Brooks Jensen mentioned in one of his podcasts that it doesn’t matter what size your audience is, that you still MUST do 100% BEST WORK, because that is part of the creative life..living a creative life with integrity is what I would add to that.
I agree with Brooks. If you are destined to be a photographer, or artist, or speaker, well you give it your ALL no matter what your audience numbers are. With any good luck and much effort, your audience, the people who appreciate your creativity, will increase.
However, if you slack off, or just do mediocre work because your audience is small, then you are not really living a creative life, you are doing something other than that.
AND BY NO MEANS, does a big audience mean that the “artist” is special, or extra talented. It just means that perhaps some artists (i.e., talking about photographers here), are shooting subjects that ‘turn on’ a certain popular portion of the demographics. I know of a few shooters who are not particularly skilled in any extra special way, but because their subject matter is ‘eye-catching’ and ‘popular-with-the-masses’, it appeals to a larger audience.
On the one hand, your audience may be small because you lack the talent and skills necessary to be a good photographer. Plain and simple, not everyone is suited for photography. If there is a question of talent in your photography, then these factors will clearly show in your work.
On the other hand, you can be a very talented photographer and have few ‘fans’ and ‘contacts’. If this is the case, then you need to start asking yourself the right questions about what you are doing wrong with your ‘exposure’, or your marketing efforts, or even with regards to your attitude and people skills. You need to ask yourself, your trusted friends and your colleagues, what you can do to make a change to increase your ‘exposure’, or to target a more suitable audience.
I think that too many photographers get ultra-inflated egos proportional to the number of fans they collect at sites like flickr. Not all, mind you, but many do. After all, they don’t call these types of photo-sharing websites ‘vanity photo sites’ for nothing. No doubt, the popularity of many of these photographers are warranted because they have paid their dues and they produce stellar photography. In other cases, popularity appears to be a case of ‘fan-collection’ with little substance to back up the popularity.
“Is this fair? Life is not fair. Never was, and never will be. So, we live with it, and we find our own audience who appreciates the kind of work that we photograph. There is an audience for every type of photography. The audience will come in all shapes, and of course, sizes. But it is your job as a photographer to define your audience, and to find your fans, those who appreciate your work, your hard work, and the value of your work. If you do your work and get your work out there for people to see, and appreciate, people who can see the value of your work will be naturally drawn to your photography.”
Photography value is not always determined by money. There is also a value to your work with regard to how it (and you) contribute to society, how it may benefit other people, and not least of all, your contribution to the photographic arts.
Anyway, have hope, give each piece of artwork you do 100% of your blood, sweat and tears. Over time, you will see your audience grow. People will know that you give-a-damn about what you do, that you do your work with all your effort, and that you are not doing the work only to get ‘atta-boys’ at flickr (or wherever).
Because you strive to live an artistic life of integrity, and you love what you are doing, and you do the work to satisfy your artistic needs, these are the ingredients that produce the fuel that drives artistic, dedicated and serious photographers to do what they do.
Of course, we can’t forget about marketing to make our artistic life profitable. Audience growth can play a major role in the profitability of your artistic life. However, that is a different subject – also very important – but let’s close for now.