Why would anyone climb on the back of a bronc, an animal whose primary goal is to rid itself of the rider, knowing that the best they can do is stay on for eight seconds? Sure, they could possibly win a bit of money, but the chances are they won’t. Indeed, they pay for the privilege, not only cash on the barrel head for the entry fee, but with a good chance of injury.
Come to think of it, why do we humans do a lot of things which aren’t about survival at all. Yeah, we work at dangerous jobs so we can continue to eat. We avoid spousal glare damage by suffering in silence that relative whose political views grate. We’ve even been known to go to gyms and grunt to improve our health–at least some of us do. But why in the name of all that is holy do we engage in leisure activities which cost us time, money, and possibly our health, yet offer no pecuniary reward?
Some might argue engaging in high risk activities offers rewards when the participants face and conquer their fears. There is possibly some truth to that. However, I don’t mountain climb or rodeo or jump from airplanes. The only thing I learned about skiing is that my butt makes a good brake. No, I make photographs. My biggest physical risk is falling over my tripod, which is why I don’t use one. I don’t have any fears to conquer, right?
David duChemin wrote a blog post, “A Little More Defiance, Please” (link), that touches on that topic and is well worth a read. (That man can write.) Among the many points that he makes is that some creatives–photographers, writers–don’t share their work because of fear: fear that their efforts won’t measure up, fear of rejection, or, even worse, fear that their work is so unimportant that it doesn’t even warrant notice. I’ve seen what happens when those fears rule; I’ve seen talented folks hide their work with mumblings of “it’s not really very good.”
What I’ve never seen is a photographer taking pleasure in conquering a fear of rejection. If there is a reward for living on the edge, I don’t think it carries over to artistic endeavors. Truthfully, I doubt that the primary attraction for any of these activities, physical or artistic, is a need to face fear.
Instead, I think we do what we do because we must. We are driven by our inner desires to photograph or write or rodeo or climb cliffs. We have a vocation that needs to be answered. We ache when we ignore our calling. And we willingly use our resources to satisfy that need.
Of course I like “likes.” I feel good when someone appreciates something I did, but I believe my primary motivation is to satisfy myself. Naturally I avoid situations where I might be judged harshly–never show a rodeo picture to a PETA member–but this web site is proof enough that I’m not afraid to show my work.
Besides, I’m not sure anyone even looks at it, nor do I care because my real pleasure comes from creating the content. I might, like the poor rider above, be approaching the ground head first, but I’m having a hell of a ride in the meantime.