Entering my 5th year as a Redbubble member, I have been reflecting on the nature and meaning of the (now more readily perceptible) shifts in my usage patterns of redbubble over that time. And also my feelings about the underlying experience itself.
What is on the record as blinking obvious (going by my earlier intense rate of nearly daily postings of not just single, but multiple images) is that upon joining RB – like a drug – the pleasure of discovery becomes truly addictive. And many hours, that would otherwise be devoted to other activities, were soon being totally devoted to this site.
I know I am not alone in this ‘passionate’ response and (if it is even worth putting it all on trial in the first place), the jury is still out on whether the time devoted could have been better spent! I suspect not.
The question of what could be personally driving this initial level of intense devotion now seems worthy of contemplation. And I suspect that in my case it is derived from:
- my lifelong love of things visual (and beauty and innovation in themselves)
- my pleasure in discovering those particularly exceptional creative works by others
- the apparent meditative powers of the simpler experience it provides
- the immediate strong sense of community generated by the RB membership, and last but not least,
- my own strong (most likely ‘bottled up’ and bubbling over) personal need for creative expression in some life enriching, life affirming and rewarding way.
But now that it is 2012 and not 2007, what patterns of change can I observe in my behavior with Redbubble?
What I am conscious of now is that I feel I had been – for at least a year or so – starting to post more images that (to use the Redbubble term) were not necessarily my ‘best work’ … or something I could really feel a genuinely great sense of pride or excitement about, or personal achievement. (Ironically, looking back, I seem to find more work in the early days that would more readily satisfy such standards, in my mind at least.)
Posting images just for the sake of it, just to maintain a presence, or just out of pure habit is not necessarily an admirable quality.
And reinforcing any sense of disquiet about not always posting your best work is the growing awareness (that Redbubble can healthily foster over time) of just what higher standards of work you should – at your best – be attempting to reach, or match! By simply exposing yourself to and comparing the work of so many others, that invaluable gift of developing a more discerning mind and deeper understanding of what is instantly recognizable as ‘exceptional’ and unquestionably ‘outstanding’ should soon be yours.
Thankfully, I now realise that my exposure here to the benchmarking artistic works and outputs of these exceptional others has finally had the benefit of slowing down my rate of postings of new images – a good thing! And as a valuable side benefit, while I may still visit the site briefly on a very regular basis to see the latest from others, I am not allocating the questionable number of hours I was previously! (Giving me many extra hours for other projects of interest and more attention to the real world significant others in my life.)
More and more I am trying harder to NOT post images that are dubious in quality. (Whether obvious or not!) And at some point, time permitting, I plan to cull all those images that made it previously when they should not have!
The renewed challenge is tracking down subject matter and opportunities that facilitate the capture and creation of work that is truly worthy of posting. And this is always easier said than done with many variables, some of which I have explored below, coming into play.
In terms of photography (my own special RB interest), what has become clear is that technical and ‘photo-shopping’ powers & skills aside for a moment (as well as camera quality & capability), many of the best images from real life are actually frequently dependent on the special qualities of the site, structure, environment, person, act or place and subject matter itself.
Sure it’s great to extract something relatively ‘extraordinary from the ‘ordinary’ beauty so often sitting unrecognized around us as we live our lives. But there is also the cold hard reality of (camera in hand) observing the extraordinary artistic and aesthetic opportunities that e.g. a Frank Gehry designed building, a Yosemite National Park, an underwater reef, or a view of Earth from space immediately provides. The head start they provide is immense.
And consequently, often the simplest of photos of such sights can automatically possess its own power with the press of a button. But moving beyond this, the challenge is to see if their special qualities and wonders can also inspire you to add a little creative magic of your own (even if just the perspective selected), thereby taking fuller advantage of the opportunities that they have opened up.
So, just where you happen to be … and what is already able to be seen (without any photo even being taken) … can so clearly make a hell of a lot of difference to the end results!
Additionally, there is the instant interest and impact that just immersing yourself in a culture ‘foreign’ to your own can generate. So often the freshness facilitated by travel itself results in many of the greatest images and shots seen on redbubble and similar sites. That added sense of the ‘exotic’ strongly contributing too.
But as an important counterpoint to the above – as so many great photographers know – it can be the shot , taken in the most unexpected, ‘mundane’ and unlikely of circumstances, that can frequently produce outstanding results as well. As long as you have bothered to make sure a lens is always at hand!
Another important lesson I am increasingly gaining from reviewing my experiences with Redbubble is the disappointment felt if I was to find myself () repeating the same content, same approach, same ‘tricks’ over and over again (no matter what the degree of real or latent talent available to apply).
Usually lack of growth and ultimately boredom (within yourself or others!) will be inevitable outcomes here. Who wants to stay on a treadmill! And worse still, one of your own making!
On this score, while I may most definitely be seen to be sticking to certain wider themes and specific pleasures – such as the beauty of neons – I am happy to observe that the eclecticism and openness to life, that I value in my personal outlook, is in fact largely evident in both my ‘favorites’ gallery selections and in the diversity found in my own pages and their specific content & approach. Pursuing wider themes does not have to result in a lack of diversity in interpretation or approach.
Anyway, in summary, I get the feeling that this journal entry is really all about saying that while it may have taken literally years to get here, I finally seem to have placed redbubble in some sort of healthier perspective!
I welcome your own thoughts on it all.
(If you did happen to find the issues raised here of interest, then you might also be interested in a related previous post asking nine questions but giving zero answers!)