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Photgraphic merit or social skills?

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Disclaimer:This is NOT a rant, complaint, criticism, or desperate cry for

attention so please lets not try to stab each other with our words.


Just a random thought..........does the success of a photograph, whether on this

site or otherwise, rely on technical merit or the social skills of the photographer?


Does an introverted personality have the same chance of creating successful

photographs as an extroverted one?


How much wood, could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?


OK forget that last one!

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I'm thinking more "after the fact". The photograph is taken........


Can a mediocre photograph become successful based on the photographer's "selling" ability?


Will an exceptional photograph's success be hampered by the photographers personality?

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While I'd like to think that photographs are judged only on the basis of their own merit, I only have to think back to when I took a few photography classes at my local community college to remember how my opinions were swayed by my very cool (i.e. very persuasive) instructor. She had a way of "seeing" things that most of us didn't. Every week we'd post our assignment on the wall and offer critiques. She'd let us all go first, then would step in and, in a few words, completely change our opinions. I think it had to do more with her magnetic personality and the trust she had built up (and her "position" as "expert") than with my fellow student's self-portrait of his bare foot taken while he lay in bed being anything really special.


Inversely, I don't think that an exceptional photograph's success would be hampered by personality. A great shot is a great shot is a great shot, no matter who took it.

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Assuming that by success you mean financial reward and fame, these are my feelings.


"Can a mediocre photograph become successful based on the photographer's "selling" ability?"


Yes, mediocre but well represented art is often the norm.



" Will an exceptional photograph's success be hampered by the photographers personality?"


One does not neccessarily follow the other. Sometimes obnoxious and sociably inept artists become famous. Usually butt kissing is a much better bet however.

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It is unlikely that a mediocre photograph will become successful beyond a given client

when the key factor is the photographer's selling ability. On the other hand an exceptional

photograph if not given any exposure is unlikely to succeed. However if it is in the right

place at the right time it will succeed irrespective of selling ability.

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Salesmanship and playing the game have been and will always be a huge factor in many fields, certainly including art. Even very objective fields like science and engineering can suffer brief bouts with cults of personality and commonly-held incorrect opinions (which generally end when reality intrudes). Google Trofim Lysenko for fun. Art is purely subjective and "Success" can be hard to define, so salesmanship and personality are a huge factors.


A friend of mine and I used to have fierce debates as to if Andy Warhol was a brilliant artist or a hack who was merely a con artist. We both had to agree that he was very good at SOMETHING, at least.

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I'm not sure how social skills come into play on this site in the ratings and critiques forums. At most, there is a sentence or two about the picture. That's one of the things I like about the site. On here, nobody knows you're a dog.


As far as social skills when MAKING a picture, that's another story. I would bet that in a social experiment, a nicer looking person might get better pictures of people on the street and fewer mad looks.


Of course, SELLING a picture is definitely affected by the social aspect if meeting the photographer is involved.

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You could debate whether or not Andy Warhol was a brilliant marketer of pop art and

culture but his skill as an illustrator and artist cannot reasonably be doubted. He was

excellent. You must consider someone's entire body of work to judge the persons



At this stage of his career perhaps Spencer Tunick would be a better example of


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Thats a good point L.J., galleries make their living off of being the "salesman".


Ray, it's debatable whether or not it comes into play on this site, I do though think that the more networking a PN member does, the more attention his/her photograph receives. Whether or not this results in better ratings, I can't say, but I would guess that there might be a fair amount of patronizing going on in those instances.


........does a photographer get high ratings on this site because of artistic merit or by having a large network of regulars who rate "friendly"


I myself know a number of photographers who receive well-deserved attention but I'm sure the latter exists as well.

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It is certainly the case in the art world in general that socially skillful artists can "push" their work to the public. There are any number of painters whose work is well-known during their lifetimes; but, once they are no longer there to do the publicist's work, they fall into obscurity. Sometimes this persists, but if the work is good, somebody, sometime may re-discover the artist and they have a sort of 'second coming'.


I think some of the formerly famous fashion photographers may fall into this category.

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Tim, it clearly does happen on this site to varying degrees.


I, myself, am an example. I'm pretty sociable and I do a fair amount of critiquing.

Because of that, in a good way for the most part, I've established a somewhat regular

group of folks whose work I like and visit and who visit mine. Because of that, I get

some insightful critiques and more in-depth comments than I see on a lot of other

pages. Overall, I'd say my ratings from those people tend to be a bit higher than my

anonymous ratings. Once I realized that, I stopped paying attention to ratings and

generally stick to giving them out anonymously for 2 reasons, first so the reciprocal

rating game doesn't get played and, second, because until the ratings system is

changed ratings seem pointless.


As far as the genuine response to my photos, I think a couple of things are at play. The

people who have come to know me probably look more carefully at my stuff than the

anonymous drive-by raters who often must spend only a second or two on stuff. But I

also think because they know me they will approach my work with a distinct prejudice

to like it and find good in it. I do think familiarity can breed a favorable disposition and

some of that is quite natural. At the same time, I've gotten some of my most helpful

criticisms from those who know me and know I don't mind honesty.


As for the rest of the site, I can probably give you quite a list of photographers here

who spend their days giving out 6/6s and "nice shot" type comments to literally dozens

of other PN members in return for which they get the same vapid comments and high

ratings. They range from the mediocre to the very good, but even when they put up

pictures of their children's dirty socks they are heralded as "creative genius" by their

minions. I've thought several times that I'd like to take a walk with my camera, point it

down at the sidewalk, and take pictures of the cracks and weeds, and ask one of them

to submit it and watch the 6s and 7s roll in. But, if you go to many of their portfolios, you

will indeed already find shots of weeds growing out of cracks (or something quite

similar) with averages over 6 in ratings.

We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!
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Photo.net networking dynamics are representative of the world at large where photography is concerned.


Success in the arts has always depended on patronage, not merely financial support but networking, social contacts, referrals and a perception of what would nowadays be called celebrity.


To answer one of your questions directly, yes, an introverted photographer or one lacking in social skills and even basic personal hygiene has an excellent chance of being recognized as a great photographer ... long after he or she is dead and gone.


The primary reason for networking, developing patrons and supporters and playing the game is to enjoy a bit of celebrity and hopefully the fruits of ones labors in ones own lifetime. Otherwise, only the collectors will enjoy those fruits long after the artist is gone.

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Fred & Lex, you raise some interesting points and introduce new variables. It was several months back when someone asked what made a "great" photograph and it really got me thinking about it (hence this topic) Really, how is value determined in not just photography, but art in general. There are so many variables..........it really makes me wonder if being a successful photographer comes from making great photos, or just finding the right audience
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