The Curse of Show and No Tell

I have been on Twitter for quite some time, and like any living, breathing thing does, Twitter has evolved over that period. Initially it felt quite friendly with polite suggestions to “please retweet” and generous actions such as ‘Follow Friday’ when Tweeters would recommend fellow Tweeters to their followers to share their likes, and a little love.

This helped anyone joining Twitter to build a list of who to follow. It introduced you to new photographers, and let you know of friends on the platform. It worked.

We have now it seems entered a new form of engagement with the platform. That of showing one image accompanied with a dumb question. Something similar to “what’s your favourite time of the day?” ” or “what makes you happy?” Or maybe a statement such as “show me your favourite waterfall” or “show me your favourite sunset”.

The common belief is that these participants are refugees from the newly moving image focused Instagram. I don’t know if this is true but I think I can see through the smoke.

The logic that is promoted for this practice is to show images for the benefit of others, but the cynicism within me sees it purely as a follower harvesting practice. In essence I have no issue with that if your goal in life is to be numerically successful. However, the dishonesty in the practice does not sit well with me.

Just as those engaged with NFTs only seem to want to communicate through emojis so the show and no tell community seem to have no interest in providing context or any other level of comment for their images or with the Twitter community.

Does it matter what I think? Well, of course not, but sometimes I think it’s worth putting a mark in the sand for others to consider or ignore.

Showing work should be encouraged, but so should a recognition of the importance of context through captioning. The promotion of photography as a shallow and insignificant medium focused only on the imitation of aesthetic is not something I can buy in to. It means too much to me.

So please don’t show me your favourite anything in photographic form, I’m not interested in your favourite things. I may be interested in what you think, the why, where and when, but rarely the how. Imitation of others and chocolate box landscapes may tell us about camera used or technique employed, but they tell us almost nothing of true value.

Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).

Grant’s book What Does Photography Mean to You? including 89 photographers who have contributed to the A Photographic Life podcast is on sale now £9.99

© Grant Scott 2021


  1. Thank you for this! And for sharing so much on your site. I bring my students to it regularly. – Pradip Malde

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