would share my photography on the old “MySpace” site, I joined MeetUp photography groups in the Toronto area and met some great photographers of whom I am still friends with today. 

As some of you may already know, I am an artist who uses all the photographic tools I have to create art. Recent iPhone cameras have been extremely convenient when I’m feeling spontaneously creative. And for some of my artwork, the iPhone works famously. 

A few years ago, I discovered a plethora of iPhoneography (mobile camera phone) artist groups through Facebook and Instagram, which was very exciting to find out there were indeed other artists who really believe in this form of photography. (This is where the love-hate part comes in.) I joined a few groups, and shared artwork with fellow iPhoneographers; was featured on iPhone art websites, blogs, stunning print, and digital magazines. Soon, I connected with likeminded artists and photographers of whom I am still virtual friends with today. The negative part of my experience was spending too much time within a very small on-line art community where I eventually felt I could not grow, stuck in a Facebook artists’ ‘echo chamber’. I also experienced copycat art being showcased and a ‘clique’ type of behavior (among artists and community website founders). My very own artistic concept (Fabric of Love), was copied and submitted as original work where it was later showcased under the thief's name. Then, the situation became nuttier as this particular artist imitated my on-line profile photos and continued to publish copycat art every time she saw my new work.  As time went on, I discovered this type of thing is a common occurrence - according to some of the artists who later warned me of these on-line plagiarizing fakes. A good lesson learned in the world of social media.

This was a sign that I needed to move on. These particular groups were clearly not my thing. I witnessed favoritism to those who donated funds to curators who claimed their websites were non-profit with nothing to support that claim. I saw much insincerity, no real constructive feedback, and after some time, nothing new. Even so, I was able to connect with other artists like myself who were fed up; some of whom were clearly inspiring, kind, honest and talented people. I am truly grateful for that. But it was time to take a step back and and ask myself some important questions: Why do I create my art? Who is my audience? Who are my real fans and why? and… Where can I really make a difference with my work?

I’ve taken these past ten months or so to reflect, refocus, learn and create (without immediately sharing all of my work on social media).  I have embarked on a new creative journey. It will still involve social media, however from a much different approach. I am still the same artist, learning to free myself from restrictive bubbles while focusing on the things I love; traveling, being outdoors in nature, authentic human connection, and of course photography in all forms. 

In the end, doing what I'm passionate about and ‘making a decent living’ out of it isn't going to be a cake walk. Those who are able to make that happen are very fortunate. But I've learned I should not underestimate passion, especially mine. My passions have always lead me to positive change… eventually.

From where I stand today, much more is possible than ever before; thanks to new camera technology, the internet, and my personal life experiences. Though, I never take anything for granted, knowing that there are no guarantees, I continue my artistic journey, one day at a time, while aiming for my next big creative goal. (A goal unrelated to iPhoneography, and more so DSLR work which I will share with you all real soon.)