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Missouri River in flood by Richard Keeling on 500px.com

So I may whine about a situation entirely of my own making, but I only have to step back a little way to see the absurdness of it all.

Most of my photography is taken simply for my own pleasure, but some is not. Take the above photograph of the Labadie Botttom in flood. I took this photograph (and others) on the request of the Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) who are fighting plans to build a coal ash dump on this very piece of land. Their main argument is that it is folly to place a pile of toxic material adjacent to river that floods. The value of this picture is to illustrate that the area really does flood.

Now it’s not necessarily a great picture, more functional than anything else, but it gets the job done. I’m fond of it for precisely this reason. Its digital siblings are being passed to local media and government bodies to bolster LEO’s arguments and I hope it helps. I think it will.

So here’s an example of using photography for social purposes that go completely beyond the limited scope of a photography competition. And you know what? I get more real pleasure out of this than any generated by being accepted by a photography competition. What’s more, I get none of the feeling of hurt that comes with the inevitable rejections from photography competitions.

Is it because this is for others? For a good cause? Yes. It makes a big difference. But it’s also instructive in the cases of where I take photographs solely for my own pleasure. It reminds me, and I need to be reminded, that it’s pointless focusing on negativity when it comes to your own work. To be sure, criticism helps improve your skills. But it has to be couched in positive terms, more as guide to learning than anything else. Photography competitions bypass this altogether, concentrating on ranking, winning and losing. I find myself forced down alleys that I do not wish to inhabit. So a word to myself, stay away and keep on keeping on.