I Just Said No
I am grateful for every single subscriber to LensWork, every member of LensWork Online, and every one of you who read our blog posts. Every single one of you. Thanks. And, there are lots and lots of you, according to our web stats and page counts.
That said, however, I do actually have a perverse kind of joy in that our web stats are a fraction of those for the big photo websites like Michael Reichmann's or even Michael Johnston's blog. I remember when Maureen and I announced our first LensWork Workshops in 1998. We received advice from a well-known workshop instructor that if we really wanted to make money with our workshops, we should offer a series of "nude" workshops — by which he meant the models, not the photographers. Female models. Young, pretty ones, no doubt. We declined.
Similarly, I suppose if we wanted to really jack up our web stats and readership to Reichmann/Johnston levels, we'd offer a never-ending flow of gear talk, equipment reviews, cutting-edge news on new models, and other camera related content. My problem, however, is that I simply cannot let go of the idea that photography is not about cameras. Cameras bore me to tears, frustrate me because I have to bend to their demands, and constantly drain my wallet and my patience. I would be the first in line for the cameraless camera, if one were possible. Besides, on the rare occasion when I do need a gear-fix, there are plenty of places to go, so it's not necessary for us to add to the crowd noise.
Anyway, we made a decision in the earliest days of LensWork to focus our energies on photographs and creativity, rather than on cameras and camera techniques and we've stuck with it all these years. That gathers to our website a smaller group of people than the bigger sites, but I like to think that you who read our stuff are the core of what fine art photography is all about. We may be smaller, but I prefer to think of us as being focused — no pun intended.
All this came to mind this week because we coincidently received several calls and emails from folks wanting us to put their banner ads on our two websites. They'd pay us, they explained, and we'd make money. Although the logic was undeniable, we declined this advice, too. Don't get me wrong, we need money to keep our little business running as much as the next guy , but we've always relied on a simpler philosophy — that if we offer something of value that helps people, they'll be willing to buy it from us for a fair price. It's worked out just fine so far.
When we stopped taking outside advertising in LensWork back in 2003, people told us we were nuts. They predicted our demise in short time. We had faith in the power of content. We had faith in all of you who, like us, are more interested in photography than photographic equipment. We had faith that there was a place in the market for a family of products that celebrated the image rather than the gear it takes to make it. Yes, our web traffic may be smaller than the big sites and our website may be free of banner ads and other revenue-generating clutter, but we like it that way. As long as you folks keep agreeing with us and subscribing and buying our publications, you couldn't pay us to put banner ads on our website or outside advertising in our magazine. In fact, you can't.
Again, my heartfelt thanks to all of you. Your support makes it easy to say no to the banner-ad folks.
Brooks' books on photography and the creative process are available in print from Lulu.com, and as eBooks for Kindle or EPUB readers. As one of the membership benefits, these eBooks are available in their entirety to members of LensWork Online via download.