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Author Topic: On Critique  (Read 7463 times)
amolitor
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« on: July 21, 2012, 06:00:48 AM »
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EDIT: Dredged this thread from the depths of time, as a refreshing example of what the forum CAN be, and also it's a timely topic.
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I wrote this for my dumb blog, but since it's basically written as a direct response to something Rob C. said, I figured I'd throw it on here too, for the delectation, argumentation, or ignorification of all you nice people.

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What value is there is requesting comments and critiques? It's all just personal, isn't it?

It is a feature of "good art" (whatever that is, let us agree that our ideas of "good art" overlap sufficiently for rough work, here) that it is not only evocative, but that it tends to evoke similar reactions from many people. If your goal as a photographer is to make "good art" then, surely, you want to produce photographs that evoke, and that evoke similar responses from "most" people.

Having colleagues, friends, classmates, or random people on the internet "critique" your work, then, is a bit like a poll. You ask, really, do you react to my photograph? If so, tell me about your reaction, please? Then you gather up the answers, and see if they seem to cohere. If they do, then your photograph communicates in a coherent fashion. It might still not be good art, but it has one of the features of good art. If almost nobody reacts to your piece, you know it's probably not good. If people react, but the responses are all over the place, your work is apparently something odd -- it evokes, but not in a coherent way. All these possibilities are interesting and informative to the artist.

This is science: If you seek to communicate, you should attempt to communicate. "Test, test, 1, 2, 3, do you read? Do you read? Over." If the attempt fails, you should seek to understand why, so you can do better the next time.

When selecting people to critique, it's important to rule out certain groups, I find. Most internet forums are filled with technical nerds, who will tell you all about how your focus is wrong, and how you ought to follow the rule of thirds, and that your white balance is off. These technical details are largely irrelevant. They matter only to the extent that they color a viewer's response to the image. It's also important to rule out excessively studied critics. The last thing anybody needs is a rambling lecture on Postmodernism, or similar.

The useful responses are simply a record of the viewer's reaction, perhaps with some detail and a modest effort to understand the reasons for the viewer reaction, if any can be discerned. "Yes, I read you. Two by three."

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« Last Edit: February 17, 2013, 07:12:56 PM by amolitor » Logged

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Dave (Isle of Skye)
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« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2012, 07:55:47 PM »
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A well written and thought provoking piece.

Old news but still worth a chuckle regarding the worth (or otherwise) of forum critiques.

Dave
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RSL
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« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 08:31:52 PM »
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Well said, Andrew, but I think I'd substitute "popular" for "good" in your second paragraph. "Good" is a pretty subjective word. "Popular" is demonstrable.

I've found that User Critiques on LuLa is one of a very small group of fora that stays pretty much away from technology and talks about the qualities of actual photographs instead of the virtues of lenses, bodies, complicated and absurd-looking camera carrying gear, and trivia of that nature. Once in a while we run across somebody who holds forth at length about rules of art and practices, but that kind of gibberish usually is ignored and the perp eventually goes away.

I think you're right that mostly we're trying to collect reactions, but I can remember times when I've learned from suggestions that were accompanied by demonstrations of the suggested changes. Happily we're allowed, even encouraged to demonstrate suggestions on an OP's thread, and it's rare for someone to complain about a thread  "hijack." Practically everybody who's been on here for any length of time has a particular approach to photography that's a bit different from all the others, so it's a wonderful learning and teaching tool.

The only fly in the ointment is that no one wants to hurt anyone else's feelings, so sometimes a posting doesn't get the kind of criticism it calls for. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot less of that here than on some of the other fora I've reviewed or been on. People here tend to be honest, though sometimes they're a bit too reserved (except for Slobodan, who always calls a spade a spade).

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Tony Jay
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« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2012, 09:10:47 PM »
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I'll second those comments Russ.

Regards

Tony Jay
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jule
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« Reply #4 on: July 23, 2012, 03:55:48 AM »
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The only fly in the ointment is that no one wants to hurt anyone else's feelings, so sometimes a posting doesn't get the kind of criticism it calls for. On the other hand, there seems to be a lot less of that here than on some of the other fora I've reviewed or been on. People here tend to be honest, though sometimes they're a bit too reserved (except for Slobodan, who always calls a spade a spade).


I end up getting myself into some hot water sometimes Russ because I tend to be very honest about expressing my own personal opinion.... and don't hold back, :-) I endeavour to always be polite.....and usually qualify that it is JUST my opinion... and heck.... that's ALL it is ! ... one person's opinion. I figure if I am polite and respectful; I am not responsible for someone else if they feel hurt by what I have said... then that enables me to just honestly express what i feel or think.

Julie

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« Reply #5 on: July 23, 2012, 05:43:26 AM »
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The only fly in the ointment is that no one wants to hurt anyone else's feelings, so sometimes a posting doesn't get the kind of criticism it calls for.

Is that a bit of self reflection? If anyone calls for critique but really wants praise, they are inevitably going to hurt themselves. Not because of suggestions and comments, but because of incongruent expectations…
 
I am a firm believer that if you are not willing to tell the truth, it will hamper change. And no change is no growth. And no growth is a premature death…
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Oscar Rysdyk
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amolitor
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« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2012, 08:51:21 AM »
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Thank you, Russ.

Good and Popular are surprisingly hard to comb apart, and despite writing a few paragraphs on it here and there, I am unable to concoct a concise and clear description of what I think is going on. On the one had, I vigorously deny that Good and Popular are the same, or that one includes the other. On the other hand, I consider them to be strongly related on these grounds:

Good implies some success in communication, at some level. If your piece is Unpopular, that implies that people, generally, dislike looking at it (or listening to it, or whatever) and THAT is an impediment to communication. There is Good work which is Unpopular, I think, but I can rarely pull an example out of my hat. It's definitely possible in theory.

So, I tend to conflate them occasionally, or at least fail to keep them properly separate, especially if what I'm talking about is specifically that communication element, which exists in some sort of zone "mostly" shared by the two ideas.
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Rob C
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2012, 09:10:12 AM »
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Unpopular is sometimes unpopular because it tells the viewer something he'd rather not know, and in that sense, communication has actually been achieved in manner most successful, if unpopular.

Apart from the hopeless problem of second-guessing the shooter's situation and intent at the time of the shot, there's the additional one of ego: it takes more than a fair share of same to pontificate about another's work, and I find that some emperors are far more naked than others. To be truthful -and why not? - I can't think of a single photographer whose work I respect, deeply, who engages in the ritual. Could be my slipping memory... but!

Rob C
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amolitor
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« Reply #8 on: July 23, 2012, 09:17:16 AM »
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Any photographer who teaches, or taught -- and there have been a few -- has surely engaged in the ritual!
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RSL
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« Reply #9 on: July 23, 2012, 11:25:21 AM »
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Rob, if I had time I could give you several quotes from HCB that do exactly that, though he doesn't identify any photographers by name, but my D800 just arrived, so I'm busy.
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Rob C
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« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2012, 05:00:57 PM »
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Any photographer who teaches, or taught -- and there have been a few -- has surely engaged in the ritual!



And how many top, professional (and still working) photographers do you know who want to, or have the time, to teach?

Those photographers who do 'teach' have no alternative but to offer critique: it comes with the expectations, part of the package for which the punter parts with his pennies.

Rob C
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amolitor
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« Reply #11 on: July 23, 2012, 05:27:13 PM »
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How does one learn to make photographs, Rob?

Having taken some painting classes, I have a rough idea how that works. Surely you don't subscribe to a magical "it cannot be taught, you either have it or you do not" school?
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Dave (Isle of Skye)
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« Reply #12 on: July 23, 2012, 06:50:53 PM »
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And how many top, professional (and still working) photographers do you know who want to, or have the time, to teach?

Rob C

Jay Maisel - http://www.jaymaisel.com/
Tony Sweet - http://tonysweet.com/workshops/
Alain Briot - http://www.beautiful-landscape.com/Workshop-home.html
Charlie Waite - http://www.charliewaite.com/workshops
David Noton - http://www.davidnoton.com/44/Workshops/
Joe Cornish - http://www.joecornishgallery.co.uk/workshops

I stopped looking after a few minutes, as everyone I could think of off the top of my head, seems to teach, write books and make time to run workshops etc, so what was your point exactly?

Roll Eyes

Dave
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michswiss
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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2012, 07:10:28 PM »
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I'm no person to offer thoughts on how to critique.  I wouldn't think I'd be qualified in any instance.  I post on the forum to get feedback and responses to those that love to take photographs, love to look at photographs or both.  It's probably a bigger benefit to me when I'm editing than actually capturing.


Dave,

Of the photogs you listed, all seem to be landscape specialist with the exception of Jay Maisel who is retired from commercial work.  Which says to me that there's not much of a living to be made in that genre without something supplementing it.  You don't see as many professional photojournalists or fashion shooters actively sprooking workshops. Documentary photographers seem to fall somewhere in between.

(Before you mention it, I'm aware that even Magnum offers workshops periodically)
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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2012, 07:12:53 PM »
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I think another problem with critique is that when you never stray outside your peer group (or clique) you sometimes fall into ruts of encouraging people more than telling them when they suck.  It is very hard to tell a friend that something they hold up as art is--in your opinion--rubbish.  Sometimes here at LuLa, there seem to be people trying to be encouraging instead of honest.  Though, as a flaw, that is probably not the worst thing that could be said of a group of people.
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« Reply #15 on: July 23, 2012, 07:18:30 PM »
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Jay Maisel - http://www.jaymaisel.com/
Tony Sweet - http://tonysweet.com/workshops/
Alain Briot - http://www.beautiful-landscape.com/Workshop-home.html
Charlie Waite - http://www.charliewaite.com/workshops
David Noton - http://www.davidnoton.com/44/Workshops/
Joe Cornish - http://www.joecornishgallery.co.uk/workshops

I stopped looking after a few minutes, as everyone I could think of off the top of my head, seems to teach, write books and make time to run workshops etc, so what was your point exactly?

Roll Eyes

Dave


LOL... and ME... LOL... and whilst it could never be truly ascertained.... I would like to think that I did have some input and play a part in 'teaching'... and guiding my own students to produce the work that they are developing and producing - which is way better than my own! :-)

Julie
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michswiss
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« Reply #16 on: July 23, 2012, 07:21:20 PM »
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I think another problem with critique is that when you never stray outside your peer group (or clique) you sometimes fall into ruts of encouraging people more than telling them when they suck.  It is very hard to tell a friend that something they hold up as art is--in your opinion--rubbish.  Sometimes here at LuLa, there seem to be people trying to be encouraging instead of honest.  Though, as a flaw, that is probably not the worst thing that could be said of a group of people.

Well I can say ever time I try to post a landscape of some form, I'm told I suck.  Tongue  Then they tell me to go take more shots of people in the wild.  I think my next image is going to be another landscape.
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popnfresh
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« Reply #17 on: July 23, 2012, 10:38:08 PM »
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Well I can say ever time I try to post a landscape of some form, I'm told I suck.

Oh, I don't know about that. I, for one, thought your Pudong Airport shots were really good.

Oh wow, this is my 900th LuLa post. I think I'll pour myself some scotch.
« Last Edit: July 23, 2012, 10:44:10 PM by popnfresh » Logged
stamper
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« Reply #18 on: July 24, 2012, 02:56:20 AM »
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Quote opgr

I am a firm believer that if you are not willing to tell the truth, it will hamper change. And no change is no growth. And no growth is a premature death…

Unquote

Are you confusing opinion with truth? Whilst you may think what you are saying is the truth in reality it is only an opinion. Now what is the definition of truth?
« Last Edit: July 24, 2012, 02:58:12 AM by stamper » Logged

Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: July 24, 2012, 03:18:03 AM »
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Jay Maisel - http://www.jaymaisel.com/
Tony Sweet - http://tonysweet.com/workshops/
Alain Briot - http://www.beautiful-landscape.com/Workshop-home.html
Charlie Waite - http://www.charliewaite.com/workshops
David Noton - http://www.davidnoton.com/44/Workshops/
Joe Cornish - http://www.joecornishgallery.co.uk/workshops

I stopped looking after a few minutes, as everyone I could think of off the top of my head, seems to teach, write books and make time to run workshops etc, so what was your point exactly?

Roll Eyes

Dave



None of these people rates for much in my sense of definition about successful professionals. (Jay's been around so long he deserves a medal for that - also the exception that proves a rule).

In fact, it strikes me that they are mostly into the very business of teaching rather than of photography. Waite and Cornish have done some travel book illustration in the sense of commissioned work and then they have produced for themselves, but it's all aimed at the amateur photographer and not a lot to do with commercial photography, where the real business is, where the real critical eyes reside.

Noton seems much the same and the website is nothing more than a shop, and not one I'd frequent or pop on my 'favourites' either.

In other words, when someone steps into those tripod holes, they are not professional photographers they are professional 'art photographers' and teachers. A pro deals with clients, a teacher with students, and that's far easier.

Since you asked, that was my point exactly, much as Jennifer has pointed out in her reply before me.

Rob C
« Last Edit: July 24, 2012, 03:24:25 AM by Rob C » Logged

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