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Author Topic: The difficulty of an honest critique  (Read 14025 times)
howiesmith
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« Reply #20 on: November 24, 2006, 09:41:01 AM »
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Proverbs 24, verse 26, "It is an honor to receive an honest reply."
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Ray
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« Reply #21 on: November 24, 2006, 10:08:59 AM »
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Ray, are you saying it is possible to give an objective opinion to a subjective problem?
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That's a thought provoking question to whch I don't know the answer, although I suspect most psychiatrists would answer in the affirmative.

I thnk what I'm sayng is that most of us modify our response in order not to appear negative but rather to appear politically correct, positive and encouraging, leavng the author of the photo wondering to what degree the criticism is just flattery.
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Ray
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« Reply #22 on: November 24, 2006, 10:11:13 AM »
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Proverbs 24, verse 26, "It is an honor to receive an honest reply."
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That's a good attitude to have, Howard. I hope you feel honoured by my replies to you   .
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #23 on: November 24, 2006, 01:05:09 PM »
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I thnk what I'm sayng is that most of us modify our response in order not to appear negative but rather to appear politically correct, positive and encouraging, leavng the author of the photo wondering to what degree the criticism is just flattery.

I would agree with that, and it is something I try to avoid. IMO if more people were willing to say an ugly baby was ugly the world would be a better place. I certainly learn more from one honest "negative" comment pointing out shortcomings in my work than a whole thread full of soul-butter. But I may have thicker-than-average skin...
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jani
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« Reply #24 on: November 24, 2006, 04:53:46 PM »
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I would agree with that, and it is something I try to avoid. IMO if more people were willing to say an ugly baby was ugly the world would be a better place. I certainly learn more from one honest "negative" comment pointing out shortcomings in my work than a whole thread full of soul-butter. But I may have thicker-than-average skin...
If I get a seriously negative comment, my first reaction will be the natural one of feeling slighted, perhaps insulted or hurt.

But then I get over it.  (And I think that's the clue to growing with it. )
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Jan
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« Reply #25 on: November 24, 2006, 09:51:07 PM »
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Actually, I went to your site to look at your photos.  I was told I needed an updated version of something to see them.  More effort than I wanted to spend.  (Now that is honest.)  I need things to be easy for me.
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Mitch's images are definitely well worth looking at.
Though the scrolling thumbnails navigation is a bit clunky when trying to jump to later/earlier shots, Mitch.  Also borders on the images would help stop the images and background bleeding into each other. But the pics are great.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #26 on: November 25, 2006, 12:45:50 AM »
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If I get a seriously negative comment, my first reaction will be the natural one of feeling slighted, perhaps insulted or hurt.

But then I get over it. (And I think that's the clue to growing with it. )

Exactly. Receiving criticism is not generally ego-gratifying and enjoyable, but for some reason, few things that help us truly grow and mature in any endeavor in life are. One needs to be able to receive and accept constructive criticisms and ignore the brainless blathering of the spitefully stupid without having an emotional breakdown, as well as receive praise and positive feedback without becoming egotistical and developing excessively high opinion of one's self, skills, and work.

Please note that I'm not against using some tact when expressing honest criticism; saying that the baby's extra left arm is visually disquieting will probably be easier for the recipient to accept than a comment to the effect that the baby is living proof that a certain corner of the human gene pool is in dire need of some extra-heavy chlorination.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2006, 12:46:49 AM by Jonathan Wienke » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #27 on: November 25, 2006, 10:15:04 AM »
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saying that the baby's extra left arm is visually disquieting will probably be easier for the recipient to accept than a comment to the effect that the baby is living proof that a certain corner of the human gene pool is in dire need of some extra-heavy chlorination.
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I'm not sure about this, Jonathan. Both expressions are indirect, circumlocutionary and euphemistic, are they not? A bit like saying, terminate with extreme prejudice, instead of kill.  
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howiesmith
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« Reply #28 on: November 25, 2006, 01:25:50 PM »
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One needs to be able to receive and accept constructive criticisms and ignore the brainless blathering of the spitefully stupid without having an emotional breakdown, as well as receive praise and positive feedback without becoming egotistical and developing excessively high opinion of one's self, skills, and work.

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The real test here is having the knowledge and confidence in that knowledge to tell the difference between condtructive ctiticism and the "brainless blathering ... stupid."  Often the criticic himself doesn't know.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #29 on: November 25, 2006, 04:19:02 PM »
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I'm not sure about this, Jonathan. Both expressions are indirect, circumlocutionary and euphemistic, are they not? A bit like saying, terminate with extreme prejudice, instead of kill. 

The first statement simply implies that the baby is unpleasantly ugly. The second statement also implies that the baby and the parents should be prevented from reproducing, by lethal force if necessary. That second implication is unnecessary to simply communicate "the baby is ugly", and is more likely to offend the listener.
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Ray
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« Reply #30 on: November 26, 2006, 10:10:08 AM »
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That second implication is unnecessary to simply communicate "the baby is ugly", and is more likely to offend the listener.
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Did I write circumlocutionary?!! Must have been thinking of execution.

You know, I think you're quite right. Glad you're toning down your criticisms   .

Nice outfit, by the way.
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jjj
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« Reply #31 on: November 27, 2006, 08:39:23 AM »
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The first statement simply implies that the baby is unpleasantly ugly. The second statement also implies that the baby and the parents should be prevented from reproducing, by lethal force if necessary. That second implication is unnecessary to simply communicate "the baby is ugly", and is more likely to offend the listener.
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All babies are the most beautiful and faultless thing ever created!!!  
So to say "your baby is ugly", "a bit ugly" or even "very slightly ugly" to parents is likely to result in the termination of the person uttering any version of such a phrase. There is no safety zone there.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #32 on: November 27, 2006, 09:13:43 AM »
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There is no safety zone there.

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An honest opinion to a very biased audience can be big trouble, or at least, unwelcome.  Some audiences are much easier to "read" as biased, like a baby's parents or grandparents.  It gets harder when someone asks "What do you think?"  So you step up and tell them.

A safe answer is "THAT'S a baby!"  PC, yes.  A lie, no.

I had a mentor once that said "Never ask how you are doing.  Someone may tell you."

An opinion is just that - an opinion.  It may be based on untruths, but it is still an opinion and cannot be "wrong."
« Last Edit: November 27, 2006, 09:46:27 AM by howiesmith » Logged
Ray
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« Reply #33 on: November 28, 2006, 01:55:28 AM »
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So to say "your baby is ugly", "a bit ugly" or even "very slightly ugly" to parents is likely to result in the termination of the person uttering any version of such a phrase. There is no safety zone there.
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You know, I think you're right. The outrage is so great that the distinction between 'your baby is ugly' and 'your baby should never have been born' is probably going to be lost.

Jonathan, I think you should refrain from describing babies as ugly, even if you think they are   .
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etude
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« Reply #34 on: December 04, 2006, 08:38:54 PM »
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Howie made a good point - many want a pat on the back rather than constructive criticism. On a number of different forums related to various interests, I respond most to those who appear to want constructive criticism, as I find this much more interesting.

Speaking of proverbs (in the Bible), there is also a verse in there that says "the wounds of a friend are more faithful than an enemy's kiss."

I studied architecture for 6 years. One thing that was very helpful was being immersed in a culture of constructive criticism and creative work. Criticism is a very positive and helpful thing, we all know that. Often the enemy of our own growth is that part of us that wants to get an A. We want to grow, but we also want peer recognition. We are in the best place to grow and learn when we want someone to help us make something better.

Edward De Bono has some very helpful ideas that relate to this topic. One of his books "parallel thinking" sets forward the of concept of putting forward opinions that might seem to contradict each other, but laying them side by side in parallel. It is in contrast to debate style thinking, where we feel we have to first discredit other ideas in order to promote our own. I've noticed in forums, people often start criticising each other's criticisms! I think there is a place for just laying our own opinion down next to another. Whoever wants to use them can then compare, and use what they prefer. Whichever seems to fit best is taken up, rather than having a debate. This frees everyone up to consider what might have been considered opposing views. Energy that went into defending ones own view, now goes into considering the merits of the other view. I think this is much more creative.

I think part of the problem is that many have not learnt to embrace criticism in a positive way. The other part is that we are human and have conflicting desires.

Going back to uni, I can recall some were dismissive of some of my work. Another might come alongside and say "how can we make this work?"

De Bono wrote another great book on a concept called the 6 thinking hats. The idea is that you think in one way at a time. Black hat = judgement where we evaluate the value or lack of value of something. Yellow hat = how can we make this work? White hat = gathering information. I think when we criticise, we need to switch hats at times, and use the approach that fits. If someone wants a pat on the back, and we honestly like their work, we can do that. If they feel it isn't working, we can sit beside them and work on ideas to make it work. If they are a beginner wanting more encouragement than help, then it's probably more appropriate to overlook major shortcomings, encourage what we see that is good, and pick a few minor things to criticise along with ideas on how to improve.
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howiesmith
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« Reply #35 on: December 14, 2006, 01:54:00 PM »
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It seems that "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything" drives a lot of critiques and comments.
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jani
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« Reply #36 on: December 14, 2006, 05:08:36 PM »
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It seems that "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything" drives a lot of critiques and comments.
In critiques, I try to follow this rule of thumb instead:

"If you can't say anything constructive, don't say anything"

If other people think this seems like a good idea, keep in mind that negative feedback can also be constructive.
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Jan
howiesmith
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« Reply #37 on: December 14, 2006, 05:31:25 PM »
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In critiques, I try to follow this rule of thumb instead:

"If you can't say anything constructive, don't say anything"

If other people think this seems like a good idea, keep in mind that negative feedback can also be constructive.
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I agree with that, but some folks just can't accept they have a bad image, even when the basis for that opinion is given.  They just say the reasons are bogus and they know better.  That may be, but that was the basis for the constructive criticism you thought you were giving.  I guess constructive is in the eye of the critic.

Some folks think "nice pic" is a positive critique.  Not without a reason and certainly if it isn't.
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etude
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« Reply #38 on: December 14, 2006, 09:05:39 PM »
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Negative feedback may or may not be constructive. I think the point of constructive criticism is that it's main point is not to offer a judgement but to suggest a way to improve.

"That's crap"
I'd call that a judgement, nothing constructive is offered. You wouldn't expect them to say "thanks" to that.

"That's crap but if you did XYZ it could be better"
That's a combination of judgement and constructive criticism.

"As it stands, the image doesn't work for me. I see potential for it to improve if you did XYZ"
I'd call that constructive criticism, the kind that most want when they do in fact want help to improve. It doesn't actually give a judgement of this kind "I'm the expert giving a judgement and my opinion is THE opinion." Instead, the attitude is more that of an equal. Although it doesn't indulge the desire to have a pat on the back, most people I find are open to this approach if there is any desire to improve and some kind of constructive input has been requested.

I think if an image doesn't seem to have scope for this kind of feedback, if you really do think it's crap to the point that it's beyond help, then it's not really very interesting to talk about it.
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Rob C
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« Reply #39 on: December 16, 2006, 10:59:35 AM »
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Criticism. I think it's an impossible concept if one wants to think of it in terms of 'teaching'. For a start, it demands an arrogance from the critic that might be quite misplaced - lots of emperors are pretty damn naked - and I think that from the recipient's point of view, there should not be a search or request for criticism in the first place. Why? Because I think that if you have the desire to make a statement, then you should just go ahead and make it, regardless.

Nobody can tell you (in truth, rather than simply by articulation) how your art should have been done - that's just ridiculous: you are the author and that should be an end to it, the only justification required. (Of course, if we are talking commerce, then that's another ball game, and the client's always right even when he's wrong.)

Photography is one of the few things in life where simple, mechanical/optical/electrical/chemical(?) rules can be learned in a very short time and then put into practice in pusuit of whatever turns one on. The rest is opinion and his is as good as hers, yours as mine. In other words, technique is as personal as vision, its just the way things are.

This holds for fine art painting too: the guy who does blocks of solid colour was probably at the same art school as the one who paints photographically accurate pictures - it's just how they play. All the technical knowledge in the world doesn't necessarily have to be on display at all times...

What on earth can anyone expect from criticism, other than a pat on the back or a kick in the teeth? Constructive advice comes down to how the critic imagines he'd have done it, that's all, back to where we came in.

Ciao - Rob C
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