Once every three months I slip away from all the limelight, tinsel and glamor of the blogging world, and I take a good long look at ULTRAsomething. Why do I publish articles? Who do they benefit? Who reads them? Is there any tangible reason to keep writing them? Should I actually write more of them?
Sometimes, when I ask these questions, I even try to answer them myself…
Why do I publish articles? I suppose it’s because I care about the things I write, and because I’m genuinely concerned about the future of photography. It’s not that I fear an end to still photography, it’s that I fear an end to what once made still photography so meaningful. I fear that both viewer and photographer are losing the ability to see beyond a photograph’s façade and into its soul. Ultimately, I write because I’m selfish — I enjoy seeing good photography. I enjoy photography with heart, with passion, with meaning and with purpose. That’s why so many of my articles are designed to remind photographers that their ultimate self-satisfaction will not come from following populist dictates, but from exploring their own motives, techniques and personal vision.
Who benefits from these articles? I’m not sure. Certainly not me. They have no value in marketing my photographic services since they’re voiced more for the benefit of other photographers than for clients. I once hoped they would entice paying publications to commission my writing services — but I soon learned that no one is actually willing to pay for content anymore. And if I really am writing these articles to benefit other photographers, then do they? Judging from the majority of landscape, editorial and portrait photography I see published, I would have to say “No.” Photography is continuing to devolve unabated into the domain of “illustration” and a competent, though ultimately dull, sameness.
Who reads these articles? ULTRAsomething attracts many thousands of readers every month. Web stats tell me that of my 25 most-read articles, 22 of them are about photographic equipment. I find this both encouraging and discouraging. It’s encouraging because it means photographers are reading ULTRAsomething in hopes of finding a way to improve their photography. It’s discouraging because it means most photographers believe that the path to better photography lies in buying more gear.
Is there any tangible reason to keep writing these articles? I struggle with this question at least once every three months. If these articles make me no money, then why bother? If these articles bring no new business, then why bother? If people skip the crux of this site — the philosophical articles — and read only the equipment reviews, then why bother? So once every three months, I resolve to pull the plug on ULTRAsomething. And once every three months, I break that resolution. Maybe I’m just a masochist. Or maybe I truly believe that, even if people come for the ‘gear reviews,’ they might just hang around long enough to read a few of the more contemplative articles.
Should I consider writing more frequently? Curiously, every time I wrestle with shuttering ULTRAsomething, I begin to flirt with the alternative — writing more articles. Perhaps the problem with ULTRAsomething is that it’s not a blog, but a collection of occasionally published articles on a variety of topics. To build both a loyal and large readership would require that I write all the time — even when I don’t have anything compelling to say. And this has always been my problem with most blogs — the sheer amount of banality, re-blogging, linking and aggregating that’s required to create daily posts. Is that really a good thing? Maybe. Maybe not. But to tackle such an endeavour and infuse each post with at least a modicum of quality would require that I turn ULTRAsomething into a full time job. That means it needs to generate income…
Give the People What they Want
It occurs to me that I cannot answer all these questions alone. My web stats indicate that over half the people who visit ULTRAsomething are repeat readers, so this implies I must have some sort of “fan base.” Some of you even check in with comments now and then, which I really and truly appreciate. Others choose to contact me via email, which is fine (though commenting on an article does have the added benefit of generating more online conversation).
I have but two goals for ULTRAsomething — one altruistic, and one the opposite:
1. I would like the site to provide value beyond answering “which camera should I buy this month?” I want the site to help photographers think a bit more about what they photograph and why — to become more in touch with their own vision and to worry less about satisfying the fickle demands of the latest Flickr fads.
2. I would like the site to generate income. I will never turn ULTRAsomething into a subscription site, but I do need to pay for its existence and the time I spend developing it. This means something somewhere must be sold to somebody. Whether I sell workshops to readers or eyeballs to advertisers, ULTRAsomething needs to develop a commercial element.
So what do you want to see from ULTRAsomething? A greater emphasis on technique? Maybe more actual photojournalism and less talk about photojournalism? Book reviews? Software evaluations? An increase in the attention given to alternative gear, techniques and methodologies? Or maybe the opposite — more prominence given to the modern? Perhaps you want more architectural photography? Landscape photos? Nudes? Puppies in a basket? Puppies in a basket with a nude? How about guest posts? Workshops? Interviews? Longer articles? Shorter articles? More frequent articles? What about off-topic articles, like a detailed account of my ongoing battle with the incompetent nincompoops at my cellular company who have yet to send me the iPhone I ordered on announcement day?
ULTRAsomething is only half mine — I just write it and photograph for it. The other half belongs to you — since you’re the ones who read it and view it. So what is it you’d like to read and see? I genuinely want to know. Because the more viewers I get, the better my chances of attracting sponsorship, and the better able I am to serve up more of what you want to consume.
ABOUT THESE PHOTOS: A few months ago, I stumbled across the misguided souls in “No. 9 Nightmare,” who were all participating in some sort of ‘street photography’ workshop. It nearly depressed the life right out of me. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to raise my Leica M9 with 28mm f/2 Summicron lens, and take the shot as a reminder of how not to host a workshop. “Another Fringe Event” was also shot with a Leica M9 and a 28mm f/2 Summicron lens, and depicts Granville Street the afternoon before the Fringe television show shot its Season 3 finale. Do not be confused by the Brooklyn Philharmonic sign — many of the locations you see in TV and movies are actually Vancouver masquerading as somewhere else. “Contemplation” was shot just a few days ago, while I was out taking a stroll with my Ricoh GXR and a Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 lens mounted to Ricoh’s new GXR Mount A12 module.
If you find these photos enjoyable or the articles beneficial, please consider making a DONATION to this site’s continuing evolution. As you’ve likely realized, ULTRAsomething is not an aggregator site — serious time and effort go into developing the original content contained within these virtual walls.