Emotional attachment to work...

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by jason_inskeep, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. I hope this is the right forum to post this question in... Keep in mind that I am not as bright as most of the rest of you, but I will try to keep up.
    I was having a conversation with a friend, mentor may be a better term, about being emotionally attached to your work and how that could cause problems with your execution of it.
    I am not a proffesional photographer, however, I love photography and take learning about it seriously. I sincerely wish that I could create something that really hit home, something that really had some emotional value to it, that would capture some ones attention. I don't think I have produced anything like that, ever.
    The point is, I was picked up a while ago for a graduation ceremony shoot. I did the work, felt horrible about it and sold quite a bit of it anyway. I also had a blast. I could really see getting into that type of work, even though it's not your event its something you can relate to. My friend was talking to me about my work on that occasion and photography in general and told me that I had no direction. When I said you know, I would really like to get more into event photography he said that I was too emotionaly attached to the work and would be better off not pursuing more work in that area.
    If you, as a creative proffessional, are supposed to create something that sparks some type of emotion from another person, how can you be "too emotionaly attached" to it? Wouldn't one have to be?
  2. If you take on assignment work (like event photography), the key is to understand your audience's (client's) expectations. Part of that is understanding their emotional attachment to the subject matter. If you have no ability to become emotionally connected to any photographic subject, then you might have trouble communicating with the client about what they're after. But it sounds like that might not be a problem for you.

    I'll use an example: I shoot a lot of hunting dogs in the field. I definitely have my own agenda and my own interest, attachment, and emotional connection to the subjects. But there are times when one of my clients has completely different motivations, and of course may find my own artistic exploration of the subject to be at odds with what they want out of the photographs. I might be interested in a dog's intensity, affability, or grit ... but the owner may be more interested in showcasing the dog's athleticism, skeletal structure, and markings ... all of which represent decades of dedication and sacrifice in a laborious breeding program. Two completely different emotional anchors to the photographs, and thus two perspectives that demand everything from different compositions to different choices of lighting and focal length.

    So, nothing wrong with having your own emotions close to the surface when you shoot ... but what if they're the wrong emotions? Some parents may want graduation photographs that will echo their wistfulness about the looming empty-nest syndrome, while others might want something that plays almost like heroic portraiture out of the 1940's. This is all about your ability to communicate with your clients up front, and your willingness to understand that when you're providing a service (event photography), you're not necessarily going to be grappling with your own emotional/artistic demons. It's a gig, so save your personal expression for your own projects.

    This, by the way, is why many artists keep a day job in an unrelated area of work: so they don't have to turn something they enjoy (photography) into a joyless paycheck shaped by other people's poor taste, odd priorities, or inarticulate direction.
  3. That all lhappens to be something that I have thought of as well, you have to be able to just do a job. It seems here in the photography community that one can not just do a job and be happy, they would have to this intense emotional and artistic experience with it. To some extent I am very much ok with having a job to do and trying to do what some one wants, that has been my goal for so long in all my other work.
  4. It seems here in the photography community that one can not just do a job and be happy, they would have to this intense emotional and artistic experience with it.​
    Hmm. I don't really see that. If you read these forums, you'll see lots of comments from event shooters (weddings, for example) that are very business-like, and who aren't wild-eyed, emo-artist types. Working photographers are first and foremost business people (or they'll starve).
  5. jtk


    "Working photographers" are emotionally attached to their work more often than they are unattached. Same with brain surgeons and the plumber anybody would hope for in a Sunday afternoon emergency.
    Look at Matt Lauer's wonderful photos, forget what he says for a moment (he's a photographer, after all). Do you reeeaaaally believe he's not emotionally attached? :)
    Emotions can be attached to craftsmanship and quality of service delivery and business operation as readily as to "artistic expression."
  6. Look to produce something of quality, you have to be emotionally attached to some degree or the other. As much as it a business, you have to understand that all succesful business started as an idea with an emotional attachment to it.
    So honestly I do not believe you can craft (anything) without some kind of personal attahcment.
    Ever taken a picture you know you have to submit, but grew to emotional to let go of it and submitted it anyway? Well it turns out, that specific image usually gets fought over and sells the most or in the instance of event photography, it usually pops up first in their albums / portfolios.
  7. "I would really like to get more into event photography he said that I was too emotionaly attached to the work and would be better off not pursuing more work in that area."
    "Too emotionally attached" often means 'unable to be objective', can't discern the good from the bad, can't tell friends from enemies, and so forth. It's the "too", not the "emotionally attached" that was your mentor's message to you.
  8. I suppose I should make the distinction between being emotionally attached (committed, really) to doing good work, as opposed to being - of necessity to get quality work done - emotionally attached to the subject.

    Thanks, John, for noting my obvious passion for some of my chosen subject matter. Yes, it certainly is a big component of my work in that area. But that's me, choosing that subject matter. When you hang out a shingle, and offer to be a mercenary event shooter, you're going to have many events that are - for the photographer - in an emotional vacuum.

    That's not to say that one can't still be passionate about doing good work, but it may be hard for some photographers to summon up personal passion for The Annual Meeting and Conference Proceedings Of the Greater Metropolitan Board Of Building Inspectors, or the semi-finals of the Northeast Fern Cultivators Club Annual Potting Contest. It sems that some wedding photographers just plain love weddings, any weddings. But I see that as a special case, really.

    I think that Don's right in observing that the real issue is whether one can keep everything in perspective. "Too much" emotional attachment could be translated as "judgement clouded by the urge to treat every gig as an art outing" (as opposed to meeting all of the client's needs and expectations in covering an event).
  9. I'm not sure in what context the term 'emotionally attached' is being thrown around here but I tend to think it's impossible to be emotionally devoid from one's work. Like John Kelly has suggested that emotion can take the form of pride in a successful end result , quality of service(i.e. pride in your work) as much as it can be passion for the subject matter being photographed. However, I don't think one needs to have an emotionally vested interest in order to have an emotional attachment. Personally, I take great satisfaction when my work is viewed positively and see it as a reflection of my skill and ability (and therefore somewhat reflective of me) when one critiques my work positively, while critical feedback serves me well in improving my craft (mind you I often appreciate negative critiques far more than positive ones if it means I learn from them).
  10. jtk


    "However, I don't think one needs to have an emotionally vested interest in order to have an emotional attachment"
    What does that mean? Are you saying that emotional attachment derives from good responses more than bad responses to one's work?
    It makes sense that one might abandon the work if one got bad responses, but it also makes sense that one might commit more passionately to getting whatever it is that one considers good responses...
  11. Yes I do John. I think emotional attachment can derive from good and bad responses to one's work as opposed to having a an emotional attachment to what it is we photograph.
    I suppose what I'm getting at here is that one almost always takes pride in the work they commit themselves to and that the emotional attachment sometimes lies in that pride; of accolades by fellow photographers commenting on one's skills. That emotion can also be driven my constructive critiques which serve a valuable purpose in helping us learn, develop and refine our craft, (even if at the time we may feel bad about the response to our work). Whether we abandon a work in progress based on identifying our current limitations (and revisiting it when our skill base improves) or committing to the work (to improve it), based on the feedback received, is neither here nor there. I dont necessarily see that as having an emotionally vested interest in the subject matter (being photographed) so much as I see it as an attachment of ownership to the work commissioned.
    For me, there's a clear distinction in photographing something I'm passionate about and something that serves only to express my creativity, to which I can still take pride in the end result.
    In the original posting Jason talks about 'direction'. Does passion in subject matter offer direction for a photographer or does pride, in being able to execute one genre of photography better than others? I think both have a role to play
  12. jtk


    Art, I don't think we're connecting as well as we might. Maybe you'll expand on your ideas, or respond to my points, below?
    A couple of points:
    In your last sentence you talked about "better than others." It seems likely that people (we) do get emotionally attached when something makes us feel superior. I'm sure I'm that way.
    Emotional attachment can be neurotic as readily as passionate and positive. Neurotic can be positive as well (think Woody Allen perhaps, or VanGogh).
    I don't think anybody "has" "creativity" (not VanGogh, not Alex Soth) so I can't connect that to the seeming reality of emotional attachment. I don't think anybody knows what they mean when they say "creative." I do think there's such a thing as emotional attachment because both shrinks and Buddhists address it as real).
    Your point about being attached to subjects (kitty kats, airplanes, nekkid wimmen) may relate more to convenience, various pleasures, and other factors than to emotional attachment. Seems to me.
  13. Someone who cannot be passionate (emotional) about art might better turn his efforts to a field that reqiuires little passion or other emotional input. Of course such fields (an example might be a collector of autoroute tolls) are not necessarily devoid of passion for some of their practitioners, but art and artists (including some of us photographers) cannot exist without some level of passion.
    Creativity springs from passion, even if the artist also goes about his work to some degree in a methodical and calculating way (the Canadian hyper-realist painter Alex Colville plots his compositions in progress using complex geometrical patterns and spends a half year on each of his works, while applying various paint layers in a preconceived manner. I do believe that he, like Munch or Van Gogh, or countless others, brought passion to his creative urge for each subject).
    Nobody obliges someone to photograph with passion, but those who do are often those who create most successfully, just as a great artist also knows passion.
  14. Emotional attachment can have a difficult relationship to the aesthetics of one's work. For instance, if a photographer shares with the community images of the photographer's wife and children, it's unlikely that anyone else in the photographic community will react to his images (on an emotional level) with the same emotional intensity that the photographer does.
  15. I think emotional detachment can be just as important as attachment in creative endeavors.
  16. jtk


    "I think emotional detachment can be just as important as attachment in creative endeavors."
    ...Luis G
    And...where are all the purported Buddhists/Taoists among us?
    "Attachment" of any sort is (as I dismisunderstand) anathema to those systems...disconnecting from attachment is Job #1.

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