Shine Light Instead of Spreading Darkness: The Great Positivity Experiment

So the photography AND the videography worlds were wrought with drama last week (SHOCKER!) If you giggled at my “shocker” exclamation it’s probably because you know that there is almost always some kind drama going on in the visual arts industry. It usually starts when some photographer or filmmaker somewhere does or says something provocative that ruffles the feathers of someone else. What follows is a deluge of social media mayhem from Twitter to Tumblr, from Facebook to WordPress. Posts get written. People reply. Comments build up. Hashtags are created. Gauntlets are thrown. Literally millions of dollars in loss productivity occurs. Cats and dogs start living together. MASS HYSTERIA! (Where is Señior Love Daddy when we need him?)

To be fair, most people who lash out do it because they are passionate about this industry and sincerely care about its progress. When you see something that you feel is hurting something you care about, you want to take a stance and expose what you sincerely feel is bad. Trust me. I totally empathize. Just last week I did the same thing on my personal blog when I came across something that deeply disturbed me. But literally within minutes I took down my post because it was made clear to me that what I was doing was adding fuel to a fire. It wouldn’t matter how “fair and balanced” I might think my post was, all I would do is make matters worse. I’d also be going against my own beliefs about not handling sensitive issues in public venues. I prefer approaching an individual in private if it’s that important.

So I made a resolve: instead of writing a negative post about what I don’t like, I’d write a positive post about what I DO like. I’ll shine light on those who I feel are doing things in a positive way.

Then I thought: what if I could get others to do the same? What if we could start a movement where photographers and filmmakers spent half of a morning writing about 1-3 colleagues in their industry who they feel are making it better; then also share why. Instead of thousands of posts, replies and tweets sharing negativity, let’s do the opposite and generate the same number (or more) shining light.

The Challenge

So here’s my challenge to you.

  1. Pick 1-3 colleagues you admire and write a short blog post or Facebook post about who they are and why you think they raise the bar in the industry. If you’re really bold, make a video.
  2. Then share your post (or video) on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Use the hashtag #ShineLight to make it easy for others to find positive articles, discover new artists, and be inspired. (For the record, this is NOT some subversive attempt just to spread my own links. Yes, when you first click the hashtag, all the links you see will be to this or my personal blog. But that’s not the intention. My hope is that the hashtag will eventually be flooded with links to YOUR blogs, etc.)
  3. As you read other people’s posts, comment and affirm both the writer and the people they’re praising.
  4. If you don’t have a blog or the time to write a longer post, just use Twitter as your positivity platform, e.g. “I want to #ShineLight on @skipcohen for being a curator & connector of photographic excellence.” or “I want to #ShineLight on @eliotrausch for his moving documentary shorts that inspire me as a filmmaker.” or “I want to #ShineLight on @shawnreeder because his whole being exudes love.”
  5. Then repeat as often as you see fit.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but if by some chance somebody praises one of the people you dislike, play nice. Just let it go and ignore their post. Okay?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying there isn’t a time when it’s necessary to publicly address an issue in the industry. Nor am I saying that if you do that you’re a bad person (as I mentioned above, I’m equally guilty). But I do think those posts are more productive when they address a concept or an intangible vs. attacking a specific person or company (e.g. my personal soap box against the over-use of hyper shallow depth of field in DSLR filmmaking. But don’t get me started).

In truth, there are times when attacking a specific company is necessary too (although, IMHO, it’s when you’re dealing with socio or economic issues that are much bigger than many of the petty squirmishes I see in the filmmaking and photography worlds.)

So who’s with me? Maybe I’m being naive. But a fella can dream can’t he?

I’ll start us off. Here’s a post on my personal blog related to Christian photographers starting positive movements that I, as a Christian in the industry, admire and think positively exemplify the faith.

12 thoughts on “Shine Light Instead of Spreading Darkness: The Great Positivity Experiment

  1. Ron, great sentiments, a small step for the decency of man … but post that on a certain Facebook Group we all know of and you would be tore to pieces…sadly. By it’s very nature the internet lets people who would normally be sitting in the corner at a party, not saying a word become a raging bully online…it’s simply a sad statement of the human race. Solutions? I don’t know …maybe Armageddon 😉

    1. Oh. I’ve learned my lesson Mr. Moses. I won’t be linking to this blog from any FB groups any time soon. 🙂 And unfortunately you’re right, it is the sad state of the internet. And it’s not just the visual arts industry. I think every industry has it’s fair share of drama.

  2. Love the idea. I think the times are crying out for decency and positive vibrations and we need to flood the internet space with it to offset the volume of “nonsense” that’s out there. I will be tweeting. Thanks Ron for the idea.

  3. I actually have gone the same direction, starting a new blog on google’s blogger:
    The social media wave is too big to change but how we chose to surf the wave is within our control. I chose the light as well. Now, that is not to say that if a company like Canon wants to put the word “macro” on their lens and it doesn’t shoot 1:1 photos, well, I’m going to take issue with that…on-the-blog, not in person (yea, right dude).
    The real reason is cognitive, being provocative, dwelling on the many oops in the world will eventually make YOU that way (I never said “negative”). If you want a Pulitzer, go for it but blood pouring out of a students head at Kent State will never come from my camera.

  4. Ron, I’m constantly praising my mentors & people who I admire. They are amazing photographers who have actually been doing photography for a while now (10yrs+) and have helped me tremendously in my career. Because of them directly, I’ve work for the LA TIMES, NEW YORK TIMES, and gotten the cover of the RING MAGAZINE (due out in May) and got in touch w/ the top photo editors from around the world.

    I’m lucky to have about 2-3 amazing mentors. The sad part, is that you & probably 99.9% of retail photographers & the WPPI crowd have never heard of them. WHY??? b/c they are busy actually working and making a living from photography. They are not on bus tours, twitter & facebook. They are working their a@$% off & if not, they are w/ their families.

    But you know what the great part is? all of them have went out of their way to help me out and guess how much they charged me for their one on one phone conversion & feedback?? NOTHING!!! =) but then again, I don’t get to brag, tweet, or facebook that I just talked w/ a rockstar nor will they retweet my work 😥 People who actually make a living from photography know how hard it is.

    I do mention them all the time & give them thanks on facebook & twitter. So if you want to know who they are, you’re just going to have to follow me or add me as your friend… a little sales pitch to gain followers!?! 😉

    Ron, I really enjoy your blog and respect you. I also believe you really care about the industry and provide useful information. However, I must say that I’m a little disappointed. I hope I don’t come across as smart mouth or a prick. But why not simply hold those people accountable for what they are saying & doing instead of entirely avoiding the issue? After all, you know the person pretty well that’s in all this “drama” and blogged about attending one of his “FREE” events (unless there’s other drama I don’t know about) a few weeks back. You also had interviewed him & had him in one of your shows I believe.

    My point is, you know this person pretty well and seem to respect him. You also have an active audience that reads your blog and/or follows you. Why not simply state how you honestly feel about the situation? I’m really curious as to what your thoughts are EVEN if if they aren’t PC. IMO you have NOTHING to loose but a HUGE deal to gain by keeping the industry honest & w/ integrity. ALL the “BIG TIME” supporters of this “drama” person are doing the same thing you’re doing. Remaining silent & not voicing their opinion at all or switching topics. Which I believe is cowardly. Support your friends/mentors/leaders/admires and vouch for them, and when they do something wrong or stupid hold them accountable. It’s not using fake accounts or negativity to bring anyone down.


    1. First Alexis, thanks as always for your support and readership. Also thanks for your candor and bravery to share your thoughts here. This kind of comment is the kind I highly respect and in many ways appreciate the most because even though it doesn’t necessarily agree with my sentiment, it is given in a respectful way that invites mature dialog. So thank you.

      If you don’t mind, I’m going to reserve my answer to your comment for a formal blog post. I think you ask an excellent question deserving of an answer (and believe me, I have one! 🙂 If I gave the full answer here, it would be such a long comment, most people probably wouldn’t read it buried in comments, and I think it’s something worth reading. So tune in tomorrow for that answer.

      For now I will say this. You giving public praise to your mentors does more for this industry than a hundred drama-stirring blog posts that only add fuel to an already raging fire.

      Thanks again my friend. I’ll have a very thorough answer for you tomorrow. 🙂

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