Does a photograph need an audience?

Will Goodlet

I've been thinking a lot recently about the role of photography in my life. What is it? What does it mean to me and why do I do it?

Video Transcript is below for those who cannot watch.

Of course, we all have different answers to those questions and perhaps our own answers change from time to time too.

J.D. Salinger famously said "like to write. I love to write. But I write just for myself and my own pleasure."
I suppose the 60 years spent alone in a garden shed attests to that!

Although, Salinger's later work remains a mystery to the rest of the world, in truth, so does my own (not that it compares to Salingers in any way). It's buried deep on my hard drive or somewhere on facebook, serving no purpose whatsoever.

I wonder sometimes, did Salinger look back and re-read his writing or was it just placed in an old shoe-box and left, so that he could keep on typing?

Am I just... 'typing'?

I tried to tease the idea a little. What if I locked a printer in a room and set it to print out a random selection of images, let's say 12 a year.  As the printer completes a picture  it just drifts down onto the floor, never seen by anyone - not even me. What would they mean?

Nietzsche, (yes Nietzsche every schoolboy's favourite philosopher!) argued that art does not require witnesses or an audience. However, I think he imagined at least an audience of one; the artist.
There is probably a value in a monologue; a way to solve problems with yourself - much like this scribbling and possibly, my photography.

In my own case, I think the real purpose of my photographs probably could, metaphorically, contemplate the printer in the locked room. Sometimes, it feels exactly like that: Thousands of images, never seen again.

So, with a degree of honesty, possibly, it seems I like to photograph. I love to photograph. I photograph for myself and for my own pleasure.

Hmm, that sounds a lot like self-gratification!

It is certainly true, that if I was forced to photograph subjects that don't really interest me, I might give it up.

I think I remember hearing Douglas Kirkland saying that he loved nature photography when he was younger but realised he had to photograph people to pay the bills. I don't know if I could do that.

It's true too that I hate being part of a crowd of photographers (there really ought to be a collective noun...'Gawk', 'Confusion', 'Photo-collective'? - your suggestions are welcome :) ). If I had to muddle through a crowd at every wildlife sighting or scenic point I would abandon photography totally.

So, it would seem, my passion is not really for photographs. More for solitude, wilderness and a (probably imagined) way of life or world that may have passed.

Some would say that art serves to change the world but it can only really change the world if people pay attention to it or have the courage to reimagine the world.

I wonder, sometimes, if my photographs are less art and more self-therapy; a general complaint about fading nature that I force other people to look at and 'like'?

It certainly feels like therapy when I am out in nature, observing and gently documenting the world I see.