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Author Topic: From the Big House to the Outhouse  (Read 23487 times)
wolfnowl
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« on: November 21, 2006, 01:51:11 PM »
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EXCELLENT article!  Thanks much for sharing it with us.  Given some of the recent criticisms on this list I think this article can provide a new perspective for those willing to take it.

Mike.
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seany
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« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2006, 03:32:10 PM »
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EXCELLENT article!  Thanks much for sharing it with us.  Given some of the recent criticisms on this list I think this article can provide a new perspective for those willing to take it.

Mike.
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You can't be serious have you seen the prices he puts on his own "ART" the guy is having a laugh!
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image66
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« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2006, 04:39:59 PM »
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Ok, what's the difference between "criticism" and "guidance"?  This whole article doesn't sit well with me.

The moment an "Artist" chooses to sell his work, he no longer is an "Artist" (in the purest sense) but a businessman/woman.  As such, the purity of the "Art" is immediately compromised and criticism/guidance is reality.

During college or art school, there is one main thing being taught.  There is an effort to raise the student to a higher level than what he/she ever knew existed.  This is no different than the performing arts.  Those who can't hack the criticism during this stage probably aren't meant to be "professional artists" because the real world won't cut them any breaks either.  If you don't have the chops for it now, you won't have them later.  We all conform even when we are rebelling.  Take a teenager who thinks they are being "creative" or "edgy" by getting piercings in their lip or tongue.  Yeah right.  No more creative than 85 other kids in their school and 2,000,000 of them around the country.  It takes a tough teacher to beat that "duplicative originality" out of them.  If the student is just wanting to be an "artist" then art school isn't the place to be.

Unfortunately, not every teacher understands this game and is just an ad-agency flunky that got burned out in the real world.  Or on the opposite extreme, is somebody that never left the education world--went straight from student to teacher.

Personally, I welcome the guidance.  I understand that criticism could be used to raise me to a higher level.  When I'm defensive about my own work, I need to step back, and depersonalize it.  Maybe there is something to the comments.  Maybe not.  But you have no idea if it is something constructive or destructive if you close your ears and ignore all outside comments.  Just maybe that person sees something that you don't.  We are ALWAYS blinded by our own vision.
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2006, 04:42:02 PM »
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Kudos Pete!  Another great article that is right on the money!

Cheers,
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2006, 04:57:46 PM »
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Cutting to the chase - the recommendations, I have real problems with some of this:

RECO #1: Yes, giving aspiring photographers encouragement about the positive is re-inforcing. Saying nothing about what doesn't work in a photograph does no-one a favour. We learn from what we do right and from being informed about what can be improved.

RECO #2: I agree with Pete in this domain is makes no sense to try competing against others - but I can be inspired by the work of others to improve mine. That said, if I don't compete against myself I don't improve.

RECO #3: I agree with Pete that money isn't everything. In fact I could probably sell some of my photographs but the effort of doing so would spoil the fun. That much said, if people would be willing to pay for my work, it would be a sign of appreciation. Yes, money can distort values, but it can also reinforce them.

RECO #4: Goes back to RECO # 1. Agreed.

RECO #5: There is criticism and there is criticism. And then there is the giver and the receiver. The giver can give anything. Control rests with the receiver, who needs to know from where to get it, how to evaluate it, never to be insulted by it, but to evaluate what crticism to retain and what to reject. That requires self-confidence and objectivity. These qualities are more useful than staying away from criticism.
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« Reply #5 on: November 21, 2006, 05:41:13 PM »
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RECO #5: There is criticism and there is criticism. And then there is the giver and the receiver. The giver can give anything. Control rests with the receiver, who needs to know from where to get it, how to evaluate it, never to be insulted by it, but to evaluate what crticism to retain and what to reject. That requires self-confidence and objectivity. These qualities are more useful than staying away from criticism.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86461\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think you have hit the nail on the head with this comment. Most of what is described in the article is the result of not having the confidence to open up to what other people are saying, to listen and then objectively evaluate the feedback. Calling everything criticism is just closing ones ears to the potential information that is available.

It would have been a better article - and more in line with what I was expected when I started reading the article - if there had been examples on how to give constructive criticism and then how to evaluate and apply it. Instead it comes across as some kind of neurotic rant and justification for avoiding any form of feedback whatsoever.

Competitions are often a great opportunity for people looking for to see other peoples work, get feedback on their entries and generally act as an inspiration to improve within the framework of a friendly environment. Competition can act as a great spur and inspiration for many people - it is not that competition is inherently wrong, just some peoples perception of them and how they feel not being first or receiving criticism from judges reflects upon them personally. Competition between two or more people as a positive environment to do better is also good, but that is again in the hands of the competitors - it is their choice how to react to competition and not a problem with compeition as a concept.

As Mark has pointed out above - the problem is not with the person making the comment, criticism, feedback, critique or whatever (though aggressive put downs, diatribes, etc...are less likely to be constructive or well received), but rather with the receiver and how the choose to use and react to the situation.

Our education systems do not typically develop peoples skills for receiving feedback, understanding how to depersonalise remarks and ingest the useful information whilst disregarding (or putting to oneside until more experience is gained) that which has no immediate use. Perhaps if the article had focused more on the authors experience in those domains there could have been more useful practical application.
« Last Edit: November 21, 2006, 05:46:39 PM by DiaAzul » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 21, 2006, 06:37:27 PM »
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Good criticism isn't a contradiction and bad criticism isn't redundant.
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thompsonkirk
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« Reply #7 on: November 21, 2006, 07:27:03 PM »
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I don't know what to say - is article-writing like photography, somewhere beyond criticism?

Many artists & writers benefit enormously from constructive criticism by peers & even by the evil people called critics.  I belong to a group (the Bay Area Photographers Collective) that offers valuable constructive criticism in two ways - (1) monthly peer-review gatherings, & (2) occasional outside critiques by accomplished photographers, editors, & teachers.  Two of our best critics happen to be art teachers/faculty members - the group that gets such a bad press in the Myers article.  They aren't 'failed artists,' as far as I can tell; they've looked at thousands of images; & their viewpoints are genuinely insightful.  They're good teachers who help artists grow.  

For many of us, working with a critique group speeds up the creative process, because of our natural tendency to 'love all our children' - to accept too many repeat performances & personal cliches as significant work.  Nothing helps me more than having thoughtful & constructive viewers (1) point out my tendencies toward what psychologists call 'repetition compulsion,' & (2) urge me to see more clearly what is new or emergent in my work.  

One specific example:  Just last week one of those dangerous art-school critics - a thoughtful & feelingful fellow who's quite a bit younger than I - offered two constructive criticisms of a new portfolio of my documentary work: (1) the more use I made of the kind of wide & deep space that seems to envelop the viewer, the more successful the images seemed to be; and (2) some of the transitions in the portfolio from one point of view to another were too abrupt & need filling in.  You'd have to see the work to decide if you'd agree with him, but my own take was that he was right on.  Because of gallery scheduling, the work won't be shown for many months; & as I work on the project in the interim, I plan to take these two criticisms very much to heart.

Another example, less specific:  At a college where I taught, a beginning photo instructor offered a course focusing not just on technical stuff, but on helping students to recognize photographic cliches. Her course was a rewarding game that taught beginners to sort out their 'deja-vu-all-over-again' images from the ones that might evolve into an original & personal portfolio.  Her students carried a healthy distrust of cliches into their advanced work.  

Overall, because I appreciate criticism & have been helped a lot by it, some of the article just didn't ring true to me.  The connection between our money economy & the function of criticism seemed loose & overblown.  A number of separately valid points got mixed into what sounded at times like an anti-critical rant: (1) some critics are better than others; (2) some Internet criticism is thoughtless & feelingless (or just inexperienced?); (3) the art market isn't a great guide to making satisfying images; (4) learning isn't linear; (5) constructive citicism is of course better than destructive - etc.  But the tone bothered me, because I really don't want to become paranoid about criticism.  The more of it I can take in - assuming the source is repectful & honest - the better for me.  

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'll mention that I'm one of the untrustworthy people who's been known to teach art.)
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Ricko
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« Reply #8 on: November 21, 2006, 07:28:05 PM »
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Bravo!  Bravo!

Many, many thanks, Pete.

Rich
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2006, 12:48:39 AM »
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A very interesting article Peter, thanks for taking the time to write these thoughts down for us to enjoy.

The internet has somehow opened the doors to criticism than can hurt some, but it has also provided these people with a mean to show their work to a potentially very large audience at very low cost. That's the most important part to me.

As a matter of fact, many of the photosharing sites amateur photographer use to exhibit their work (I am one of them) are based on the exchange of criticism. One of the reasons being that these kind of services are easy to implement from a technology standpoint and appear to provide enough value for people to be willing to pay a fee - which keeps the system afloat. Another reason is that many people are looking for an audience, and some sort of feedback. Praise, criticism,... any reaction would do at the beginning. When you exhibit your work in a gallery, it is easy enough to hang around and check out the viewers reactions, there is no such thing on the web.

Either way, expectations from viewers result from past success of the shower and the more you play the game the harsher the comments are likely to become if the shower's vision drifts too far away from what most viewers expect (previous fans liked your work back then, not necessarily you as an artist). That is yet another consequence of the medium. Not everybody liked Picasso's late work and some were vocal about that.

Cheers,
Bernard
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David Mantripp
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2006, 02:17:33 AM »
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so, to sum it all up, we should reduced criticism (which is a really badly misunderstood concept it seems) to:

"hey, great shot, thanks for sharing"


Great article Pete. Thanks for sharing                
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« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2006, 02:24:56 AM »
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IMO, honest criticism is a good thing, even if it isn't flattering or ego-gratifying to the recipient. Nobody improves their skills if all they hear is "nice image" all the time. I post images for critique here occasionally, and the critiques I benefit the most from are those that point out shortcomings in my work (like Alain Briot's comments about my Live Oak image) so that I can improve my work. There are al lot of rude, ignorant people who post vitriol for vitriol's sake, but one ought to have sufficiently thick skin that exposure to their drivel shouldn't cause one to cry under the bed in the fetal position. Have the maturity to separate the wheat from the excrement and learn what one can.
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GerardK
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« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2006, 02:41:20 AM »
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Pete, I'm with you most of the way in this article, but riddle me this, Batman.

A few years ago I met someone at a party who was interested in seeing the exhibition of my photography that was on at the time, so I invited him to have a look. He told me much the same story as you're telling now about the way the artist's feelings should connect with the viewer. His basic 'criticism' of my work was that I was in the business of 'looking' and 'seeing', but without 'feeling'. His comments helped me enormously to open myself up emotionally in the way I take pictures. As it turned out, he is a photography teacher at the local art academy. Some of his students are now major names in modern Dutch photography.

If I were to dismiss that kind of feedback, input, criticism, call it what you will, I would miss out on valuable energy. I would miss out on observations very much like your own. I would even have missed out on your article, because I would not look for input from others such as yourself. Zap! Pow!


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Henrik Paul
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« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2006, 02:42:45 AM »
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I have to agree with some of the people here. There's criticism, and then there's criticism. But I won't reiterate it here.

What I was wondering is the definition of art and artist. If art is a display of feelings and an artist is the one displaying the feelings, then the subject of criticism and praise are void. Measuring the quality of a feeling isn't meaningful to me. "Your sadness lacks some green at the top" or "the memory of your grandmother is overexposed" doesn't make sense. Therefore, given this definition, art is beyond criticism, which I believe many have said before me.

Now, I'm not trying to devoid this definition - I do accept this as one of the many. The problem here is perhaps the lack of a standard definition of the words "art" and "artist", or if there is one that I'm unaware of, the incorrect use of them (as is often the case with the words "professional" and "amateur")
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« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2006, 02:46:07 AM »
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I post images for critique here occasionally, and the critiques I benefit the most from are those that point out shortcomings in my work (like Alain Briot's comments about my Live Oak image) so that I can improve my work.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86519\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I try to post constructive feedback that aims at helping you improve your work :-)  I am glad you find it useful.

Alain
« Last Edit: November 22, 2006, 02:46:45 AM by alainbriot » Logged

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« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2006, 05:16:24 AM »
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Hmm: this article reads a bit like someone who has been recently offended by wet blankets himself. I may well be wrong of course.  My alternative title would be "From the glasshouse to the doghouse?" - moving from a place where no-one dares throw stones, to one where no-one talks to you because you rebuff their opinions  

Seriously, part of what Pete Myers is suggesting is one step along two slippery slopes IMO:

1. You should never point out problems to anyone as it might damage their egos. We already have (IMO) far too much of this tacit encouragement of the mediocre in many spheres of life, and I don't think it does society any good. All of a piece with banning competitive sport as it disavantages the less sporty, dumbing down media to appeal to the least literate, etc. If we can't all be excellent and happy, then let's all be forced to be mediocre and miserable - hah!

2. Accepting that art/craft doesn't necessarily have to possess any redeeming qualities and is just therapeutic for the artist/craftsman.

Nothing wrong with that per se (art as a hobby or pursuit for pleasure): but if someone wants to engage with the public in any way (whether that is by exhibition, selling, uploading on a public website or wherever), then I suggest that the work he produces should do something positive to any viewers if it is to be judged a success: make them happy, sad, serene, angry, think hard or whatever. If it only makes them bored or cross because it is clumsily executed, or baffled because the idea/vision doesn't come across, then I think we have every right to articulate that reaction in the public arena.

Of course, he has a point about us unwashed masses with no fine art education critiquing photos by those who have high reputations and/or sell work for lots of money: but I do think you can be a bit too precious about this.
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Scott_H
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« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2006, 09:50:46 AM »
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Criticism is as dependeant on the recipient, maybe more so, than the person offering criticism.  Feedback can be useful, but the process of seprating what is useful from what is not can be difficult.

Somehow a person has to improve, and it often takes other people looking at their work and offering feedback to do that.  At some point though, that person needs to find their own way, and criticism will probably not be much help.

I see circles of photographers where work is put up for comment, and over time the end result is that all of their pictures look the same.  A lot of critcism is the critic telling you how to make your picture look like their picture, and that isn't really helpful.

Ultimately I think an artist needs to get to the point where they recognise what is good about their work and what isn't so they can be their own critic.
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2006, 10:53:52 AM »
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I see circles of photographers where work is put up for comment, and over time the end result is that all of their pictures look the same.  A lot of critcism is the critic telling you how to make your picture look like their picture, and that isn't really helpful.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86579\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Good point. Online sites based on the exchange of comments are another example of this. It is clear that issuing a criticism that is helpful in letting the photographer grown is extremely challenging a task.

Asian philosophies, and in particular that deriving from the way of the bow in Japan, could help understanding the reflexion that could potential result in the work of the most talented man on earth looking like that of a beginner.

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #18 on: November 22, 2006, 11:18:44 AM »
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Hi Bernard,

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It is clear that issuing a criticism that is helpful in letting the photographer grown is extremely challenging a task.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86587\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Good point.  It is one of the foundational aspects of effective teaching.

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Asian philosophies, and in particular that deriving from the way of the bow in Japan, could help understanding the reflexion that could potential result in the work of the most talented man on earth looking like that of a beginner.

Cheers,
Bernard
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=86587\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Can you expand on that, in particular on how you see "the way of the bow" applied to photography?

Thank you.

Alain
« Last Edit: November 22, 2006, 12:09:56 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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Ken Tanaka
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« Reply #19 on: November 22, 2006, 11:22:17 AM »
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Criticism is as dependeant on the recipient, maybe more so, than the person offering criticism.  Feedback can be useful, but the process of seprating what is useful from what is not can be difficult.

Somehow a person has to improve, and it often takes other people looking at their work and offering feedback to do that.  At some point though, that person needs to find their own way, and criticism will probably not be much help.

I see circles of photographers where work is put up for comment, and over time the end result is that all of their pictures look the same.  A lot of critcism is the critic telling you how to make your picture look like their picture, and that isn't really helpful.

Ultimately I think an artist needs to get to the point where they recognise what is good about their work and what isn't so they can be their own critic.
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Bulls-eye, Scott!  Yours reflect my thoughts on the subject precisely.
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