Amongst all the usual newsletters and regular store emails one morning last week I had an email from Ben Huberman at WordPress. I recognised the name but couldn’t quite place why. The subject line was ‘You’re an Editors Pick on WordPress Discover!’
I took a moment to try to process those few words. Some pinching of skin might have taken place to check my wakefulness levels too. It turns out I was awake and it was real.
I was stunned. It went on to tell me that he’d really enjoyed my photographs of Cornwall and was selecting my blog for being featured on an upcoming Discover Editors’ Pick.
Oh my word. Me? My blog? My pictures?
My next reaction was to feel pretty guilty because I know a lot of photographers make more sacrifices for their craft with a lot more dedication than I do.
Some spend loads of their spare hard-earned cash on top-flight gear, learn and practise with their textbooks, techniques and technicals, research locations, expend huge amounts of time and effort on the preparation of their images and work hard promoting themselves and spreading the word.
Then there’s me.
I just upload a few photographs that I take – and a brief text accompanying them – while walking the dog every now and then, with my four-year old camera and using my manual-focus twenty-five year old lens – complete with a spidery fungus growing inside – and then settle down and have a cup of tea. More often than not, there will be a good snooze after that too.
And it isn’t even a regular thing.
At the time of the email arriving, this blog had 22 followers. It said 50 odd on the the side bar then but WordPress lump in your linked social media followers as well and then total it all up. So them finding only an extra 28 or so people there tells you how social I am, although they are all real and not just members of my family.
Ben was telling me he wanted to share my site with the millions of followers of Discover. Millions. Over 20 million.
Slightly better than my pictures possibly reaching my normal 22 followers. Although that 22 obviously possess great taste.
Having spent the best part of thirty years in the photographic trade, from retail assistant through to manager of a store and then on to working for one of the big Japanese camera firms, I’m not exactly a photographic novice. I do feel I have paid some dues.
In fact, in terms of photographic equipment knowledge up until 10 years ago, I have probably forgotten more specifications about all the stuff you’ve seen in the photographic shops and online store catalogues than most people ever knew.
I have talked and advised about how to take good photos, and what with, both confidently and authoritatively to many people per day. Probably for an amount of time that must be roughly equivalent to a continuous few years.
However, although I had started in the trade as a young man already loving my photography and eager to learn the details of all the shiny kit, in the end I became a cynical and bored box-shifting salesman only interested in the numbers. ‘How much commission am I earning?’ being the main one.
Now I’m 50 years old and have no personal income due to my Multiple Sclerosis making holding a job down tricky. I had my last paying job in the trade with a firm that sold photo accessories to outlets across the South West UK but eventually my absences through ill health made it untenable.
When I started Bear’s Photos in August 2017, I deliberately didn’t want to put too much attention on the how and the what with’s any more because I have simply run out of caring about it much. I don’t own much gear now, nor do I want to get into the debt trap purchasing that one new bit of fancy kit you ‘need’ to magically make your photography better.
I just wanted, when I was well enough, to practise the actual photography with what I already had, maybe gaining some ‘seeing’ skills with time and hoping that some of my results would be appreciated by a few people.
It’s particularly pleasing to find then, after all that only talking a good game and now having the time and (irregularly) the inclination to actually take pictures, my photos have been noticed and have gained some extra recognition from WordPress without me needing to get into all that.
It should also give visitors some hope that this could happen to you, even if your blog is new, small and has a relatively low level of following like mine.
When I started it I wanted this blog to just simply be ‘Here are some of my photographs, I hope you enjoy them.’ I am lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of the world and it is mainly that which inspires me to capture it in all its beauty and drama. There is an intensity and elemental nature to the place that speaks to me and I am moved to communicate and share it.
I was obviously confident enough in my results to display them on the internet but was not convinced that the audience would ever be huge.
However, the picking up of my site for featuring on Discover has increased my confidence in what I produce and perhaps tells me that I am more capable than I gave myself credit for. And it has spurred me on.
What if I actually did invest more effort into it?
I have started to think about that, starting with getting some test prints made on high quality paper to see how they look with an eye to perhaps selling some limited editions. I am trying hard to mentally transition to thinking of myself as ‘a bloke who puts some nice pictures on a blog sometimes’ and to be more comfortable with it being alright to say ‘I’m pretty good at this and people seem to like what I do.’
Anyway, if you’re new here – and I am hopeful that there may be slightly more than 22 followers after this – that is what I am all about. Thanks for visiting.
Although it would be quite helpful if a few people who like any images to offer to buy a print or two so I can afford a new lens without a spidery fungus growing in it.
Anyway, here are some of my photographs, I hope you enjoy them.