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Author Topic: How does critique work? Why do we post here?  (Read 10697 times)
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« on: July 05, 2009, 12:39:18 PM »
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We've discussed the nuts and bolts of the critique process here:

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....showtopic=35359

Given how well that discussion went,  I thought we might all benefit from a discussion of the nature of critique and what exactly it does for us as (dare I say it) artists.  I would really appreciate your comments on this topic, because I think it deserves some consideration.  I'll start with my observations:

On the surface, the two questions in the topic title seem easy to answer.  For example, "When we allow others to critique our work, the feedback we get helps shape our next photographic endeavors."  "We post here because we want to improve."  "We offer critique to help others improve."

Simple, right?  Well, maybe.  However, I'd like to think these questions can serve as a chrysalis for much more meaningful dialogue, perhaps in the form of more questions, like "When do I know when to take someone's critique to heart?"  "How much thought should I give another person's work before I comment?"  "Can I articulate how critique has specifically helped me grow as a photographer?"  

Please give this some thought and post your reply, because I don't see how it can do anything but help everyone.

Thanks,
John
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cmi
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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2009, 01:12:20 PM »
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John, I have the feeling something specific is disturbing you, but you are talking your way around it. If there indeed is something more, I encourage you to say it direct. Then you might get direct answers. Concerning how to critique, I will cite a faq from CGTalk, wich pretty much nails it. (I belong to the hobbyists and must confess I have difficulties for myself sounding not too negative with my critique.) Anyhow, here it goes:




The Artist ...
  • upon presenting a work to the gallery should expect to have his/her work critiqued by others of varying skill levels.
    • professionals - someone who has worked at some capacity in the film, television or gaming industry.
    • students - someone who is currently enrolled in academic classes relating to the Digital Arts profession.
    • hobbiests - someone who has a strong interest in the field and utilizes their free time pursuing their own personal projects in the medium.
    • admirers - someone who just has a strong interest in the artists, their work and the media but doesn't have any experience producing the art themselves.
    • John & Jane Does - someone who has randomly stumbled upon the forum and has registered to leave a comment or two.
  • should understand that the opinion and critique of each individual mentioned above should be considered of equal value. It does not take a qualified and trained Master Chef to understand when cheese has gone bad. The same principle applies to anyone who wishes to critique an image.
  • is not under any requirement to alter their work as suggested by it's critics.
    • Apply all critiques - improve your work or muddle it up with the collective opinions of the masses. That is your choice.
    • Apply some - maybe you understand the relevance of some critiques but don't want to sacrifice in other areas. That's fine.
    • Apply none - Yes, you do have the right to ignore all critique provided or dismiss them as irrelevant to your vision. However, don't be surprised when your critics question your motivation to post in this WIP forum.
  • should be courteous and thankful to the critiques provided, acknowledging each critique as helpful (even should the artist choose to ignore the advice provided). Someone just spent 2 minutes or longer writing an opinion of your work. Return the favor by (at the very least) thanking them for their time.
  • should not take any critique of the art presented as a personal attack on his/her own character. Please understand that, "this is incorrect" and "you're a douchebag" are two completely different statements. The first being completely acceptable behaviour on the forum, and the later should be immediately reported to one of the Forum Leaders.

The Critic ...
  • should understand that their opinion (regardless of how they or others may feel is relevant to the work) is never the final word of absolute truth and knowledge. That privilege belongs to the artist. The artist ultimately knows his/her vision and path that they wish to take to get there.
  • may not agree with the artist's decisions or methods, but it is not acceptable to impose yourself upon the work. The correct way to critique work is to offer suggestions that the artist may (or may not) choose to implement in their revisions.
  • should remain mindful that artists can be egotists (not trying to stereotype here, but it's a pretty common unwritten fact ). Careful choice of words when providing a critique is often recommended.
    • Provide specifics when possible.
    • Avoid use of negative words like bad, horrible, wrong, stupid, etc.
    • Mention the parts that you like about the image as well as the parts you don't.
  • should not argue the opinions or critiques provided by other users. Focus on the artwork presented and allow other users to give their opinion as well (even if you disagree).
« Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 01:15:15 PM by Christian Miersch » Logged
shutterpup
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2009, 03:02:10 PM »
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Christian,
I like your list coming from both the artist's view and the critic's view. I especially like the last statement saying that different posters should not make an OP's topic a battleground of words which can turn nasty. There is always room for respectful discussion of any suggestions/critiques made. I think we all need to heed this last statement so that this can continue to be a worthwhile experience both for the photographer who offers up a photo and the one offering a critique.
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2009, 03:43:19 PM »
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Christian, either I have had too much agua con gas tonight or the tomatoes in the salad were off, but one way or the other, that list of do/do not do was a send-up, wasn´t it?

Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2009, 04:26:50 PM »
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Quote from: Christian Miersch
John, I have the feeling something specific is disturbing you, but you are talking your way around it. If there indeed is something more, I encourage you to say it direct.

Nothing's disturbing me at all.  I am simply interested in the way by which critique improves us.  Since critique is an unscientific process and helps us get better,  I had hoped that by posting this thread we could solve some of what I see as mystery involved.  I not only realize that everyone has their own style and set of aesthetic values, I count on that fact when I receive critique.  I promise you, there's no passive aggression built into my original post!

John

Edit reason: grammatical error
« Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 05:37:08 PM by button » Logged
Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2009, 05:19:48 PM »
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>>> "The Artist ... should understand that the opinion and critique of each individual mentioned above should be considered of equal value."

Sorry ... no way.  This is not nursery school or a Marxist day camp.  All opinions/critiques/critics are absolutely not "equal" or of "equal value" ...





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cmi
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« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2009, 05:35:01 PM »
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Shutterpup, what you say. And I like it too that its about both sides.

Rob, I dont get why anyone would think this is a send-up.

John, ok I see! (As I read your post I thought you meant the recent two threads where Dale Russ and Jeremy where ...arguing. In any case, my question was superfluous.)

All the best!

Christian
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feppe
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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2009, 05:54:26 PM »
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TOP made a post which encapsulates how I think about the subject perfectly.

Quote from: Jeremy Payne
>>> "The Artist ... should understand that the opinion and critique of each individual mentioned above should be considered of equal value."

Sorry ... no way.  This is not nursery school or a Marxist day camp.  All opinions/critiques/critics are absolutely not "equal" or of "equal value" ...

While I agree with your sentiment 100%, I think (hope) the point of the statement was that the photographer can learn equally well from the critique of Joe Blow as well as Respected Art Scholar - it will be very different learning, though.
« Last Edit: July 05, 2009, 05:59:06 PM by feppe » Logged

RSL
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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2009, 06:00:58 PM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
>>> "The Artist ... should understand that the opinion and critique of each individual mentioned above should be considered of equal value."

Sorry ... no way.  This is not nursery school or a Marxist day camp.  All opinions/critiques/critics are absolutely not "equal" or of "equal value" ...


I agree with Jeremy on this. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: People who are going to offer photographic criticism here need to make at least a cross-section of their own work available for inspection. That's the only way I know to judge the value of their criticism. Anyone can claim any kind of background he wants to claim and there's no way to check it out unless the claim is so outrageous that the contrary is a matter of record. But there's one neat thing about photography: you can't fake it. The result speaks for itself. If it doesn't, it's a failure. I'm not sure the same thing's true of painting, considering some of the put-ons that have been shopped successfully in the fine art community.

I also don't agree with "..should not argue the opinions or critiques provided by other users. Focus on the artwork presented and allow other users to give their opinion as well (even if you disagree)." You certainly should allow others to give their opinions, but if an opinion is flat wrong it would be a mistake not to point out the error. On the other hand, arguing on the merits doesn't include ad hominem attacks. Also on the other hand, there can be opinions with which you may not agree, but which are simply different opinions from your own and not egregious errors.

I really like the increase I've seen lately in constructive criticism on here. I see a lot less reluctance to criticize and I see a lot more willingness to accept honest criticism without feeling it's insulting.
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cmi
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« Reply #9 on: July 05, 2009, 06:13:31 PM »
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Small example, a leading german 3D company I know considered their nightshift cleaning womans one of their most valuable critics. They said, when you work 24/7 on some stuff, you sometimes are so drawn in that you overlook the obvious. These cleaning woman where just honest and would point it out directly.

I have some friends like that too, they dont understand anything from photos and graphic, but I value their opinions very much, its just raw and direct.

Either a critique makes sense for the artist, or not. For me its anyway who issues it, be it Karl Marx or Frodo Beutlin IVX. Simple like that.
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2009, 06:46:07 PM »
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Quote from: Christian Miersch
considered their nightshift cleaning womans one of their most valuable critics.

I hope they pay her for that work if they find it so valuable.

Does that mean that the opinions of ALL night cleaning women are "equal"?

Maybe you meant it is possible to get good criticism from anyone, not that all critics and criticism are "equal"?
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« Reply #11 on: July 05, 2009, 06:48:46 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: People who are going to offer photographic criticism here need to make at least a cross-section of their own work available for inspection... there's one neat thing about photography: you can't fake it.

I think you make a great point here, Russ.  Unfortunately for those like myself who don't have a large body of nature/landscape work, this barometer devalues our opinion (not that I take that personally ).  I have to rely upon consistent photographic results of my suggestions to validate my responses here.

John
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RSL
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« Reply #12 on: July 05, 2009, 08:35:50 PM »
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Quote from: button
I think you make a great point here, Russ.  Unfortunately for those like myself who don't have a large body of nature/landscape work, this barometer devalues our opinion (not that I take that personally ).  I have to rely upon consistent photographic results of my suggestions to validate my responses here.

John

John, I haven't a large body of landscape or nature work either. In fact, I hardly have a body in those areas at all, since people, their works, and their artifacts are my main concern. I'm not sure how that makes a difference. To me the important thing is whether or not you can see, can compose, and are technically competent in whatever genre you happen to explore. Seems to me a photographer who's serious about his work should be able to draw conclusions about the quality of work in areas other than his chosen ones.
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #13 on: July 05, 2009, 10:50:44 PM »
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Quote
I agree with Jeremy on this. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: People who are going to offer photographic criticism here need to make at least a cross-section of their own work available for inspection. That's the only way I know to judge the value of their criticism. Anyone can claim any kind of background he wants to claim and there's no way to check it out unless the claim is so outrageous that the contrary is a matter of record. But there's one neat thing about photography: you can't fake it. The result speaks for itself. If it doesn't, it's a failure. I'm not sure the same thing's true of painting, considering some of the put-ons that have been shopped successfully in the fine art community.
I'm not so sure that this matters all that much to me. It can be useful to look at someone's work and get an idea of where they're coming from, but for the most part I'm going to judge the value of their critiques based on the insight and thought that went into them. And I don't necessarily think you have to be a good photographer to be a good critic. Certainly with other art forms, it seems to rarely be the case that well-respected critics are also accomplished practitioners. Non-photographers, or even photographers that work exclusively in other genres, will likely approach an image from a different viewpoint than another photographer who has been shooting the same stuff for years. Both types of feedback can be helpful.

So while it may be useful (or just interesting) to see commenters' work, I certainly wouldn't want people to feel afraid to offer their opinions here because they don't feel the have the resume/credentials to back them up. If people just lurk because they're afraid to post and make themselves look/feel stupid, that's counter-productive to the forum.

Quote
I really like the increase I've seen lately in constructive criticism on here. I see a lot less reluctance to criticize and I see a lot more willingness to accept honest criticism without feeling it's insulting.
I definitely agree. It's good to see the increased activity in this forum, and the postings have mostly been of high quality.

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« Reply #14 on: July 06, 2009, 12:37:27 AM »
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Quote from: button
1. "When do I know when to take someone's critique to heart?"  

2."How much thought should I give another person's work before I comment?"


John,

Question 1. When the response becomes sarcastic and is aimed at belittling the person posting the work. Thankfully, apart from a few instances this is rare on this forum, and I have found most criticism to be constructive and helpful (including several comments of yours John, on some of my own offerings).

Question 2. If someone is going to attempt to offer suggestions on how an image could be improved, probably a fair bit of thought would be appreciated...as in "engage brain before opening mouth" (or keyboard in this case). If the intent is merely to express whether the image "speaks to one" or has some sort of "wow factor", then first impressions would suffice. The second instance would probably apply more to "cleaning ladies" or other untrained photographic points of view....however, I do think that the reactions of these sort of people is a very good indication of how striking an image is, or isn't!

On the "equal value" debate....no they are not!!! I have refrained from commenting on a lot of the work posted here because, quite frankly, there are plenty of people here who are much more qualified than myself that would give better advice. I would hate to give someone a "bum steer" to use the Australian vernacular. In the interests of giving something back to a forum that has helped me out immensely, I have commented where I have felt strongly enough to do so....but it seems bizarre to me to critique work by Russ (whose opinion I have come to greatly respect), and others with years more experience in the field of photography.

Cheers
Brian
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stamper
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« Reply #15 on: July 06, 2009, 02:07:46 AM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
>>> "The Artist ... should understand that the opinion and critique of each individual mentioned above should be considered of equal value."

Sorry ... no way.  This is not nursery school or a Marxist day camp.  All opinions/critiques/critics are absolutely not "equal" or of "equal value" ...


What makes you think that your opinion is better than mine or someone elses?
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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2009, 03:04:17 AM »
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Expressing an honest opinion on anything is fraught with danger, whether it's art, photography or one's spouse's new hair style.

It's fairly obvious that 'little white lies", and sometimes 'very big ones', are essential for our society to work smoothly, including photographic criticism on this site and many others.

I sometimes like to fantasize about a world where everyone spoke his/her true thoughts. What would happen? Would we descend into chaos and anarchy?

Perhaps the answer rests on the word 'true'. Do we know what our true thoughts are? Or do most of us just spout second hand opinions we've read about, been exposed to and accept for status reasons and think are cool?
« Last Edit: July 06, 2009, 05:15:39 AM by Ray » Logged
kaelaria
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« Reply #17 on: July 06, 2009, 03:47:59 AM »
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Quote from: button
We've discussed the nuts and bolts of the critique process here:

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....showtopic=35359

Given how well that discussion went,  I thought we might all benefit from a discussion of the nature of critique and what exactly it does for us as (dare I say it) artists.  I would really appreciate your comments on this topic, because I think it deserves some consideration.  I'll start with my observations:

On the surface, the two questions in the topic title seem easy to answer.  For example, "When we allow others to critique our work, the feedback we get helps shape our next photographic endeavors."  "We post here because we want to improve."  "We offer critique to help others improve."

Simple, right?  Well, maybe.  However, I'd like to think these questions can serve as a chrysalis for much more meaningful dialogue, perhaps in the form of more questions, like "When do I know when to take someone's critique to heart?"  "How much thought should I give another person's work before I comment?"  "Can I articulate how critique has specifically helped me grow as a photographer?"  

Please give this some thought and post your reply, because I don't see how it can do anything but help everyone.

Thanks,
John



BOY do you think too much.  
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Jeremy Payne
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« Reply #18 on: July 06, 2009, 06:28:29 AM »
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Quote from: stamper
What makes you think that your opinion is better than mine or someone elses?

Um ... where do you get that?  I said no such thing.  Not even close.
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stamper
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« Reply #19 on: July 06, 2009, 07:15:21 AM »
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Quote from: Jeremy Payne
Um ... where do you get that?  I said no such thing.  Not even close.

Post 6 listed above

Quote

Sorry ... no way. This is not nursery school or a Marxist day camp. All opinions/critiques/critics are absolutely not "equal" or of "equal value" ...

Unquote

It appears to me that you consider your opinions to be better than others or should be given more than equal value? Nobody knows the "credentials" of the posters giving their opinions, except for a certain few? Michael, Schewe etc? Therefore the vast majority of posters should have an equal say when replying? There isn't a ranking order on the discussion forum? Sorry your post sounded a bit "superior" to me?
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