So, you’ve read my last piece, “Outdoor Photography: Leave No Trace, Leave Social Media”.
You’ve decided to leave the uninspiring social media platforms behind, and choose our planet over Instagram likes.
Well… what now? Chances are, you didn’t suddenly feel a massive burst of inspiration. And if you did, it was short-lived. Then we’re back to square one.
This time, I don’t have answers for us. I just have ideas. Perhaps you do, too.
In order to understand the struggle, we need to understand how our creative process works.
There are three components of the artistic creative process: 1) inspiration to create, 2) physically creating the art, and 3) sharing the art with an audience.
Removing social media leaves us in the dark for both (1) and (3). It leaves only the physical creation of the art. This is why, even after we leave social media behind to hope to get our creative mojo back, the juices don’t just start flowing.
So, what is art without social media? Is it possible to find inspiration to create without Instagram? And is it possible to share the art with a meaningful audience, without a need for likes, comments, and attention (which likely contributes to depression and anxiety… how do you think that might affect creativity?)
Many of us would agree that 99% of the images we see on social media today are garbage. They’re overprocessed, or just badly processed. They imitate, not create. They have no emotional depth. They have no voice. This makes it relatively easy to leave social media behind. We aren’t any less inspired without it.
For some, simply being out in nature may be inspiring. But for many of us, even that is difficult. How do we motivate ourselves to even get outside with the camera, without having inspiration?
The great artists of the past found inspiration without social media. Some of them had a cause to work toward, for example, conservation. Many musicians write songs that express their deep emotions, feelings, reactions to what’s going on in their life. Many of the world’s best chefs, surprisingly, are similar: their dishes express strong emotion and give a diner a window into their life experiences.
This is something I am still experimenting with, but have found success so far. One of my first truly emotional releases, “DARKNESS” (2019) , came from a stream of intense feelings late at night. When my strength began to return, I began putting together a dreamy spring album. Many of the times when my emotions would prevent me from creating for social media, have become my best times to create for myself. Perhaps all of us can find inspiration by searching deep inside ourselves, listening to the voice in our hearts, and allowing it to speak in our images.
I semi-regularly check a small group of artists’ websites, those who I have found inspiring. Many of them do not know that I follow their work. Perhaps you are one. I find viewing others’ bodies of work on my time to be more impactful than doing so when an algorithm decides a single image is worth a look mid-scroll.
Equally important is the issue that, post-social media, we no longer have a place to share our work with so many people. Fewer viewers visit portfolio websites, and many who do, might not share their reaction with us.
Sharing brings joy and inspiration. It drives us as artists. The very definition of art describes the impact it has on others.
All great artists find inspiration to create not only in their life experiences, but also in the work of those who came before them. And art needs an audience. Ansel Adams famously said, “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.”
Once we’ve made something impactful… who will it impact? How will people see it? For many, there were hardly any meaningful viewers on Instagram, so leaving it was easy, and very little will have changed by leaving… but again, this isn’t a solution.
Physical art galleries are a wonderful way to share our work, but require substantial time and financial investment.
Perhaps an Escaype collective would soften that burden by distributing such an investment. We are surrounded by amazing artists here. Perhaps it’s time to do more to harness that power together. And now that we have broken free from social media, perhaps we can actually call conservation a goal again. Are you in?
Even so, sometimes it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to get outside, shoot, process, create. A few years ago, waking up for a sunrise felt effortless; now it’s a losing battle. Sunsets that were obvious gambles have turned into debates of “is it worth the drive?” Motivation to process is often nonexistent. And when our body of experiences to draw from shrinks, our creative opportunities become sparse.
If you’ve read this far, you probably feel this way, too. And I’m afraid I don’t have simple answers. But what I can tell you is, you are not alone. More people than ever before are feeling this way — and so many immensely talented artists are putting down their cameras at an alarming rate. Perhaps it takes many of us to come together, acknowledge that we all share these feelings, and move forward together.
What do you think? Where do you find inspiration? Where do you want to see your work in 10 years? Do you want people to be scrolling past your images on their phone screens? Do you want it to be hanging on a wall? What legacy do YOU want to leave as an artist?