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Author Topic: My recent brush with critique of my photo  (Read 4661 times)
shutterpup
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« on: May 10, 2010, 04:53:19 PM »
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First let me make it abundantly clear that this is, in no way, meant to flame.

I posted my photo for critique. It took many posts by me in my own thread to get at what different members were saying in what I considered veiled ways.

JMR was the first to point me in a decent direction. After digging into Mike's and DarkPenguin's comments, I was able to walk away with something I could use on future photos. And the last poster was most helpful I felt in addressing my desire to link what I feel with a resulting photograph.

Look folks. I'm not looking for recipes, as one person suggested, nor am I looking to edit the heck out of the submitted photograph. I'm looking for honest comments that I can understand. Telling me that you don't like the foreground or that the photo is not spectacular does me no good. I want more concise, thoughtful answers; and when I got them, I was satisfied. Why do you not like the foreground; what did you see that led you to say that? What about the photo makes you conclude immediately that it is lacking; how so? It was a revelation when one person commented that the photo was busy when I was trying to achieve a sense of calm. That made sense to me.

I have no interest in being combative here. I have a desire to improve my skills and the type of feedback that I finally got was exactly what I was looking for. If you look at my submission and decline comment on it, I wish you would reconsider. Even an "I don't like it" and then saying why you don't helps me. It requires a different mindset than it would if I asked for an editing opinion on the current photograph at hand. Tell me what you've found works or doesn't work in similar photographs.

The good thing was that my recent thread and the helpful comments I finally got sent me hunting for answers to some questions that I had as a result of the conversation. And that, in my mind, is what it's all about.

Thank you to everyone who took the time, the thought, and the effort to respond to my thread.
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bill t.
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2010, 06:36:05 PM »
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I can not recommend strongly enough that you should never ask for critiques of photographs where the value and meaning of the image to you is dependent on personal emotional feelings not clearly evident in the photograph alone.

Yes it's a nice view to have outside one's door, but as a photograph alone it only invokes the feeling of yet another snapshot.  If you could rephotograph the scene in a way that visually contained the idea of "the view from my house, how cool is that" then maybe you would have something that would appeal to others.  Yes titles help a little, but in the end a photo wishing to be art needs to stand on its visual content alone.

OTOH, that pic would be a good illustration for a "hey look where my new house is" post in the Coffee Corner.

The reticence and evasions in your original responses came mostly out of politeness.  With a few exceptions the critics here like to spare the boot.

Sorry, I'm feeling a little too blunt this afternoon.  Here's a happy face.
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Justan
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2010, 07:12:09 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
I can not recommend strongly enough that you should never ask for critiques of photographs where the value and meaning of the image to you is dependent on personal emotional feelings not clearly evident in the photograph alone.


That’s the rub. It’s hard to see things in our own work that is clear to others.

BTW the work by yer friend Ted Orland is great. He has a fine sense of “don’t take things too seriously” and his panos are unique and entirely cool!
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shutterpup
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2010, 07:39:35 PM »
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Quote from: bill t.
I can not recommend strongly enough that you should never ask for critiques of photographs where the value and meaning of the image to you is dependent on personal emotional feelings not clearly evident in the photograph alone.

Yes it's a nice view to have outside one's door, but as a photograph alone it only invokes the feeling of yet another snapshot.  If you could rephotograph the scene in a way that visually contained the idea of "the view from my house, how cool is that" then maybe you would have something that would appeal to others.  Yes titles help a little, but in the end a photo wishing to be art needs to stand on its visual content alone.

OTOH, that pic would be a good illustration for a "hey look where my new house is" post in the Coffee Corner.

The reticence and evasions in your original responses came mostly out of politeness.  With a few exceptions the critics here like to spare the boot.

Sorry, I'm feeling a little too blunt this afternoon.  Here's a happy face.

But see Bill, you are not being too blunt. It is comments like yours that make me pause and think seriously about what I've posted.
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shutterpup
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2010, 07:41:50 PM »
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Quote from: Justan
That’s the rub. It’s hard to see things in our own work that is clear to others.

BTW the work by yer friend Ted Orland is great. He has a fine sense of “don’t take things too seriously” and his panos are unique and entirely cool!

And the fact that it's hard to see things in my own work that is clear to others is exactly why I ask for the more thought-provoking answers here.

Now I want to know who Ted Orland is.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 07:42:37 PM »
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Quote from: shutterpup
I have a desire to improve my skills...

IMO, if you started out with something like the above in the post with your photo, you might have gotten more constructive feedback.

Even though you posted in the correct (critique) forum, it is difficult to know what the poster REALLY wants from other forum members.  This is probably unfair, but in my experience many people who post just a picture WITHOUT adding verbage are looking for praise.  And in fact get angry if others offer any constructive critiques.

But in your case, that is not true; the exception that proves the rule  

So how to get more feedback?  Ask for it.  Even something as simple as, "I like this photo but want to know how I can make it better."  Specific questions (exposure, composition, lens choice, etc) even better.

Paul





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PeterAit
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 08:29:28 PM »
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Quote from: shutterpup
First let me make it abundantly clear that this is, in no way, meant to flame.

I posted my photo for critique. It took many posts by me in my own thread to get at what different members were saying in what I considered veiled ways.

JMR was the first to point me in a decent direction. After digging into Mike's and DarkPenguin's comments, I was able to walk away with something I could use on future photos. And the last poster was most helpful I felt in addressing my desire to link what I feel with a resulting photograph.

Look folks. I'm not looking for recipes, as one person suggested, nor am I looking to edit the heck out of the submitted photograph. I'm looking for honest comments that I can understand. Telling me that you don't like the foreground or that the photo is not spectacular does me no good. I want more concise, thoughtful answers; and when I got them, I was satisfied. Why do you not like the foreground; what did you see that led you to say that? What about the photo makes you conclude immediately that it is lacking; how so? It was a revelation when one person commented that the photo was busy when I was trying to achieve a sense of calm. That made sense to me.

I have no interest in being combative here. I have a desire to improve my skills and the type of feedback that I finally got was exactly what I was looking for. If you look at my submission and decline comment on it, I wish you would reconsider. Even an "I don't like it" and then saying why you don't helps me. It requires a different mindset than it would if I asked for an editing opinion on the current photograph at hand. Tell me what you've found works or doesn't work in similar photographs.

The good thing was that my recent thread and the helpful comments I finally got sent me hunting for answers to some questions that I had as a result of the conversation. And that, in my mind, is what it's all about.

Thank you to everyone who took the time, the thought, and the effort to respond to my thread.

Maybe you should be grateful that you got any useful comments rather than complaining that some comments were not useful.
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Peter
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2010, 09:16:36 PM »
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How long did that take to write?  Most people just call us a bunch of useless fucks and head off to photosig.

From here on out I will simply cite relevant scenes from The Trojan Women for my critiques.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 09:20:53 PM by DarkPenguin » Logged
wolfnowl
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2010, 11:46:36 PM »
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I don't shoot professionally, but my understanding of even photographers like Joe McNally for example (not to pick on Joe but he has shot for Life, NG, etc.) is that there can be a difference between what the photographer shoots and what the client (magazine editor in this case) wants.  It may be the photographer's favourite image, but if the client doesn't like it, it's not going to get used.

Now if you're not shooting for a client, then the client in effect is you.  And here we open a whole other can of worms, because everyone gets an opinion on what they like and what they don't like.  Therefore it's difficult for me to say what's a good shot and what isn't, only what I think is a good image and what isn't.  Your opinion may be entirely different.  There's a saying, "I tried to teach you to be yourself but find that I cannot.  I can only teach you to be me, for I am the only model that I have."  

Generally speaking, if someone posts an image that I don't like I don't say anything, because to the next person it may be great.  Conversely, if I like an image, I'll usually let the person know.  Really, though, all I'm saying is that I either agree with your vision of a particular scene or I don't.  The first reaction happens at a visceral level, and from there I can probably extrapolate what it is about the image that works or doesn't work for me.  Sometimes I'll see something else in an image than what's presented, and in those cases I'll often offer a suggestion such as, "If it was my image, I'd..."

The hard part for me as a photographer (and others have expressed similar sentiments) is separating myself from my images.  If it's an image that is important to me because of the story that went into making it, other people may or may not see that story reflected in the image itself.  In my opinion every image has to stand on its own two feet, so to speak, without background, title, etc.  It may be useful to have a context to associate with an image, but that to me is secondary.  The image either makes it on its own or it doesn't.

Some of the 'more experienced' photographers here have shot from the perspective of having eight exposures on a roll of film, or using single large format plates, and with that background I think we tend to be more critical of a scene before making an image.  I shoot many, many more images now with digital than I ever did with film, but I still try to be ruthless with my own work.  And sometimes I fail!  IIRC, photographer Dewitt Jones was asked once about his 'keeper' rate, and his response was essentially that it doesn't matter how many images you make or how many images you keep.  All that really matters is, did you get the image you wanted?

My 2˘

Mike.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 03:16:23 AM »
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I think Mike is right: we are all biased in favour of our own vision of what's right.

That's why I have mentioned several times that I believe this criticism business is a mistake - you have got to be yourself, make your own plays and become totally convinced of your own values. If you do otherwise, you will only manage to follow. Is that what anyone really wants?

The best you can hope for in any 'community' of photographers is for technical help - and here you get it. Look beyond that and you are looking for what isn't attainable: magic formulae.

Most posters on this site are polite and even when being bellicose manage to have some right on their side - expecting somebody to put on the crown of emperor and tell another photographer what to do goes way beyond that and can't help, desěte claims to the contrary that, to me, reflect an inability to accept the hard fact that it's all up to you, that you stand alone. That's really all there is to it.

Rob C
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fredjeang
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 07:15:12 AM »
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I find this section quite interesting.

Of course, there is and will always be the useless cortesy diplomatics "whaos", but what I personally find here is: going out of myself (judgments).

I may like or not like a picture, but others comments are sometimes very usefull, specially when different of mine.

I enjoy reading why a particular picture is moving someone, but that does not drive me to do the same at all. In the technical critics, I found here some very wised comments that force me to see other points of view than mine, or remind me an important detail that escaped to my vision, or simply bringing more knowledge about perception in general.

This section actually is indeed, with all its traps and abuses like in any other, a good place to improve what I call the outer world.
I look inside from time to time.

Now, I do not put any images of my main work here. I'll have my website for that purpose in a close future, but I sometimes put some images that I'm interested on other's comments for a particular reason, or simply a funny pic, or whatever the reason is, and I listen very carrefully with many respect the people who take their time to comments.

For example, I find the Russ comments in general very interesting. The fact is that Russ is transmiting passion about art critic, he is experienced and his vision many time helpfull. Why I underlined Russ as an example here? Simply because he is very active in this section. I have a particular respect and natural listening towards the older people, because they have many more living than I do and generally they do not need any more to play with their Egos, or whatever demostration attempt.

But I do not use this section to feel confident about my work and see if people like it, for the reasons that Wolfnowl and Rob mentionned. That would be completly stupid. It is sharing some ideas, feelings and knowledge.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2010, 07:47:55 AM by fredjeang » Logged
John R Smith
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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2010, 07:50:58 AM »
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I think a factor which is often not made clear at all, or perhaps not even considered by the photographer, is the intended purpose and history of an image. As others have said, a great photograph will stand alone - but this perhaps might be better qualified with "sometimes". An awful lot of great photographs actually do depend on their context for their appeal. Would 'Hoisting the Flag' have the same resonance if you did not know that the soldiers were USA, that it was WW II and that it was Iwo Jima?  Would 'Migrant Mother' be quite so moving if you had just discovered the print in a drawer and did not know where and when it was? And how about all the images of tragic celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe which would perhaps be pretty ordinary shots if you were not aware of her name, history and fate?

The photograph with truly universal appeal, which speaks across cultural divides and communicates without a defining sub-text, is a rare thing indeed.

John
« Last Edit: May 11, 2010, 08:10:06 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: May 11, 2010, 09:09:29 AM »
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Quote from: Rob C
I think Mike is right: we are all biased in favour of our own vision of what's right.

That's why I have mentioned several times that I believe this criticism business is a mistake - you have got to be yourself, make your own plays and become totally convinced of your own values. If you do otherwise, you will only manage to follow. Is that what anyone really wants?

I don't think I agree with that. By paying attention to constructive criticism, a photographer's vision can be expanded. The wider your vision of what's possible, the more tools you have to develop your own personal vision or style. For example, suppose I post a color photo for comments, and someone suggests it would be better in B&W. I had never even considered converting to B&W but I try it and like the results. In the future, I will always be tuned into this possibility. Simplistic example, perhaps, but true.
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Peter
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2010, 02:27:48 PM »
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Quote from: shutterpup
Now I want to know who Ted Orland is.

Google is a friend
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2010, 02:56:52 PM »
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Pup, I'm really sorry I missed out on this thread until now. I've been on the road for a week, packing before that, and unpacking now, but I'm beginning to get back to normal.

I think Mike made the pertinent point: it's hard to separate yourself from your images. Here's a rule for when you want to put something out for critique: Never, never, never ask for criticism on a picture younger than a month or two. I wrote poetry for many years and had a lot of it published and I had the same problem with poetry that I have with photography -- the thing you just did always is the best thing you've done so far... Until a month or two in the future when you can look at it more objectively. Then you begin to see it in context -- not only in context with your own work but in context with the work of others. You obviously live in a place where you have a beautiful view. But your beautiful view has the same problem most landscape photographs have: unless it holds something absolutely spectacular, like Ansel's favorite, Half Dome in unusual light, it's just another beautiful view. That's what Walker Evans meant when he looked at his student's picture of a sunset and said, "It's a beautiful sunset. So what?" All that is why I much prefer to shoot people. I live in the Rocky Mountains and I have spectacular views all around me, but I don't think I can improve on what a literal horde of landscape photographers have done before me. The same views are always there and they've been photographed over and over. It's almost impossible to avoid cliche in landscape. You didn't avoid it in your picture.
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Rob C
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« Reply #15 on: May 12, 2010, 03:14:58 AM »
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Russ - hence the phrase: another rock, another tree.

It is also why though I have doubts about 'street' photography and its purposes, even morality, I have no doubts that the human element is the only one worth the time.

Rob C
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Ray
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« Reply #16 on: May 12, 2010, 05:23:44 AM »
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Quote from: bill t.
I can not recommend strongly enough that you should never ask for critiques of photographs where the value and meaning of the image to you is dependent on personal emotional feelings not clearly evident in the photograph alone.

That's a very significant point. We should all dwell upon it. It happens so frequently that there's a hidden emotional impact to a photo that is only apparent to the person who took the photo, and perhaps the people featured in the photo. When the person gazes upon the photo he/she took, there may be all sorts of emotional associations with the subject that are not apparent in any way to a complete stranger.

The purpose of art is to express and communicate that hidden feeling and emotion to a complete stranger, that motivated one to take the shot.

That's not easy. It requires skill. And just as an aside, my favourite definition of art is 'skill'.

I also tend not to comment on images that are not interesting to me. Why create angst and upset people. Do I want to be even more unpopular than I already am? Do I want to be the 'bad boy'?
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John R
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« Reply #17 on: May 12, 2010, 06:59:40 AM »
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Quote from: RSL
Pup, I'm really sorry I missed out on this thread until now. I've been on the road for a week, packing before that, and unpacking now, but I'm beginning to get back to normal.

[...] But your beautiful view has the same problem most landscape photographs have: unless it holds something absolutely spectacular, like Ansel's favorite, Half Dome in unusual light, it's just another beautiful view. That's what Walker Evans meant when he looked at his student's picture of a sunset and said, "It's a beautiful sunset. So what?" All that is why I much prefer to shoot people. I live in the Rocky Mountains and I have spectacular views all around me, but I don't think I can improve on what a literal horde of landscape photographers have done before me. The same views are always there and they've been photographed over and over. It's almost impossible to avoid cliche in landscape. You didn't avoid it in your picture.
Russ, I think this a rather jaded and narrow view of photography. I can assure you that most of the people photos I have seen, especially portraits and three quarter views, even good ones, don't look any different than photos in clothing and fashion ads for big department stores. And they constitute the majority of what most of us see every day. What should I conclude from this? That people photos are not that interesting? And after reviewing many of the so-called people photos on this and other sites, I see something more akin to voyeurism rather than people photography. Often people with a furtive eye on the photographer, obviously wondering why they are being photographed. Of course, this does not mean that I don't like people photography. The human condition is foremost in our culture, especially in the last one hundred years since photography started, so our photographs reflect that. Only in this overall sense is your view valid. Whether people, nature, landscape, or whatever genre one cares to name, it is what is conveyed that counts. This is true of all art, including landscape paintings. Landscapes can have a character or texture, or be a metaphor, just like any face. If a photo of any genre moves viewers, that is what counts. But then I am sure you have heard this view expressed many times, especially on a site called "Luminous Landscape." There is room for everything and everybody. I don't think your view is critique, more a point of view about what kinds of photography most interests you. I have attended many seminars where professional photographers have provided critiques and not one said, "its a fence, its a field, its a farm, it's a horse, so what?" Good critique is about breaking down the elements of the picture and trying to show the maker why it may or may not work, or what can be done to make it better. And sometimes concluding that an image may convey something more than its parts. This applies to people photography as well.

Unfortunately, we see so many images, we just tend to say whether we like an image or not, and not bother with proper critique. This will not change, we are bombarded on a daily basis. I think Slobodan's critique was on the money.

JMR
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Chris_T
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« Reply #18 on: May 12, 2010, 07:35:20 AM »
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You may find these comments interesting, from an older thread (and more are available in the archive).

About the importance of "WHY" in critiques:

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....40661&st=10

About interpreting an image's intent:

http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....40661&st=11
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RSL
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« Reply #19 on: May 12, 2010, 11:57:48 AM »
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Quote from: John R
I can assure you that most of the people photos I have seen, especially portraits and three quarter views, even good ones, don't look any different than photos in clothing and fashion ads for big department stores.

John, I certainly can't disagree about that. All I have to do is walk down the street and look into the display windows of the local pros to see cliches about weddings etc., that are as blatant as most landscape cliches.

Quote
And they constitute the majority of what most of us see every day.

Depends on what you look at every day. In the evening I tend to settle into an easy chair with a perfect Manhattan and a book of photographs by Walker Evans, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Steve McCurry... etc."

Quote
What should I conclude from this? That people photos are not that interesting?

No. Just that the particular people photographs you're looking at are not that interesting.

Quote
I have attended many seminars where professional photographers have provided critiques and not one said, "its a fence, its a field, its a farm, it's a horse, so what?"

I have no problem believing that. Walker Evans was not a generic "professional photographer." He was an artist.

Quote
Unfortunately, we see so many images, we just tend to say whether we like an image or not, and not bother with proper critique. This will not change, we are bombarded on a daily basis. I think Slobodan's critique was on the money.

John, Somehow I missed Slobodan's critique in this thread. Maybe he deleted it?
« Last Edit: May 12, 2010, 11:58:39 AM by RSL » Logged

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