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Author Topic: Personal investment in photos  (Read 8087 times)
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« on: May 19, 2009, 11:24:30 AM »
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I am constantly impressed with my inability to appreciate certain features within my own photos that I post, but yet I consider myself a decent constructive critic of other work posted here (based on feedback that my comments generate).  As has been mentioned before, divesting oneself of his/her work and critiquing it objectively is not easy.  How do you think we can get better at this?  What techniques do you use to better this skill?  

John
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bill t.
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2009, 11:39:15 AM »
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I need at least a month before I can objectively look at one of my photos, especially if I initially like it.  Helps a lot if I crank out a few other images in that time.  I can usually spot an image that will sell right away, but that doesn't guarantee I won't hate it down the road a bit.
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RSL
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2009, 12:49:46 PM »
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Quote from: button
I am constantly impressed with my inability to appreciate certain features within my own photos that I post, but yet I consider myself a decent constructive critic of other work posted here (based on feedback that my comments generate).  As has been mentioned before, divesting oneself of his/her work and critiquing it objectively is not easy.  How do you think we can get better at this?  What techniques do you use to better this skill?  

John

I agree with Bill. The best way to overcome the problem is to wait. Put the pictures away where you can't look at them by design or by chance. Then, a few weeks later, look again. One thing I've noticed about any creative work -- poetry, writing, photography -- is that the thing you just did is always the best... until you've given it a chance to settle. Which is not to say there aren't exceptions. Sometimes you know, right away. But if you run into one of those situations more than about once a year you're not being critical enough.
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2009, 01:17:38 PM »
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I concur with the previous two posters. Often with my photos and my writing I need to put them aside for a month or so before I can gain any perspective on them. At the time of creation I usually find that I'm too close to it to see it for what it is.
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2009, 03:15:27 PM »
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I think this advice might be the best I've read in at least a year.  I epecially like the idea of taking other pictures in the meantime.  Thanks!

John
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dalethorn
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2009, 03:25:20 PM »
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Agree totally.
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2009, 12:51:39 AM »
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John Paul Caponigro has a number of recent posts and a number of papers (free for download) on this subject.  You can start here:

http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/wordpress/

Mike.
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« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2009, 10:05:56 AM »
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Quote from: wolfnowl
John Paul Caponigro has a number of recent posts and a number of papers (free for download) on this subject.  You can start here:

http://www.johnpaulcaponigro.com/wordpress/

Mike.

I don't know about that one, Mike. Something like his "Think outside the box" is a command about as inside the box as I can think of, whether I'm thinking inside or outside the box.

It seems to me that trying to dissect ones own creativity is a hopeless, and even dangerous task -- at least if you want to go on doing creative things. The idea of doing that reminds me of Archibald MacLeish's book, Poetry and Experience in which he shows, conclusively, that any attempt to dissect a good poem is futile. Creativity itself doesn't come from thinking, though the tools to do something with creativity may.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2009, 08:02:31 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Something like his "Think outside the box" is a command about as inside the box as I can think of, whether I'm thinking inside or outside the box.

 
I love that.


Art criticism or analysis, and analysis of the 'creative process' is a real snark hunt in many ways. It's certainly possible to impose some kind of cognitive/analytical framework on a work of art, or a body of work from a particular artist. But it's really beside the point, isn't it? Art has to speak for itself. Attempting to analyze the process of creating art seems a bit like trying to analyze the function of the human body by dissecting it. You may learn something about the way parts fit together, but you're still left with a corpse.
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2009, 02:00:00 PM »
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I've thought some more about this, and I think I have another useful tidbit to consider.  I find myself making more objective decsions about a potential subject while framing it, before I click the shutter.  Until that time, what I'm looking at is just stuff, not yet "MY" stuff.  Once the image appears, then the personal attachment happens, allowing for rationalizations, explanations, etc.  

So, the moral of the story for me here, is SLOW DOWN, and really critique the scene in the viewfinder while it's still maleable.  That may be obvious to many of you, but it's a real breakthrough for me in terms of my developement.  Furthermore, critiquing through the viewfinder isn't always easy, especially if the subject is moving (wind), if holding the camera at a weird angle causes arm/back fatigue, or if the elements cause pain/distraction.


John
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RSL
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« Reply #10 on: May 26, 2009, 02:37:09 PM »
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Quote from: button
I've thought some more about this, and I think I have another useful tidbit to consider.  I find myself making more objective decsions about a potential subject while framing it, before I click the shutter.  Until that time, what I'm looking at is just stuff, not yet "MY" stuff.  Once the image appears, then the personal attachment happens, allowing for rationalizations, explanations, etc.  

So, the moral of the story for me here, is SLOW DOWN, and really critique the scene in the viewfinder while it's still maleable.  That may be obvious to many of you, but it's a real breakthrough for me in terms of my developement.  Furthermore, critiquing through the viewfinder isn't always easy, especially if the subject is moving (wind), if holding the camera at a weird angle causes arm/back fatigue, or if the elements cause pain/distraction.


John

John, Congratulations! What you're doing is a big step in the right direction. You're right, it's not always easy but you'll find it gets easier as you go along. It's something all of us have to learn by doing, but it's worth the price.
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2009, 04:10:49 AM »
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John - a good insight that also came to me, eventually.

Using a tripod helps, and another useful aid, until framing becomes semi-automatic in the brain, is a square of card with an appropriately-proportioned rectangle cut out in the centre. That can go with you anywhere even if you don't have the camera, and is a good way to practise visualisation. It even has a built-in zoom facility (the arm!).
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Justan
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« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2009, 12:01:13 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
It seems to me that trying to dissect ones own creativity is a hopeless, and even dangerous task -- at least if you want to go on doing creative things. ... Creativity itself doesn't come from thinking, though the tools to do something with creativity may.

This is a fair observation but I don’t completely agree with it. Critical analysis is the key way to advance one’s skills. I do agree that you have to put your emphasis in one area or another. If you dip too far into being a critic, particularly when being self-critical, it will serve to hinder your desire to create. But one stops learning the moment they refuse to objectively and critically analyze their own work.

This is a topic of long philosophical and psychological discourse. Going back to René Descartes, famous “I think therefore I am” through Nietzsche’s comments on the actor, through Freud and culminating with ideas by Adler and Jung, the role of self-criticism in art has a long history. But without dipping too far into that, if one wants to further their knowledge and skills they need to be critical about their own work. Not just in the sense of self-condemnation, but in the sense of learning from others and applying that feedback to one’s own works.
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RSL
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« Reply #13 on: May 27, 2009, 02:37:54 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
This is a fair observation but I don’t completely agree with it. Critical analysis is the key way to advance one’s skills. I do agree that you have to put your emphasis in one area or another. If you dip too far into being a critic, particularly when being self-critical, it will serve to hinder your desire to create. But one stops learning the moment they refuse to objectively and critically analyze their own work.

This is a topic of long philosophical and psychological discourse. Going back to René Descartes, famous “I think therefore I am” through Nietzsche’s comments on the actor, through Freud and culminating with ideas by Adler and Jung, the role of self-criticism in art has a long history. But without dipping too far into that, if one wants to further their knowledge and skills they need to be critical about their own work. Not just in the sense of self-condemnation, but in the sense of learning from others and applying that feedback to one’s own works.

Justan, Actually I agree with you, but I think we're talking about two different things. I don't think that analyzing your work and being critical of it is the same thing as "dissecting your creativity." "Dissecting your creativity" asks the question: "Why am I creative?" Critical analysis of your own work asks the question: "How can I improve on this?"
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dalethorn
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« Reply #14 on: May 27, 2009, 04:04:58 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Justan, Actually I agree with you, but I think we're talking about two different things. I don't think that analyzing your work and being critical of it is the same thing as "dissecting your creativity." "Dissecting your creativity" asks the question: "Why am I creative?" Critical analysis of your own work asks the question: "How can I improve on this?"

Both questions seem OK to me - and I would add how to why.
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Justan
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« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2009, 10:01:22 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Justan, Actually I agree with you, but I think we're talking about two different things. I don't think that analyzing your work and being critical of it is the same thing as "dissecting your creativity." "Dissecting your creativity" asks the question: "Why am I creative?" Critical analysis of your own work asks the question: "How can I improve on this?"


Hmmmm. You make a fair distinction, yet they are variants of the same thing. Cognitive psychologists use a term called “metacognition.” This process is the activity of stepping back and thinking about your own thinking. There are other terms for the process. One of them would be your “Why am I creative?” It is what you do when you stop for a moment, or longer, in your pursuit of an answer, and wonder whether your understanding of the problem is adequate.

You need to have a sense of “why,” either consciously or not, before you can begin to sucessfully answer the question “How can I improve on this?” The “I” is the central subject of both postulates.

One could equally say that metacognition is the shadow of the creative process or that the creative process is the shadow of metacognition, because they are variants of the same thing.

In a broad historical sense, the period of art starting with Mannerism and culminating with Impressionism were probably highly influenced by metacognition showing increasing influence into visual art .

That was admittedly a bit of a rant but highly applicable to the concept of personal investment in art
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« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2009, 11:15:55 AM »
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Quote from: Justan
Hmmmm. You make a fair distinction, yet they are variants of the same thing. Cognitive psychologists use a term called “metacognition.” This process is the activity of stepping back and thinking about your own thinking. There are other terms for the process. One of them would be your “Why am I creative?” It is what you do when you stop for a moment, or longer, in your pursuit of an answer, and wonder whether your understanding of the problem is adequate.

You need to have a sense of “why,” either consciously or not, before you can begin to sucessfully answer the question “How can I improve on this?” The “I” is the central subject of both postulates.

One could equally say that metacognition is the shadow of the creative process or that the creative process is the shadow of metacognition, because they are variants of the same thing.

In a broad historical sense, the period of art starting with Mannerism and culminating with Impressionism were probably highly influenced by metacognition showing increasing influence into visual art .

That was admittedly a bit of a rant but highly applicable to the concept of personal investment in art

Cognitive psychologists probably don't make very good photographers.
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Justan
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« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2009, 01:07:50 PM »
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> Cognitive psychologists probably don't make very good photographers.

All kinds of skills come to play in photography.

But in fairness to the OP, he asked about getting better at objectively critiquing his own work.  I was following a comment of yours in relation to that. I think we agree that you don’t want to go too far in “dissecting ones own creativity” but we aren’t exactly sure where going too far might be.

Back to the OP: A big part of gaining objectivity is based around 4 sometimes difficult to live with concepts. Three have been mentioned directly.

The fourth and hardest for some is to continue to expand one’s sphere of knowledge. Take classes for both technical and academic purposes. Learn from other masters. Study the works of other photographers and other artists and try to emulate the ones you like. If there is a University or any bigger than average art library near by, visit it frequently. The web is great but it doesn’t quite replace books. Read about all things related and not so related to photography and other art.
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« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2009, 02:14:19 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
> Cognitive psychologists probably don't make very good photographers.

All kinds of skills come to play in photography.

But in fairness to the OP, he asked about getting better at objectively critiquing his own work.  I was following a comment of yours in relation to that. I think we agree that you don’t want to go too far in “dissecting ones own creativity” but we aren’t exactly sure where going too far might be.

Back to the OP: A big part of gaining objectivity is based around 4 sometimes difficult to live with concepts. Three have been mentioned directly.

The fourth and hardest for some is to continue to expand one’s sphere of knowledge. Take classes for both technical and academic purposes. Learn from other masters. Study the works of other photographers and other artists and try to emulate the ones you like. If there is a University or any bigger than average art library near by, visit it frequently. The web is great but it doesn’t quite replace books. Read about all things related and not so related to photography and other art.

Justan, Right on! Studying the works of other artists -- painters as well as photographers is essential to developing a personal style. It starts with emulation but after a while it drifts toward your own way of seeing. I'd add, if there's a museum near you that hangs prints by the masters it's worth studying the actual prints. Ansel's photographs look great in a properly printed book, but there are subtleties in his actual prints that books can't capture.
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dalethorn
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« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2009, 02:38:44 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Justan, Right on! Studying the works of other artists -- painters as well as photographers is essential to developing a personal style. It starts with emulation but after a while it drifts toward your own way of seeing. I'd add, if there's a museum near you that hangs prints by the masters it's worth studying the actual prints. Ansel's photographs look great in a properly printed book, but there are subtleties in his actual prints that books can't capture.

Studying the works of others can be as much of a hindrance as a help. For example, the work you are likely to study is a narrow selection of artists who have aggressively promoted their work, or had it promoted for mostly unknown reasons by family, associates, investors, etc. Even worse is that the artists' work has been vetted or "approved" by the wise and learned art critic community. Crap, I say.

Suggest an alternative?  Yes.  Learn on the street, from people on the street. The little people as it were, rather than the so-called masters. There are plenty of them around, and most of them have something to offer.  And think about it.  You're not on the Paris/London/NYC bigtime art gallery website now, you're on Luminous Landscape. Because the little guy has more to offer. Because it's alive here - not dead.
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