Let me tell you a tale. A sad tale.
Michael Reichmann, as most of you reading this will know, was a respected and well-liked photographer who founded a successful web site which was genuinely helpful to many photographers in the early years of digital photography. I didn't like Michael, but that is irrelevant to our story. Michael was the sort of notional leader of a community of 100s, maybe 1000s, of well heeled photographers. They were his friends, his clients. He led workshops, he plugged gear, he was tuned in to the spending of 10s, maybe 100s, of millions of dollars on equipment, workshops, photo tours, books, videos, and so on.
Toward the end of his life, Michael, perhaps feeling the clammy hand of his mortality, made a bold try to create a Legacy. He started the Luminous Endowmnent, which made grants to photographers to pursue their work. He made a book, a 20-year retrospective of his work; the work that his community so vocally admired. The book was expensive, but huge. Even at $500 for a signed copy, it wasn't an absurdly overpriced monograph. 100s of pages, 10 pounds, of book. Proceeds would go to the Endowment. Win-win, right?
He didn't sell them. I mean, he sold a bunch. Almost half of the signed edition of 500 copies. Probably several hundred more of the unsigned copies. I don't know how many he printed, but the Form 990s from the Luminous Endowment do not seem to support sales of more that about 1000 copes all told. The remainder, about 1100 copies, has I believe gone to the shredders as I write this.
Michael spent probably something on the order for $100,000 of his own money, hoping the book would act as a force multiplier, seeding his endowment with something like a million dollars. It didn't. The endowment folded up after a while, having failed, evidently, to achieve the critical mass of money necessary to be self-sustaining.
Michael's community, ultimately, betrayed him. $50M for cameras, diddly-squat for our "revered friend" and his legacy. If I sound angry, it's because I am. Michael is gone, his endowment is gone, and now his books are gone.
But what, ultimately, is the lesson here? Why were these self-same people happy to drop $10,000 on a workshop/tour to go hang out with Michael, but not $500 (or even $80) on a book? A book of photographs which I genuinely believe they admired? The price of a modest luxury car for a camera outfit, nothing for a book?
In the end, I think the answer is that photographers don't like photographs any more than regular people, which is to say, they generally don't like photographs much. Photographers want to take photographs, they don't want to look at them. I have a notion that a photographer may even be less likely to want to look at a photograph than a non-photographer, but perhaps I am giving the general public too much credit here.
Critics also don't seem to be much interested in photographs. They not infrequently make howlers, or simply admit that they can't be bother to look at the pictures, and even otherwise they seem as likely to completely miss the point as not. Critics want to bloviate, in the same way that photographers want to take pictures. The point is the output, not the input.
Communities of people that would seem on the face of it to be naturally interested in looking at photographs are typically not. There are photographers who like photographs, to be sure, but not every photographer is and I dare say something less than most photographers actually like photographs.
This is why "social" photography tends to go nowhere. When you get a bunch of photographers together, it turns in to a bunch of arguing about gear, and/or a bunch of photographers milling around trying to get the other photographers to look at their pictures while simultaneously fending off portfolios being thrust in their faces.
Photo sharing web sites are places where you put your work up to be admired, not places where you go to look at photographs. The Like button doesn't mean I Like Your Picture it means hi, I would Like you to come look at my pictures. The point is the output, not the input.
The success of photographic social things seems to be inversely proportional to the seriousness of the photography. As long as they measure by uploads, of course, all is well. Flickr had tremendous traction, because every would-be photographer thought this was a great way to be seen. Unfortunately, nobody was interested in doing any actual seeing. As soon as you try to measure by anything meaningful, the wheels fall off, because the street is mostly one way in the wrong direction.
Instagram, widely decried for being positively infested with people who don't take photography seriously, is the only real success story. It is successful precisely because it is infested with non-photographers. It has people who actually want to look at pictures. Not seriously, mind you, they want to just flip, flip, flip, and mainly they're looking for hot girls, celebrities, or themselves, but still. They actually want to look at photos.
The takeaway here is, perhaps, if you're interested in people actually looking at your work, stop hanging around with photographers. They don't want to look at your work, except as a quid pro quo or, sometimes, to borrow ideas from.