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Author Topic: On Critique  (Read 8308 times)
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« Reply #40 on: July 25, 2012, 09:37:04 PM »
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Ansel Adams and Walker Evans both taught.

I'm just sayin'.


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« Reply #41 on: July 26, 2012, 06:35:44 AM »
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So did Garry Winogrand.
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« Reply #42 on: July 26, 2012, 07:54:30 AM »
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So did Garry Winogrand.

Winogrand taught and mentored a family friend of ours early in his career.  It would have been sometime in the 1970's.  I somehow remember it was associated with a university program, but I'm not sure.
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WalterEG
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« Reply #43 on: July 26, 2012, 07:55:21 AM »
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Ansel Adams and Walker Evans both taught.

I'm just sayin'.


Walker Evans COULD, the jury is still out on Adams.

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« Reply #44 on: July 26, 2012, 07:59:22 AM »
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Those who can, DO.  Those who can't TEACH.



I've always taken umbrage with this phrase.  Both my parents were teachers as are two of my brothers.  They CAN TEACH thus they do.  In the case of my father, a musician and conductor, he can also DO.

I understand sentiment though.  There are certainly those that aspire to the Peter Principle and when they get there, decide to share their experiences with others.
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« Reply #45 on: July 26, 2012, 09:43:44 AM »
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I've spent this evening coaching folks wanting to learn more about night photography.  I do it as a favour for a friend when the groups become too big.  I "critique" and advise during the process to their level and background.  It's not a formal workshop as it runs weekly, but it's enjoyable mainly because the people that come are there simply to take pictures and have some fun.  I might help one or two of them get a better shot.

My assumption is that anyone that achieves excellence in their field will "teach" and/or critique (said differently, mentor) other's efforts as a natural part of their work.  It's probably the most valuable aspect of having a mentor or being an apprentice.  To get anything out of it, both parties need to be invested in the process and care about longer-term outcomes.

But it isn't the same thing as marketing workshops.  That's a money making exercise and a job in itself.


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« Reply #46 on: July 26, 2012, 09:53:08 AM »
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Jennifer, Both my parents were teachers at one time or another. My mother was a high school English teacher for decades, beginning when my brother and I were in our early teens and she no longer had to be home constantly for us. Two of my grandparents were teachers, and four of my uncles and aunts were teachers. I taught computer science for a while at college level, and I did a lot of teaching during my 26 years in the Air Force.

And yet I often use the phrase: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." That phrase doesn't apply to people who teach because they're good at it and want to do it. It applies to those who, for instance, desperately wanted to be photographers but didn't have the God-given ability to recognize a good photograph when they saw it. Someone like that may be perfectly capable of teaching the mechanics of photography, post-processing, etc., or the application of photography to, say, photojournalism or advertising, but photography as an art form escapes them. In that sense the phrase is useful and descriptive.
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« Reply #47 on: July 26, 2012, 09:58:18 AM »
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I am perfectly happy to accept application of the sentiment. I'm pretty sure I'm better at recognizing good work and talking about why it's good than I am at creating new good work. While I wish I were a mighty artist, I'm not, and that's ok with me.
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« Reply #48 on: July 26, 2012, 10:50:52 AM »
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Ansel Adams and Walker Evans both taught...

In fairness to Rob's point of view, it is not whether photographers can teach... it is about whether photographers can learn. And Rob is talking about creativity, not mechanics of photography.
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« Reply #49 on: July 26, 2012, 05:48:26 PM »
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Yes, Slobodan's right; anyone can teach photographic technique in the sense of the mechanics, but being a photographer takes something else.

Beyond simple, mechanical abilty and/or creative ability, it takes a commitment that few are able to make (I'm speaking pro) or dedicated enough to make, if only because when you have it, you aren't thinking about the odds stacked way over your head against you surviving even the first year out in the big bad world, you just friggin' have no option: you are compelled by your own nature to find the work to feed the habit, and habit it damned sure is.

Teaching. I neither have nor offer any downer on professional teachers. My own daughter and her husband are teachers (and I've even had Teachers Whisky as clients), but where I do find a problem is with photographers who fail to make it as such and take up peddling photography lessons yet insist that they are still bona fide professionals. They are neither pro snappers nor pro teachers, in my view; at best, they strike me as lukewarm, probably very well-intentioned, but neither fish nor fowl.

Part of my family is here with me just now, spending a couple of weeks in the sunshine (we hope) and tonight I took them along to a gig where my muso mates were playing. Now there's another form of pure dedication: you could catch the tiredness in the eyes at some moments, and yet seconds later, as some little bit of improvisation worked out well, the cheer was instantly back in the faces. Think of doing this at every gig you can find, and they are few and far between in this economy now, and you realise just what bloody hard work it is being creative in a bar or restaurant. Yet, they want nothing else. And there, again, the 'teaching' sometimes comes into play if only to make ends meet. Talent ain't always enough...

Hell, we do what we can do, and some do it better than others and get nowhere whilst others just seem to get everywhere on thin air.

It takes a little madness.

Rob C
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« Reply #50 on: July 26, 2012, 08:41:03 PM »
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I guess I'll add my two cents worth to this. Slobodan's right, and so is Rob. I crack up when I read the ads in Pop Photo or Shutterbug for "workshops" where everybody traipses out and shoots roughly the same stuff followed by critiques and "mentoring" by the "pro."

Let's face it, as Rob and Slobodan and I have pointed out on other occasions, "pro" is an economic term. It means the "pro" makes a living on photography, or in the case of a "semi-pro," makes a buck on photography, but would starve if he tried to live on it. The term doesn't say a damned thing about the pro's ability to make a decent photograph. If you don't believe "pros" can't make bad photographs, walk down the main street in any small town and look in the windows of the "pro" photographers' shops.

As HCB pointed out, there's really nothing important about the technical side of photography you can't learn by reading the instruction manual that came, along with the camera's beautiful leather case. Of course he said that back in the days when you got a leather case with your camera, but the guts of his statement stand, though nowadays you'll need a book on Photoshop too. Then there's the idea of a "mentor." There may be such a thing in the flesh, but it seems to me the best mentors are books of photographs by the masters. A "mentor" always will have a single person's point of view and do things a certain way. By the time you've gone through the list of masters from Atget to McCurry you've been exposed to dozens of points of view and seen great photographers do things in dozens of different ways. Somewhere in there you probably are going to find your own metier.

Artistic ability is born, not taught, though being able to put the ability to work takes an incredible amount of study, labor, and practice. Nearly every great photographer was self-taught. I say "nearly" because even though I can't think of an exception there may be one. Several had training in painting.
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« Reply #51 on: July 26, 2012, 11:49:35 PM »
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Nearly every great photographer was self-taught.

Historically, I am sure that is true. Whether it will remain so is another matter. A lot more training in photography is available today. Historically, every great novelist was self-taught, but a lot of decent ones seem to have done creative writing degrees these days. Will it have any impact on the quality of novels, or of photographs? I doubt it. As to what is important, I suspect they will still have to be self-taught.
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« Reply #52 on: July 27, 2012, 01:00:14 AM »
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...As to what is important, I suspect they will still have to be self-taught...
I think that you are right Ken.

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Tony Jay
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« Reply #53 on: July 27, 2012, 02:13:55 PM »
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So haven't we gone full circle here?

Whereby the act of giving and receiving critique is part of the self teaching process? Artist of whatever hue, very rarely stumble into the world fully formed and complete, they need encouragement and feedback to help them evolve.

I know of no photographer from any avenue of photography, who hasn't gone through this process - I believe it would be impossible to succeed without it. Therefore I would argue that all photographers teach and are taught in one way or another.

Dave
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« Reply #54 on: July 28, 2012, 03:33:50 AM »
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Dave, self-teaching by looking and learning from magazines, movies, tv, photo-books, from assisting on commercial shoots etc, is an entirely different concept from going to a school or club or whatever and having some guy pontificate in your face about where you should have stood, which stop you should have used, what your image is or is not 'saying' and on and on. That makes the 'teacher' appear a fountain of knowledge in the eye of the neophyte but in reality, it's much ado about next to nothing; its the suit of armour that makes the flimsy product inside appear substantial.

Of course there are subjects where direct teaching is the only way of spreading understanding of something without the need to reinvent any wheel; photography isn't, in my opinion, one of those. Hell's teeth, basic camera manuals explain all anyone needs to know about stops and their relationship with depth of field, shutters and their action-stopping capabilities. What's left to teach?

Regarding content, that's where peope are best left to themselves for pretty much every reason that I can think of that will impact upon the individual's development as an individual.

I agree that few stumble into this world as fully-formed artists, but I would add that nobody stumbles into it as anything but an artist to achieve that state of grace or distress later on!

Rob C
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« Reply #55 on: July 28, 2012, 05:17:04 AM »
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Regarding content, that's where peope are best left to themselves for pretty much every reason that I can think of that will impact upon the individual's development as an individual.

I agree that few stumble into this world as fully-formed artists, but I would add that nobody stumbles into it as anything but an artists to achieve that state of grace or distress later on!


Rob, I believe you are too caught up in some kind of anti-authoritarian state of mind.

I think our language acquisition skills may serve as a useful example:

If you had a good teacher you learned how to use language creatively early in life, and thus you have more time to further develop your creativity and personality.

If you had a bad teacher you had to learn how to use language creatively by yourself, and it will likely have taken you longer to acquire that certain level from which you can further develop your individual creativity and personality.

And I'm not trying to explicate the intricate and subtle vagaries of growing up in just a mere 2 sentences, but I do believe it illustrates perfectly were teaching fits in considering the grander scheme of life. In that respect I also believe that there are some additional points to consider in regards to the responsibility of knowledge and teaching as an interaction between people.

Some teachers teach not because they can't do, but because they like to share their knowledge and like to interact with people. Truly great photographers or even truly great exponents in any discipline, have likely become great specifically because of their understanding of human nature and their willingness to interact with people, with an open mind, and as diversely as they are.

And, once you acquire a certain level of skill and know how you formed your own individual personality, style, and opinion, then it may perhaps become your responsibility to share that knowledge for others to also be able to more easily form their individual character, style and personality. It advances the entire group as a whole, photographers, artist or even humanity as a whole.

I would say it can even be considered a moral obligation. That may sound a little hyperbole, but if you expect other people to appreciate or respect your expressions of Art, then you should understand that you have an obligation to respect your audience as well. And that does not particularly include respecting cultural boundaries or limitations, far from it, but comes in the more subtle form of transferring of knowledge relevant to the advancement of the group as a whole. (Which good Art is likely doing as well).
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« Reply #56 on: July 28, 2012, 10:07:29 AM »
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"Rob, I believe you are too caught up in some kind of anti-authoritarian state of mind.

I think our language acquisition skills may serve as a useful example:"



I don't buy either idea. I have no fight with authority and I certainly don't look upon photographic 'teachers' as authorities at all - that's much my point: there are no such real authorities in photography; all anyone can teach is stuff like PS and other technicalities. Nobody can teach anyone else how to see or think for themselves.

Language skills are nothing at all to do with it and not even close as disciplines. In fact, language skills depend very much upon learning rules and regulations of usage, the very opposite of photographic art. Where the two are similar, though, is that whilst many can master grammar, few can write which, if anything, proves my point yet again.

My point? You have it or you have it not.

Rob C

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« Reply #57 on: July 28, 2012, 10:56:20 AM »
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Nobody can teach anyone else how to see or think for themselves.

Huh Care to elaborate? Seems a blow in the face of every decent parent and teacher in the world.

Language skills are nothing at all to do with it and not even close as disciplines. In fact, language skills depend very much upon learning rules and regulations of usage, the very opposite of photographic art. Where the two are similar, though, is that whilst many can master grammar, few can write which, if anything, proves my point yet again.

That's so contradictory, it isn't even funny. Perhaps you could try and adapt to other people's suggested parallels and use those to enlighten the rest of us, instead of dismissing them a priori.

You realize that the study of language is relatively recent? That most of us apparently recognize a well-formed sentence, but apart from a few linguists, none of us can verbalize the rules? Is there ever a sentence you utter where you thank your teachers for the rules you learned so you can form a reasonable piece of communication?

Would you rather learn language from someone who can teach you grammar, but hasn't got the faintest idea how to verbalize emotions? Or from someone "who can write"? Why would a true writer not make a great teacher? Which is meant as a parallel to: why wouldn't a great Artist not make a good educator? idem great photographer? Isn't true Art that they produce educating us at some level or another? Especially regarding independent thinking?



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« Reply #58 on: July 28, 2012, 11:01:50 AM »
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Teacher: "This is how you produce shallow depth of field!"

Student: "Wow, nice effect. Where would I use that?"

Teacher: "I don't care."
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« Reply #59 on: July 28, 2012, 11:17:46 AM »
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... Why would a true writer not make a great teacher?...

That's the same question my classmates and I asked: "why can't we have those guys to teach us?" You see, my business school likes to brag about having the largest number of Nobel Prize laureates (for economics). The answer was: "You really, really wouldn't want those guys to teach you." There is a profound difference between knowing something and knowing how to convey that to others (other than peers, that is). Not just knowing how, but being willing, interested in, etc.
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