An Excellent Rant on Photography That Matters

Many of you are familiar with Ted Forbes and his popular YouTube channel, "The Art of Photography." Personally, I’ve always appreciated his candid nature and helpful attitude towards anyone and everyone on their photographic journeys. From his videos covering various film cameras to the philosophy of certain photographic pioneers, he has produced some incredibly helpful, honest content. Furthering that, his newest video tackles the idea of creating photographs or a body of work that has lasting importance.

In the video, Forbes clarifies some statements made in a previous video before discussing what it truly means to create a lasting impression. Of all of the points that he makes throughout the course of the video, my favorite is that “work that matters has nothing to do with fame or success.” For me as a portrait photographer, that really hit home. After I spent all of 2016 in a studio honing my craft, I quickly became bored with taking technically good photos. What I mean by that is that I realized late in the year that a good photograph has more to it than great lighting, the right depth of field, or the right post-processing.

It doesn’t have anything to do with fame. It has to do with giving a damn; it has things to do with giving your personal take on it.

Part of the reason that I’ve always admired the work of great portrait photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Marco Grob, Joey L., and Martin Schoeller is because they have soul behind their photographs that make them timeless. Whether that comes down to their individual personalities or their innate ability to bring the best out of their subjects, I don’t know. And I will likely never know. I do know that they make work that matters, and that’s all that I can strive for. Forbes’ point is that work that matters has to do with pushing boundaries, both photographically and emotionally, telling a story, and being passionate.

He hit the nail on the head with this video and provided a great kick in the butt to put the effort in where it counts. I think this is an important lesson for anyone looking to make a career out of their photography regardless of the genre. If your work doesn’t matter past the aesthetic value, technical prowess, or social media popularity, what satisfaction will you find and where will that take you down the road? Some excellent food for thought.

Spencer Lookabaugh's picture

Spencer Lookabaugh is a lifestyle and portrait photographer located in Columbus, Ohio, as well as an employee of Midwest Photo Exchange. He is a firm believer in printing, shooting film and digital, and the power of photography. He also shoots landscape work in his spare time.

Log in or register to post comments

In the middle of this video when I got a notification that this article was posted! I love Ted Forbes.

Ted Forbes 2020

Hi Ted - for me, a very good example of what you talk about in the first section of this clip was Vincent Van Gogh. Never sold a painting during his life. But his work is widely regarded as amongst the finest paintings of all time.

Bottom line is that the creative arts are about "taste", which is impossible to define and is strictly personal in any event,

But where is Ted Forbes' photography to be seen on the web?

Work that matters is whatever "work" that is meaningful to you. It is irrelevant how other people view your efforts, they were not involved in the creative process or the effort - you were. And that history belongs to you alone. Those who judge by only what they see reveal their lack of connection of the process you followed and the work that was created, they're disconnected by virtue of their non-participation. All work is the result of a process that only has true relevance to those who participated. And the same is true in life.