Negative Motivation

By: Darrell Klein

Feb 25 2007

Category: photography


Photo:  Hate War – Nashville, TN

In a recent post, I talked about what motivates me to take photographs.  Motivators can be critical to your success no matter what you do.  However, there can be things that motivate you that are counterproductive.  Below, I will describe a negative motivator that I fell victim to.

Photography competitions by themselves are not harmful.  They can be a good thing if entered into with the right intentions.  However, if you are not careful, they can suck the creativity right out of you.  Here is what I mean.  I, like many other amateur photographers, entered some on-line photo competitions.  At first, I just kept doing my own thing which is not what is necessarily “popular” or for the masses.  I do not jump straight to obvious beauty.  I try to find beauty in things that many people consider ugly.  To my photographic eye, there is beauty in the emotion that is brought out in an intense scene.  Because of my non-mainstream aesthetic, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that my photos did not do too well at first.

Now, here is where it went wrong.  I started to look at the photos that were doing well in the competitions.  They were not my style but I thought I could adapt my style into what the voters were looking for.  And let me say that these voters were other photographers for what that is worth.  Once I started to conform to the “winning style” of photograph, I started doing much better in the competitions.  However, I did not feel as fulfilled creatively.  Heck, I just started making the cliche photographs that I never really cared for.  I was not getting better as a photographer either.

It was only when I decided that I needed to satisfy myself first that I began to be fulfilled by my photography again.  I also began to gain the respect of some of my local peers.  I realize that my photography may not be for everyone but if at least a few people get it, then I am happy.  I have vowed that I am going to try my hardest to not waver from my photographic style.  There is no doubt that my style will evolve over time but I just hope that it is on my terms and not to please the masses.


5 comments on “Negative Motivation”

  1. […] while back, I wrote a post titled Negative Motivation where I discussed how photography competitions ended up being a negative force working against my […]

  2. I just submited an anti war essay onto so I was browsing images labeled “I HATE WAR” and I found this. I own my own photo buisness, and I wanted to say this is really good work, this sends a pretty hard message. Good job. :]

  3. Many great artist who had new ideas on what is possible all had to fight to show their artistic prowess. Look at POP art, surrealism etc the list goes on and on. Maybe you were trying to impress the wrong people. Look for your niche market and then display your talents there.


  4. i hate war everyone should just get along and leave out hatred and war! I say to love not hate!!! ANd i love the pic.. keep them coming!

  5. This photo is incredible, more than incredible. It strikes right inside me.

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