Tall Poppy Syndrome

There is a desire among many in the landscape photography community to be well known and universally liked. There is a climb to the top that most including myself are on. Everyone is taking their own path or forging a new one and each journey is interesting to look at in hindsight. There is a concerning part though in how some are making their own way or rather bringing others down to elevate themselves. Taking a closer observation, it is easy to see how this makes for a toxic atmosphere.

There is a thing called tall poppy syndrome which describes this process. It roots itself in how poppy plants were harvested by choosing the tallest in the field to cut down during each pass. This is applied to our lives in how it is usually those who have found success in their respective fields growing to new heights that get cut down. Success in landscape photography can bring a new level of criticism and attacks that you didn’t have before.

It is frustrating, sometimes, to watch others find success while you struggle. It is simultaneously easy to find ways to chip away at their pride or make excuses for why they made it and you haven’t. I too am guilty of looking at someone else who made it into a gallery or gained a large following and trying to bring them and their art down in one way or another. It is easier to attack others in many ways than looking in the mirror and fixing ourselves first.

There is a parable in the bible in Matthew 7:4-5 that goes, "How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite! First, take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.". I think this does well at telling us how we ought to behave within the landscape photography community. Before we focus on others, criticizing, or making excuses we should try taking action to make ourselves better.

This is not to say we shouldn’t criticize others ever or help maintain the community. There are some truly rotten people out there and tending to them is important too! However, we should avoid looking like hypocrites when pointing out other’s flaws. Fix yourself before pointing your finger at anyone else, and make sure that it is worth the effort in the first place as well. Pick your battles because sometimes it’s not worth stepping on another photographer’s toes. 

The point of photography is to make photographs. It is a wonderful medium of art that we can all participate in. There is room for each and every type of photographer and their images. Focusing on creating images that are your own and building up your work first should be the objective before trying to cut down other’s successes.