Unfiltered Advice: What is ‘Work that Matters’ and How Do You Create It?

In something of a followup to his explosive video “Nobody Cares About Your Photography,” the always inspirational Ted Forbes is tackling a question that we’ve all probably asked: What is “work that matters” and how do you make sure your photography measures up?

The question is so multi-faceted that, as Forbes admits at the very beginning, it’s pretty much impossible to answer it in full. But over the course of 13 minutes and 32 seconds, this The Art of Photography episode gives it an impressive go.

The video is inspirational and insightful; we would even go so far as to call it a deeply important message given our fame-obsessed culture that measures meaning by the number of likes or upvotes or retweets you scored on your latest post. Needless to say, for Forbes, this is not what defines “work that matters.”

Forbes says work that matters has to do with “giving a damn”; it has to do with caring, really caring about the work you create:

Work that matters is a craft, it’s a pursuance. It’s understanding that you’re going to put on the overalls, you’re going to go to work every day, you’re gonna try to get better at something, you’re gonna do it over and over and over again until you can get it into you, and MAYBE that goes somewhere… and there’s no guarantee.

There is no guarantee. It’s worth repeating.

History decides what work is valued in the long term. But rather than trying to create images that will be viewed favorably by people who haven’t even been born yet—and Forbes does touch on how you can go about doing this—a better approach might be to shoot things that are meaningful to you, that push your creative limits, and leave you fulfilled at the end of a long day.

To hear all of Fobes’ advice on this topic, check out the video up top. Or, if you’re looking for a more brutal version of this message, his “Nobody Cares About Your Photography” rant is still one of our favorite The Art of Photography episodes ever published.

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