Growing up an only child means sharing was pretty much a foreign concept to me, I knew other kids did it, my friends with siblings definitely did it, well, their older siblings shared with them, but not so much the other way around. One of my friends wore clothes that belonged to his older brother, which probably would have been cool now but back then, it was worse than death. I was the kid with a computer (Atari 800XL) and my friends would come over to play, “Oh you want to have a turn? You can’t use my joystick, use the weird grey one with the buttons on the side”. My version of sharing was closer to swapping, I knew how that worked, an object is exchanged for another object or objects of the same or similar value. I pretended to share at school, but I was always looking for something in return, heaven forbid I would want to use something of theirs later and get denied “But I let you use my pens earlier!” Kids can be cruel. There is a point to my introduction and don’t worry, I am just about to make it, photographers do a lot of sharing, some share too much (like my introduction) and some don’t share enough (you know the guy).
Cast your mind back to 1999, yeah you remember 1999? Prince sang about it in 1982, also the year my GAS began, I bought my first serious camera, the mighty Canon EOS 50 and then the not so mighty but hideously expensive Canon Powershot A5 Zoom. I also started taking photos “seriously” in 1999. Also in 1999 I started “sharing” my photos online, remember photo.net? It’s still around and pretty much looks the same as it did back then. I remember uploading my first photo, oh wait, first you have to connect to the internet which involves strange noises coming from modem that I can still hear to this day. ok upload a photo, which took FOREVER, give it a name, nothing too wanky, tick all the equipment boxes, wait… wait… wait… OMG!!! 1 VIEW! SOMEONE ELSE SAW MY PHOTO!!! I AM LIKE SO FAMOUS RIGHT NOW!!! Go to bed, wake up, zOMG!!! A COMMENT!!! I take another photo, scan it, upload it, wait… wait… wait… more views, more comments, CRITICISMS?!?! FUCK YOUUU!!! WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY, YOU TAKE PHOTOS OF BIRDS! Read a book about some kind of eye with a mind by some old French dude, WTF was that about. And then this thing called Flickr comes along and everyone is so, so nice and there are groups and views and comments and these things called Favourites. OMG! You really like my photo! Oh and stats! Oh I gotta check my stats every day, how many views do I get? HOW MANY VIEWS DO YOU GET?!?! And then Facebook comes along, put some photos up on there, they look crap and oops Facebook owns them now, delete them and they’re not really gone. Fuck that. Next along is Twitter and Instagram, Pimping my photos is almost a full time job and did you see what I ate for lunch?
I am sharing, right?
I thought I was sharing, but I wasn’t, I was photo swapping. I was merely swapping my photo for attention/affection. I have come to realise that real photo sharing doesn’t happen online, it happens in real life. When I can afford it I give friends prints for their birthday, that is photo sharing. A couple of years ago I went on a trip home to NZ and made a small book of my photos to give to family and friends, that is photo sharing. At Christmas I have started a tradition of making small photo book of my best photos taken that year to give to family and friends, that’s photo sharing. I teach my 89 year old Nana how to use my iPad to look at photos, that’s photo sharing. Get some friends together and have an exhibition and get your work on a wall, that’s photo sharing. It’s easy to get caught up in the fuss, hype and movements, just do your own thing and fuck everyone else.
Oh and print.
Matthew Robert Joseph