Grounded & Steadfast

The journal of Chris Bowler, a collection of thoughts on faith, business, design, and the creative process.

Jul 13th, 2013

Caring for Craft

If a lovely photograph is taken in the forest, but no one is there to appreciate it, is it still lovely? I would argue yes. Good work, work that is the result of careful, painstaking time and attention, is good whether or not it’s enjoyed by others. But it seems that the activity we partake of online has trained us to seek after the Fave/Star/Like more than is necessary.

Shawn Blanc wrote about his photography workflows and how the different community aspects of Flickr and Instagram is what gives him more enjoyment with the latter over the former. And I agree — my own usage of the two services mimics his.

In regards to Flickr, Shawn had this to say:

And I want to share these photographs with people. I am proud of them and I enjoy looking at them, and I want others to see them and appreciate them as well. But unless one of my Flickr images makes it onto Explore (which has happened twice), I get very little feedback or activity.

When I think of Flickr and the 1TB of free storage, I think a good option for backups. But if you already backup your photos on Dropbox, Backblaze, or other, Flickr is redundant. And if the social side of Flickr is gone, is storage really enough to keep people interested? I hope so, because it’s a good source for Creative Commons photographs.

The former giant of all photography services is very quiet these days. But perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. This was the thrust of what I attempted to get across in 140 characters yesterday (and failed). I’ll try again: it saddens me a little that we require this instant feedback to feel like our efforts are worth something.

While not everyone does so, many people add content without much thought or attention, simply because they crave that interaction (guilty as charged). Because, “it’s been a while”.

Maybe a little less focus on the reaction we’ll receive would help us to focus more on craft and taking our time, enjoying the process of creating as much as the process of posting. Shawn Blanc is a talented guy and I have always appreciated how purposeful he is with what he does, so he might have a good handle on this. I know I at times do not, and I suspect the Internet has negatively affected the general population in this area.

Naz Hamid wrote on this very subject just over a year ago:

Our current view of social media mimics our current state of attention-deficient, buffet-style appetites for digesting it — a constant cacophony of rapid short-burst content, anytime and anywhere.

He postulates that this is why services like Flickr have “slowly lost their occupants”. And despite the improvements to the service in the past year, his opinion looks to be prescient.

Naz then examined his own use of these services, recognizing that just as people can post content willy nilly, liking things can be treated the same. His takeaway? To engage in slow liking:

This is the core of what I’m considering in my own behavior — not that I disagree with liking things. Rather, I should stop to reflect and appreciate the content that someone has shared with me, ultimately deciding it’s worth my time. After all, I followed them in the first place, and I’ve looked at/read about/experienced their creation.

Maybe Likes would be more valuable if there were less of them to go around.


I struggled to get my thought across on Twitter yesterday … I’m still unsure of exactly how to put it into words today. After over a year away from Instagram, I’ve enjoyed getting back into it. But there is a pull each day to post something, even if I haven’t had the opportunity to take a really good photo.

This week Charlie Pratt quit Twitter (which saddens me and makes me proud of him at the same time). I believe his quitting had much to do with the ideas referenced above and he ended so well, I’ll let him wrap things up here:

I hesitate to speak in universals, so to be safe I’ll say it like so: 99.99% percent of all the things in my life that I love took time, needed care, endured struggle, and weren’t universally loved. Things of value take stands, choose sides, and realize they can’t serve everyone and everything.