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Author Topic: Why bother?  (Read 7400 times)
RSL
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« Reply #20 on: January 08, 2010, 12:53:40 PM »
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Since I’ve been on the road for several days I haven’t had time to follow all the discussions going on here, but now that I’m in place in Florida it’s time to get into this one.

I think Dave’s list of six reasons why people post photographs here is quite accurate. I also think you pretty much can tell which reasons are involved by the comments posted with the picture.

Reasons 1, 2 and 6 seem closely related. When someone posts for one or more of those reasons he normally posts the picture with little or no comment. In this case it seems to me that unless some clear way of improving the picture jumps out at you, it’s legitimate simply to acknowledge that the picture is good -- if you feel that way. Some time back Mike made a good point when he said he simply ignores anything the leaves him cold when it’s posted without a request for criticism. I think that's a good approach. For something that’s completely blah, absolute silence seems the best form of criticism.

Posts for the other three reasons usually include comments and either specify or imply that the poster is asking for criticism. For that kind of post I think that if you respond to the picture it’s important to do two things: comment on the picture as it is, and then, if you really think a crop or some other mod would help, say so. Trying to avoid hurt feelings by beating around the bush isn’t going to help the poster, but there’s no reason for gratuitous insults either.

But keep in mind that a good photographer isn’t going to shoot a picture hoping to find other pictures within the original picture, even though some photo classes pull this stunt – perhaps because they can’t think of anything else to teach. It seems to me that if you’re going to recommend a crop it would help if you’d pull down the picture and make the crop. That’s the acid test. I suspect that often when you see the cropped version you’ll realize that the original is better. Realizing that before you respond can save you embarrassment. If the poster thought a crop would help he’d probably have cropped before he posted.

Composition and tone mapping are about the only things you reasonably can criticize from  a small JPEG in sRGB presented on a computer screen. Unless you have a carefully calibrated monitor – and perhaps even then – the colors you’re seeing may not be the colors in the original, and almost surely not the same colors that are going to be in a print. Even tone is going to be different in a print from what you see on a monitor.

To me, the best kind of criticism is when someone understands what I’m trying to do and can point me to the work of a master who’s done something similar. No amount of verbal criticism or “how to” lectures can take the place of that kind of demonstration. I think it was Elliott Erwitt who, when asked to teach a photography class, asked: “What is there to teach?” It was a fair question.
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kikashi
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« Reply #21 on: January 08, 2010, 02:00:54 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
A critique is not a command, nor it is a mandate. It is a suggestion. Nothing more, nothing less. As such, the photographer is free to pick and choose that which is valid and that which is to be discarded. The absolutely worst thing ANY photographer/artist can do, whether professional or hobbyist, is work in a vacuum.
Exactly right. And the second worst thing any photographer/artist can do, whether professional or hobbyist, is to take criticism so seriously that he tries to become someone else.

Take comments, learn from them at least what other people think, and use their thoughts to help you develop your own style. That's what I try to do and, as I've said, I find the constructive and helpful criticism (and even some of the destructive comments, which are thankfully rare) invaluable.

Jeremy
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Bradley Proctor
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« Reply #22 on: January 10, 2010, 04:19:05 PM »
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dupe
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« Reply #23 on: January 10, 2010, 04:30:19 PM »
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Quote from: kikashi
That's a rash assumption. I have posted quite a few of my images here, usually with only a "C&C?" comment. I expect, and have received, comments varying from simple expressions of appreciation or dislike to suggestions, some very helpful, as to how the image could be improved with judicious cropping, better treatment of highlights or shadows, removal of distortion, going back to re-take the shot and so on.

My aim in posting photos is never to receive simple admiration: I can get that from my mother or my four-year-old daughter. I want to improve my photography and I'm grateful that so many good artists, some professional, spend time on the forum and are prepared to give their opinions (with which I do, of course, as the photographer, feel able to disagree if I wish).

I very much appreciate others' eyes and others' viewpoints. I don't feel the need to direct their comments by specific questions.

To that extent, I disagree with John. That's not to say I don't feel a warm glow when someone simply says "I like it"!

Jeremy

Writing "C&C" is enough to know that you're not simply looking for a pat on the back.

While constructive criticism is always best, I don't mean to devalue a simple "good job" either.  I think people need positive reinforcement, especially from their peers.  Those that claim they don't are either lying to themselves or just to egotistical to deserve it in the first place.
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Rob C
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« Reply #24 on: January 11, 2010, 03:43:11 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
I think it was Elliott Erwitt who, when asked to teach a photography class, asked: “What is there to teach?” It was a fair question.





That comment encapsulates the entire thing. Or it would were photography still pre-digital and basically still simple.

I believe that all one can teach is the mechanics or, rather, electronics of the thing. All else is either inside the photographer or it isn't and never will be. I would love to be a musician - I can neither sing, play an instrument (despite guitar lessons at age eleven) nor even whistle a tune properly. Oddly, I can tell at once where a singer loses it. Knowing all that, wishing it were different has not an iota of impact on the reality; why should wannabe artists in photography or painting expect it to be different?

So, IMO, one can certainly learn how to operate systems and make images fit within electronically indicated parameters but as to creativity - sorry, that's something else: a gift.

Rob C
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Shirley Bracken
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« Reply #25 on: January 11, 2010, 06:08:05 AM »
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I am not a very experienced photographer.  I am an experienced artist.  I am a sculptor and a WC artist and a photographer.   I can not usually help with tech or operational stuff but I know art.  I'm beginning to think I should just be listening and watching and not saying when I like or dislike something.  I can't tell you what might be wrong technically with a photograph but I know a vision when I see it.  I do try to say why I like it.  I have a vision in photography, I am however still in the toddler stage on the tech side.  I appreciate all the help I get here, whether you know I am there or not.  

How did you feel when you first came to this site.  Did you jump in and give and take?  Did you stand back in awe of the others here?  Are you afraid to comment on someone's art because you thought your opinion did not matter?  I can not believe you would not wet yourself if you got a favorable critique from some of the professionals here.  

I don't think I take up too much space when I say I like something.  I am not one to stand back.  I can only give what I know.  It's all I have.
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« Reply #26 on: January 11, 2010, 08:16:42 AM »
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Quote from: Shirley Bracken
I am not a very experienced photographer.  I am an experienced artist.
Well, IMO, it's the artistic aspects that need more said about them - it is easy peasy to find tutorials on every technical aspect and then some, but much harder to come up with your own way of seeing. So, your views are valuable. IMO, as I said.
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RSL
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« Reply #27 on: January 11, 2010, 08:47:52 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
That comment encapsulates the entire thing. Or it would were photography still pre-digital and basically still simple.

I believe that all one can teach is the mechanics or, rather, electronics of the thing. All else is either inside the photographer or it isn't and never will be. I would love to be a musician - I can neither sing, play an instrument (despite guitar lessons at age eleven) nor even whistle a tune properly. Oddly, I can tell at once where a singer loses it. Knowing all that, wishing it were different has not an iota of impact on the reality; why should wannabe artists in photography or painting expect it to be different?

So, IMO, one can certainly learn how to operate systems and make images fit within electronically indicated parameters but as to creativity - sorry, that's something else: a gift.

Rob C

Rob, Exactly. All you can teach is the mechanics.

As far as camera mechanics are concerned, as HCB pointed out in Images à la sauvette, you can learn these simply by reading the instruction manual that came with the fine leather case. True, there are more instructions for, say, a Nikon D3 than there were for the early Leica, but both cameras required that you read and then try in order to learn how things worked. None of the mechanical fine points can teach you anything at all about making worthwhile photographs.

As far as the complexities of post-processing are concerned, I don't think digital has made much difference. If you processed your own film and did your own darkroom work surely you remember the complexities that were involved -- especially if you practiced the zone system and were a follower of Ansel's instructions in his three books on the subject. I remember even mixing developer variations for different sheets of B&W film exposed under different conditions. Color was even more complex and required a really advanced lab setup and advanced technical expertise. Photoshop may have more complexities than an equivalent darkroom, because it includes features for prepress work. But Lightroom gives you the equivalent of a dry, light darkroom where you can do the same things you could do in a darkroom with a lot less work and less complexity.

In the end, it all comes down to HCB's aphorism: "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything." The only way I know to teach someone to look is to point to the work of the masters -- not just masters of photography, but masters of visual art in general. That's not really teaching.
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #28 on: January 11, 2010, 09:03:27 AM »
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It's funny, I think a thread like this crops up at least once or twice a year. Maybe it's due to turnover in participants, I dunno.

I was pretty active here for a while, then kind of drifted away the last few months. Decided to check back in and I'm glad to see more participation than ever. Lots of good work, and the feedback seems to of a high quality; maybe not everyone would 100% agree with that last part, but I think most would agree the feedback is better here than in most picture-sharing forums on the net.

Not everybody is looking for exactly the same type of feedback. But as long as the feedback is earnest and constructive I don't see a problem. You can always take from the feedback whatever you want (even if that's nothing).


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« Reply #29 on: January 11, 2010, 09:08:46 AM »
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Quote from: Shirley Bracken
I am not a very experienced photographer.  I am an experienced artist.  I am a sculptor and a WC artist and a photographer.   I can not usually help with tech or operational stuff but I know art.  I'm beginning to think I should just be listening and watching and not saying when I like or dislike something.  I can't tell you what might be wrong technically with a photograph but I know a vision when I see it.  I do try to say why I like it.  I have a vision in photography, I am however still in the toddler stage on the tech side.  I appreciate all the help I get here, whether you know I am there or not.  

How did you feel when you first came to this site.  Did you jump in and give and take?  Did you stand back in awe of the others here?  Are you afraid to comment on someone's art because you thought your opinion did not matter?  I can not believe you would not wet yourself if you got a favorable critique from some of the professionals here.  

I don't think I take up too much space when I say I like something.  I am not one to stand back.  I can only give what I know.  It's all I have.

I personally believe that critiquing requires practice, like anything else.  So, when I found this forum, I just said "to hell with it," and jumped right in.  Why  not?  Yes, there are some really accomplished artists here, but that doesn't scare me, and it shouldn't scare anyone else.

I think we could all benefit from your comments, especially given your background.  So what if you don't think of yourself as an accomplished photographer?  Post something.  Say something!  I think way too many people worry way too much about screwing up.  No one's going to dock your paycheck for making a less than stellar observation here.  I don't mean to sound sarcastic or flippant- I mean every word.  By offering your opinions, you'll not only help us, you'll help yourself.  Maybe you're the best damned artist that ever graced the pages of this forum.  If you don't participate, though, we all lose.

John

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EduPerez
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« Reply #30 on: January 11, 2010, 09:30:44 AM »
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My limited experience in this forum includes several photographs that improved from the comments I received: someone saw the photographs, understood what I was trying to accomplish, and gave me pointers to process them in a different manner. I followed that advice when it seemed sound to me; and I must admit those photographs are closer to my own view now.

I guess such advice fails into the "mechanics" category, but I am really thankful for it.
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Shirley Bracken
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« Reply #31 on: January 11, 2010, 09:41:12 AM »
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The most productive advice I get for myself is the first sentence out of the viewer's mouth.  The first thing that strikes them.  It's the only honest thing they will say.  Many people say nothing.  That's out of insecurity more than how they really feel about your work.  Some people will see the how of it and analyze that, some will see the beauty, some the dream and some really get it.  And then some just have a mean spirit and like to stir shit.  Haven't met any of those here though.  

I have a hard time learning all the technical stuff,  but my vision is clear and I am here to talk about both.  If there is no art discussion, I am only getting half what I need.  

This is the least turmoiled forum I have ever been in.  I think staying on topic is important, and I guess we get to choose the topic.  I like a little camaraderie too.  I keep my opinions out of the threads that I don't belong in, I just read.  One day I will be able to put in my two cents.  

One thing, intermediate photographers like me are who buy all the tutorials.
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Shirley Bracken
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« Reply #32 on: January 11, 2010, 09:43:59 AM »
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Opps.
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Rob C
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« Reply #33 on: January 11, 2010, 09:59:05 AM »
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I'm afraid that the best I can deduce from this is that people really do believe that they can either buy success or even have it thrust upon them from the outside; that the single thing they do NOT seem to believe is that they really need to have the seeds of it in their own genetic makeup.

Best of luck.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #34 on: January 11, 2010, 10:49:23 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I'm afraid that the best I can deduce from this is that people really do believe that they can either buy success or even have it thrust upon them from the outside; that the single thing they do NOT seem to believe is that they really need to have the seeds of it in their own genetic makeup.

Best of luck.

Rob C

Rob, You know I agree. I've said it before on this forum. My wife had a gallery for ten years. As a result I used to see the work of all sorts of local artists, including potters who worked in a teaching studio at the back of the gallery. There are two potters I remember especially. Both had gone through the same art schools and both were technically expert. Both were very experienced, and both taught classes. But their work was very different. One was an artist -- loose and creative. The other was a technician -- tight and conventional. These two guys were living proof of what you're saying. I see the same thing among professional photographers and fine art photographers. Though I won't name names, I can think of more than one who doesn't deserve the fame he's (and in one case especially, "she's") acquired, even though he (or she) is very expert technically. Politics often seems to have something to do with it. When you say that people can't "buy" success, whether or not that's true depends on what you mean by "buy" and what you mean by "success." In politics people "buy success" all the time.

But... Even those of us who haven't inherited the creative genes needed to produce fine art can enjoy photography and painting and sculpture and printmaking. Sometimes the simple act of "making" is more important than the idea of "success."
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« Reply #35 on: January 11, 2010, 10:54:58 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I'm afraid that the best I can deduce from this is that people really do believe that they can either buy success or even have it thrust upon them from the outside; that the single thing they do NOT seem to believe is that they really need to have the seeds of it in their own genetic makeup.

Best of luck.

Rob C

Rob, maybe I'm missing something, but I can't help but distill from many of your posts a sense of pessimism at best, and hopelessness at worst.  I personally believe that anyone can learn to do anything... maybe not very well, but anything nevertheless, given enough motivation and work.  I think we all have some inate ability, and it's just a matter of developing it.  Why be discouraging?  

John
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #36 on: January 11, 2010, 10:57:37 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
All you can teach is the mechanics.........The only way I know to teach someone to look is to point to the work of the masters .....

I don't quite understand. If all one can teach is simple mechanics, why study anyone's work? What possible benefit could it have?

I will simply not accept the idea that studying the work of other photographers is beneficial, yet a critique, from whomever it may come, is useless and irrational drivel. As I've said before, I'm a better photographer for the critiques I have received. Am I the lone exception to this concrete rule? Is it really that cut and dry? Did John Sexton, Mark Citret, Alan Ross or Ted Orland learn nothing from assisting Ansel Adams other than darkroom techniques and the zone system?
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« Reply #37 on: January 11, 2010, 10:58:11 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Sometimes the simple act of "making" is more important than the idea of "success."

Amen, brother.  I'd say that, in all things creative (as long as your livelihood doesn't depend on it), the act of making is ALWAYS more important than success.  This is supposed to be fun!

John
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RSL
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« Reply #38 on: January 11, 2010, 12:24:03 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
I don't quite understand. If all one can teach is simple mechanics, why study anyone's work? What possible benefit could it have?

I will simply not accept the idea that studying the work of other photographers is beneficial, yet a critique, from whomever it may come, is useless and irrational drivel. As I've said before, I'm a better photographer for the critiques I have received. Am I the lone exception to this concrete rule? Is it really that cut and dry? Did John Sexton, Mark Citret, Alan Ross or Ted Orland learn nothing from assisting Ansel Adams other than darkroom techniques and the zone system?

Chuck, I don't think anyone's saying a critique is "useless." Someone may be able to improve someone else's photograph with a bit of judicious cropping or a change in tone mapping. But does doing that make the someone else a better photographer? Possibly from a technical point of view, but I doubt it does from the standpoint of art. What you learn from that kind of critique is "rules." The second potter I talked about in my earlier post knew all the rules, and that made him a guy who could throw pots that were correct in every technical way. They sold quite well. In fact, he's still making his living with his pottery. But what he was turning out wasn't art. To understand the difference all you had to do was look at the other guy's pots.

What Rob and I both are saying is that to be an artist you simply must have the right genes, though, I'd add, I think it's a matter of degree. The same thing's true with music, mathematics, the ability to do computer programming, and a number of other things. I used to have a friend who was a concert pianist. She was a superb technician. But when she played Gershwin she simply couldn't interpret the music with the kind of emotional result as could, say, Oscar Levant. If you've ever listened to Levant do Gershwin you know that he was pretty sloppy. He sometimes missed notes, but the way he handled the music could bring tears to your eyes.

I'm not sure what Citret, Ross, Orland, Sexton learned from helping Ansel, but I do know that it wasn't how to produce fine art. As far as your doubt that studying the work of the masters is beneficial, I'll say what I said a couple months ago in a different thread: "Anyone who aspires to do fine art photography must get his head around Looking In, the catalog for Robert Frank's show at the Metropolitan. If you go through that book -- especially the "extended" edition with contact sheets -- and don't learn anything about photography as an art, you're not paying attention.
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #39 on: January 11, 2010, 01:10:58 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
I'm not sure what Citret, Ross, Orland, Sexton learned from helping Ansel, but I do know that it wasn't how to produce fine art.

Teaching, critiquing, and viewing prints have nothing to do with "producing fine art". Their sole purpose, working together, is to enlighten the photographer/artist to new ideas as well as call attention to technical and aesthetic considerations of the final product.

I do agree that we are each born with certain innate artistic abilities, as I think Rob pointed out, that will carry us only so far to artistic success. However, that's not saying we cannot improve within the constraints of those innate limitations. Can we make an Ansel out of a Chuck? I seriously doubt it, no matter how many workshops, critiques, or print viewings are offered. However, that's not saying that any insight proferred will not help me realize my vision beyond what currently exists.

And to be clear, I'm not saying that viewing the prints of my predecessors is not beneficial. It most certainly is. I was only inquiring why some folks were arguing that print viewing is good, but critiques/teaching is bad. To me, they're both branches of the same tree.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2010, 01:14:49 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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