Sunday Image. From rehearsal. Also, Feedback.

A scene from the Zach Theatre Production of "Santaland Diaries."

I call this one, "looking at the work." 

I've been mulling a few things over in my mind the last few weeks. One is about our (collective) growing addiction to "social media" and our headlong dive into web programming (YouTube videos, video equipment reviews, camera reviews, printer reviews, online profiles, forums, specialty websites, etc.).  I read an opinion piece in the NYTimes called, "Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend On It." by Cal Newport. In it he makes a number of good points, including the idea that social media is engineered from the ground up to be sticky and addictive. Also, that the more you consume the more you want to consume. He rightly asserts that, in any moment of boredom, it is too easy and alluring to just click into social media to get a quick fix of faux connectedness. The cost is all the surrendered opportunity to go out and have real experiences with real people. 

The article from NYT covers much more than my quick synopsis so if you have an impassioned response to what I wrote above I suggest you go and read the whole thing first...

At any rate, I am certain that blogs about everything are included in his general view that surface dives into endless content on the internet robs us of genuine experiences, the focus to be able to work on real work with discipline and diligence, and more; it also robs us of being really present. It's impossible (my opinion) to pay attention to anything in front of you if there is always a subroutine running in your brain that coaxes you to seek the solace of the screen. Or emotionally implores you to "check in."

I wrote rhetorically this past week about declining comments here and one reader chimed in with a litany of the blog's flaws. The foremost being that I write about the same few things over and over again. Those would include: Experiences shooting corporate work. Experiences shooting for the theater. Experiences walking in Downtown Austin with a camera. Experiences relating to swimming. Showing my favorite, old portraits.

The remedy, according to several other commenters, would be for me to: Get in my car and go on a long roadtrip to places I have never been before in order to get new experiences about which to write. Get on a plane and go to exotic, foreign locales to get new experiences about which to write. And, search out new and exciting equipment about which to write.

It was from this bubbling cauldron of introspection, New York Times guest writers and the insights of my readers that I have come to the conclusions that most social media is a waste of all our time. And that some of my readers misunderstand what this blog is all about. And, that everything must evolve or die. 

Remedies? I'm no longer actively posting to or reading anything on Twitter. If you left a pithy rejoinder there hoping I would stumble across it and have an epiphany you will be disappointed. More to the point, you won't likely get a response. I'll use Twitter now only to automatically post links back to the latest blog I've written. Ditto with Facebook, which seems to be the biggest demotivater ever invented by humans. Don't leave messages for me there because chances are I will read them .... never. 

My recent direct mail efforts have convinced me that few to none of my actual commercial clients follow me on Facebook (thank God! after this insane political season...) and even fewer on Twitter. They do react, almost every time, to a personal note, a post card, a direct mailing or an e-mail. I've never been hired or referenced from a contact on social media. Doesn't happen. 

Now, on to the more personal eye opener: Some seem to think that I write on this blog in an effort to establish a mercantile quid pro quo. Their idea is that I write content for them and in return I harvest profits, sell products, get money, accrue financial advantage, etc. They (perhaps subconsciously) view the VSL blog as a service which receives renumeration as a result of having attracted their eyeballs and delivered freely shared content. As if, somehow, their reading of my essays helps to vault my career and net worth skyward. I only wish that was so. 

I write because I love to write. I presumed that people read because they were interested in what I was writing. Now I see that a certain segment sees this blog as a form of general,  somewhat generic, photographic entertainment; the entry price of which is the chore of reading through things they don't like in order to find the one or two gems that inadvertently hit the screen. 

Sadly, as a I ante up the $65,000 per year to pay for someone's college expenses, I have very limited excess funds with which to fire up the Range Rover and set off to Patagonia to report on the state of various Four Season Hotels and Ritz Carlton Hotels along my route. At sixty one years of age I find my access to super models and skateboard celebrities a bit curtailed, so I won't be switching my focus (ha, ha) to all new subjects that are more popular. And since I haven't been emancipated from the need for income I don't really have the option of ditching all my blue chip corporate clients to pursue the (much sexier?) realm of poorly paying editorial jobs that might allow me to go somewhere different and make a photograph of someone doing something trendy which I can then overlay with an Instagram filter and peddle around as new art. 

I'm pretty sure I'll keep writing exactly what pops into my head and I extend to all of my readers the option to read it or not. If you'd like to show your support for my efforts be sure to click on all the ads below...

If you want me to write specific content, hire me.  

Have a great Sunday. I'm heading out to walk through downtown Austin, swim, ruminate about a video job I'm in pre-production on and then post some of my old, square, tired, black and white portraits. 


milldave said...

I read your blog because I love to read what you love to write.
I, too, live in the real world; loathe social media, read no more than 6 quality blogs to get an insight into the profession and to cross swords (metaphorically!) with Andrew Molitor, who keeps me amused, entertained, enlightened.
As do you. Daily.
The ads links must be for your virtual merchandise, correct?
Am waiting for Henry White part 2, loved the first one and have re-read it several times, which is the hallmark of a really good author (finding new things to note second and third time around).
Selfishly, for me, don't change a thing.
I can't swim worth a damn, but that doesn't mean I don't find the posts about swimming fascinating; I'm just envious.
And kudos for having the foresight to put money away for your son's education; as I constantly remind my step-daughter, she's my pension fund (LOL)!
Have a wonderful Sunday; Monday's lurking just around the corner!

Sherwood McLernon said...

Good Morning Kirk
I'm glad to hear that you like to write, because I like to read... more specifically, I like to read what you write. Since I'm not paying for the privilege, please continue to write what interests you... it broadens my mind to experiences that I just won't encounter, living in the far north (Ontario:)) as well as teaching me more about photography. As long as you're willing to write, I'll be reading whatever you choose to ruminate on.

Anonymous said...

Kirk- I will continue to read your entertaining, informative blog. YES, post some of your "old, square, black and white portraits".
This Old, Square, Fellow really enjoys them.

Anonymous said...

Kirk- I will continue to read your entertaining, informative blog. YES, post some of your "old, square, black and white portraits".
This Old, Square, Fellow really enjoys them.

tom morgan said...

"If you want me to write specific content, hire me."
That seems very fair to me. Looks like you are going to have an extremely busy time ahead of you Kirk (not).
Just keep doing what you do and I will keep enjoying reading it.

TMJ said...

Your portraits may be old, but never tired! I think that is where you excel amongst all your other talents, although I am looking forward to Henry's next adventure - set it in Cairo.

I am neither a Tweeter not a Twitter reader nor Facebook user. I am on Linkedin but I ignore almost all the people who want to link with me. My favourite is ResearchGate, which probably makes me a bit sad, but I am a fervent believer in open access to research, in my case, healthcare research. So I send my papers to those who request them.

My used (probably someone just took it out of the box to play with) Canon TSE 24mm MkII lens has arrived, an excellent buy at £899 from LCE Bristol. It is for two arhitectural projects: brutalist architecture in Yorkshire and North Yorkshire churches. I know many of the churches well because I am a classical organist, but there are so many where I live, dating back to Saxon times, with over a thousand year old towers. I just need a body to go with the TSE, I thought 6D, but I may be printing quite large prints (I have an A2 printer), but A0 or bigger. Welcome suggestions, I think Canon 5DS/R would be better than a Sony A7xx with an adapter, mainly because of the mechanical tolerances involved and the apparent dislike of the Sony sensor to obtuse angles.

Craig said...

Speaking just for myself, I like the VSL exactly as it is. I don't often comment but I do read. I think you're one of the more thoughtful people in the photographic blog arena and I hope you continue to post what you feel like posting.

Justin Blakie said...

Hi Kirk, I am going to ignore your ' new note' to posting comments, to encourage you to continue doing what you have been doing. I find your topics interesting , your comments insightful, and your images magical. Thanks for taking the time and effort to regularily post.

typingtalker said...

Social Media = Mass Media. Great for selling corn flakes, Mercedes Benz automobiles and presidential candidates.

You write for the same reason I take photographs -- for personal pleasure and enrichment. If a few friends want to follow along and make well reasoned and insightful comments, that's a bonus. If not, that's OK too.

I like meeting people face to face.

What's a twitter? Is that the little tiny speaker that sits on top of the woofer?

typingtalker said...

And then there's this ...

An art director’s rather brilliant Instagram self-promo

A clever use of mass media to hit a small target. Probably more fun than old fashioned mass media as well.

Tony Mander said...

Hi Kirk, I'm a long-time but, until now, a no-comment regular reader of your blog. Please, just keep going with it as it is. I enjoy your common-sense and practical comments and insights. While some may not accept that you often write about the same things, I appreciate your comments on your current experiences and how it affects your choice of methods and gear (which these days is of decreasing significance as, with any camera now having sufficient quality, it is turning the spotlight back on the basics: the image). My particular interest is macro (I'll send you a photo of my home-made setup if you're interested and tell me where to email it) for which I'm still using a GH2 (as it allowed me to use my existing OM 38mm & 20mm macro lenses and bellows), otherwise for travel it's an FZ1000, I didn't find carrying a body and set of lenses worth the hassle. It's vision, not gear, that makes a 'good' photo.

Shmeeko said...

Thank you! Thank you!

Anders C. Madsen said...

Come on, Kirk - you are acting up like this is your personal blog and you have the right to dictate whatever goes here...oh, wait...

Anders C. Madsen said...

Come on, Kirk - you are acting up like this is your personal blog and you have the right to dictate whatever goes here...oh, wait...

Peter said...

I read your blog because I find it very interesting, especially about equipment. I marvel at your ability to churn out words. I often wonder, do you use speech recognition software? Do you touch type at a fast rate? You write so much, so often, I'm amazed. I note you said recently you were writing while sitting on the couch!

I was dragged into using Facebook earlier this year by a friend, but I found it such a time thief that a month or so ago I deactivated my account. I found myself spending two hours a day or more, on completely unproductive rubbish. I've never used Twitter ("only twits tweet") for the same reasons.

Keep on writing. I love opinionated crits of equipment written without bias or brand loyalty. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Right on! We live in a narcissistic navel gazing mileau. I like hearing about what you are doing, thinking etc. no expectation of anything other than what is here. Pick up a copy of The Gift by Lewis Hyde. You'll may enjoy its content.

Ward Wueste said...

Kirk, I enjoy your writing, not only photography, but also your swimming experiences. I am some eighteen years older than you, and only manage about 3 kilometers a week in the pool. It is too short for anything other than just plain exercise, but I do work on my stroke. I wish I worked on my photography as often. Keep telling me that the way to improve at both is practice, practice, practice.

mikepeters said...

This is exactly why I love reading what you write. Your blog here reflects the real life of a real working photographer. I get it because I too am a real life working photographer, and like you I'm not rich or living off a trust fund.

Like you, I do work that's useful to others so I can pay my bills. We don't shoot the exotic, we are not trendy, we grind away in our own back yards making the best of what we do because we can't possibly phone it in. In you I see the same passion that I have and that's a pretty rare commodity for long time working stiffs like us.

Perhaps the pixel peepers and gear fondlers aren't getting their daily dose of entertainment from you now that you've finally settled on your gear of choice. No need to keep breaking the piggy bank just to feed the gear lust of others. Let them do their own homework.

However I find the inner workings of your mind, and how you go about doing things to be inspiring and informative. I thank you for writing this blog, and hope you continue to do so, even though the time you put into it reaps little to no reward.

Michael said...


I am a regular reader and infrequent commenter and have been for quite a few years now. I hope you don't stop writing because I enjoy reading your words and I don't feel the need to explain why - I just do.

Best wishes,

Antonio Ramirez said...


I read your blog, first and foremost, because I really like your writing style. You have a way of structuring and putting together your blog postings which grabs your attention and makes them interesting to read from beginning to end. I also very much enjoy your insights into what makes a commercial photographer successful. Lastly, I absolutely LOVE your portraits. Please continue what you are doing, and never mind the haters.



Anonymous said...

I suspect the Millenial generation and the Snowflakes lead the way in pointless use of electronic media, and this is what you are hearing.

Steady as she goes with your writing and your blog :)

Edit: There is an error from the Google authentication doodah, so I'll try this as 'anonymous'. Signed, MartinP

matthew scranton said...

Please continue doing what you are doing. It is very much appreciated.

Mike Rosiak said...

I just went back and read those comments. Astonishing! I can't imagine giving a successful working photographer, ie, one who can earn their living at it, any sort of useful and realistic advice on how to improve.

Kirk, I like the way you think, and envy your facility with writing. So, I'll just keep on readin' whatever you're writin'.

Ron Nabity said...

“There is no way anyone can win the social-networking arms race. It’s time to scale back. It’s time to realize that social-networking sites come with only one guarantee: You’re going to spend a lot of time on them - time that you could have spent on your own photography.”
- Joerg Colberg Media

"Do what you love, and the sanity will follow." - Ron

Paul Bradforth said...

Kirk, thank you, and don't change a thing!

George Beinhorn said...

+1 to all of the above. I am enriched, informed, inspired.

Frank Grygier said...

Kirk,A youtuber with a powered skateboard and drones just quit his vlog. I suggest you have your first midlife crises and start taking selfies while riding your new Segway scooter for the older adventurer down the streets of downtown Austin. Someone has to fill the void.

James Pilcher said...


You are consistent (I'll let you decide what that means). I like consistent. Consistent is good. Don't change a thing, and keep on writing.

Gato said...

Interesting about the reader feedback. I've always thought the great strength of your blog was you write what you know and know what you write. Your writing about portraits and the business has the kind of depth and authority that comes from experience -- and probably only from experience. That's hard to find on the internet.

Honestly, I cannot understand why anyone would want to dash off on a road trip if they had as many opportunities to do theater and portrait photography as you do.

Keep up the good work.

Michael Matthews said...

Also of interest in the NYTimes (Sunday) is the detailed reconstruction of how a twitterer with 40 followers managed to get worldwide coverage for a totally fake political story originating in....Austin.

I'd include a link, but for this one my iPad refuses to cooperate. Perhaps another reader will have better luck.

Ann said...

I love swimming, dogs and photography but am hopeless at leaving comments. I do read your blog each day and enjoy it particularly your recent story about studio dog.....meant to leave a comment that day as well.

I will keep reading if you keep writing.

Thanks, Ann

Jim Hughes said...

Your blog has become an old friend. I can pick the VSL posts from my feed reader from the post titles alone. And they're among the few I click and read.

As to Twitter, I was one of the early kids. I quit using it when it ceased to be about friendships and conversations and turned into a self-promotion firehose. And Facebook is limited to real life friends and family.

So, just keep on keeping on.

seany said...

Keep going exactly as you have been Kirk,love to read your day to day experiences, I'm constantly amazed at the amount of things you can pack in to what is obviously a very busy schedule, makes me feel guilty and motivated in equal amounts.

Also value the photography tips you pass along usually based on things you've tried and perfected over many years as a working pro,oh! and finally I love you writing style.

Ken said...

Kirk, thanks for mentioning the Times article. It fed my always present internal debate about the value of social media. I'm now seriously considering suspending or deleting my Facebook account, the only social media I spend any time with. However, following and commenting on blogs is a different thing altogether. Keep up the thought provoking commentary!

Anonymous said...


I'll echo much of what others have said. I have been reading your blog for years and do so because I consider you an unmet friend. We have a one sided conversation because I don't comment often. Just like with any of my friends i am interested in what you find interesting in your life. I like photography, I have raised a child and sent him out into the world and have had a wonderful friend as my wife. Your writing is refreshing because it illustrates the nexus of professional and personal life and goals. Just keep writing and I'll keep reading and ruminating about the insights my friend drops in front of me. Thanks for the effort you make to keep the relationship alive. I should do better on my part.

John VanDomelen

Rufus said...


In fairness, I was not one of those suggesting that it would be a good idea to get in your car or on a plane and travel far and wide. To be honest, I don't see the point.

I merely made the point, to paraphrase, that sometimes, once you've seen one Zach Theatre image or one Graffiti wall image, you've seen them all, to some extent... :)

Creatively, there is always plenty of excellent material right on your doorstep, regardless of where you live. Austin is a cool and happening place, Hipster-central. Plenty of late night music venues, artistic fringe events going on.

If I were to try and articulate my feedback a little better, I wonder if you may enjoy something which is less under your control. Something where the light isn't kind and you cant change it.

Imagine being backstage with the Stones and shooting Tri-X on a Spotmatic, that kind of thing. Or getting close in and atmospheric and trying to convey the noise, sweat and smell of a rodeo and the characters that populate these things.

Get a bit grimy. A bit close. A bit "out of control" so to speak.. :)

Best wishes..

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey Rufus, Just wanted to let you know that I took your suggestions seriously and they weren't the impetus for this post. I get lots of e-mail and posts that don't pass moderation and just happened to get a bunch of "suggestions" that used your comment as a launchpad. I get what you are saying and am trying to cast a broader net. Thanks. KT