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Thoughts on photography, writing and the combination of the two by P.J. Onori.

© 2017

A Fulfilling Vacuum

I've a long, deep relationship with photography. It began 13 years ago in college, took a three year hiatus and then has been with me ever since. I began taking photos for myself, my friends and family. Then came Web 2.0 and my habits changed. I followed in the footsteps of many others and posted my photos on various sharing sites. At first it was just to have a place to display my photos. Then it was to see if anyone else liked them. The pursuit of external validation soon became as important as process of taking photographs.

I concluded "sharing" my photos wasn't beneficial for myself and I chose to break ties. I deleted my photos and deactivated my photo-sharing accounts. I then set up a simple site only a handful of people know about which contains one hundred photographs I deem my best. To add a photo, I must remove another.

Positive Sensory Deprivation

Constraining myself to one hundred private photos had a profound impact on my photography. The one-hundred-photograph limit forced me to look long and hard through all my work. That process created an opportunity for reflection. It allowed me to spot patterns, tendencies and weaknesses in my photos. It put the emphasis on improvement. The only way I can add a photo is if I’ve created a new photo that’s at least my one-hundredth best. This closes the door on “posting-just-to-post”—it's no longer an option.

The private photo collection forced me to work in a vacuum. I cannot rely on anyone else but myself to judge my work. When we value a photograph by the attention it receives, it stunts the ability to judge our work. I analyze and reevaluate my photographs now more than ever. I go to my site many times a day to look through my photos and judge if they belong. While I used to be more concerned on generating more, I now focus on being better.

I cannot express how fulfilling photography is for me now by making this change. So much of photography is a solitary pursuit. Forcing myself into solitude made it an immeasurably richer experience.

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