There is a lot of advice online about blogging for photographers. It’s often extremely good advice, and applicable to most photographers. But the advice is often more about the technical aspect of setting up a blog, or how to grow a blog to support a photographic business. Very rarely are they about the power of photography blogs for creative development.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a photography blog if you’re in business, of course. But what about if you want to use a blog to help you develop creatively? Or to explore different aspects of an ongoing photography project?
Blogs can be a great tool for inspiring creativity in photographers. For this reason, I think you should consider the idea of writing alongside your documentary or fine art photography practice.
Writing to develop your creativity
The most basic way to think about blogging for your photography is as an archival tool. By posting images and commentary regularly and then looking back through your archives, you will be able to see the journey that you have been on.
If you make your blog public, it also allows others to see the work that you’ve done – something a documentary photographer might find particularly useful.
By understanding your journey, you can plan a path for the future of your photography. You’ll be able to more easily see what worked and what didn’t.
Being able to look at your entire body of work in a timeline format can be very beneficial.
Sometimes, because you see your own work all the time, it can feel like you aren’t making progress. There can be a real feeling that you aren’t creating anything new and exciting photographically.
But a blog can help with that by reminding you of pictures that you took months, or even years ago. The power of photography blogs comes from being able to compare your current pictures with this older work you will surely see an inspirational improvement.
A picture can paint a thousand words – but should it have to?
I always remember being told when I was learning photography, that if you had to explain a photograph beyond a title, it failed as an image. I suppose in a way that was good for me – it certainly made me work harder with my storytelling.
But I never understood why it should be the case that photographs should not be accompanied by words.
I wonder if this comes from a desire to imitate grand historical paintings that were full of signs and symbols.
Back then, the educated audience would have largely understood the visual language used. But it would also have been common for the owner of the painting to show off his knowledge by explaining it to his friends.
You’ll find that these paintings did often have long accompanying explanations – they just weren’t written down.
Of course, there will always be images that stand without words and tell a great story. But these images and series are comparatively rare – most images are at least helped out by the inclusion of a title.
A Japanese tradition
It’s often observed that the favored publishing medium for the greats of Japanese photography has been the photobook.
The book format allows photographers to write texts to accompany their images, and these texts are often quite lengthy. Certainly, they amount to more than a mere caption or title.
Publishing texts alongside their photographs in books and magazines means that their words can be every bit as influential as their images. This kind of approach is rarely seen in Western photographic traditions. I can’t help but wonder if blogs had been invented many years earlier if Japanese photographers would have harnessed the power of photography blogs alongside photobooks and magazine publishing.
The result of this writing that accompanies their photographs is often the feeling of a more intimate relationship with the photographer and their work. The viewed can gain more of a sense of why the photographer took the images and a deeper connection with the photographs.
It also gives the photographer a chance to link their work more closely to current affairs or politics. These themes are often reflected in the images and writing of the early pioneers of Japanese photography who lived through the Second World War.
How to write about photography
There are lots of different ways that you could write about your work on a blog and being able to mix and match styles is a power of photography blogs.
In the past, I have favored blog posts reflecting on how and why I took and photo. I like to also speculate about what I might do differently if I was to approach the same subject again.
Other photographers have taken a more reflective approach, considering their thoughts and feelings at the time they shot the image. This incredibly personal approach to writing about photographs is understandably too intimate for some. But when it works, it can help a photographer develop creatively, while bringing the audience on their journey with them.
One way to retain flexibility when blogging about your work might be to approach it like a diary. That way you can vary your approach on any given day. Let your mood and the photograph dictate how personal you want your words to be.
Alternatively, you could take an altogether more academic approach. Looking at aesthetics or even the technical aspects of photography and how it applies to your work could be another route.
This would be a different way to create a body of work made up of both images and text. Throughout history, artists have tried to formulate their own ideas of what constitutes good art. There is no reason that you shouldn’t do the same!
Beyond the blog
While a blog is a great format for text and images, there is always the possibility of transferring your work into a different medium. One option could be to publish your own book – collecting your photos alongside the words that you wrote about them.
You could choose to put everything you write and shoot into a series of books or pick pieces based on theme or location. If you think you might want to do thematic books in the future, this would be a good use of the tagging feature in your blog software!
Alternatively, you could experiment with exhibiting your work. I worked on a project some time ago about the idea of showing work in a gallery space and using QR codes on the labels to link to digital content, such as long texts. This kind of thinking outside the box could really make a gallery show stand out!
Of course, if you don’t feel like telling the world about your photos you could simply keep a traditional paper journal with your thoughts and feelings alongside your photographs.
Printing the images and then pasting them into notebooks is a relaxing and creative process that can inspire all kinds of thoughts to write down. You can harness the power of photography blogs both in digital and analog formats.
Do you have anything else you’d like to add about the power of photography blogs? If so, please share them with us in the comments.