Critcs and Critiques

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Ed Sukach, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    I have a few "confessions" to make.

    I have posted a few images to the Critique gallery ... not because I see Critiques as some sort of invaluable learning tool - I have never been able to connect learning with masochism, but as a way to gage interest in my work from the surrounding community and ....

    It has been said, and I agree, wholly, that the "Critique speaks more of the Critic than the work." I concur, but I wold make this more intense ... the Critics really define themselves by their critiques.

    An important part of art is in the "selection" process.... I "cull" my work, constantly. Once in a while (ahem!) I will find something that "entrances, enraptures, grabs" - me. I would like to share with others that emotional response ...IF POSSIBLE .. it feels damn GOOD! I'm fairly sure one or two will react similarly... and, the others ... Ricky Nelson's Garden Party ... "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

    The critiques speak volumes about mindsets, relationships to others, levels of sensitivity, ability to listen, empathizing and seeing through the eyes of others. There is also an indication of flexibility ... does the critic "slam" work not his/her own? Does the landscape photographer speak evil, or glowingly - when it comes to commenting on portraiture?
    It is nearly a knee-jerk reaction of mine, now. I read a critique and immediately go to the responder's Public Profile. It is really interesting how many will pronounce profound judgement, taking stock of every perceived "flaw" - and when we look to their work for guidance as a positive source of what THEY think is "good" - find that there is none -- they have not posted anything. Not that I consider that a requirement, but it is additional information into their "Being".

    And that sums it up - I value critiques for the insights they provide into - not my work - but into the critics' BEING.

    One thing puzzles me - the automatic assumption that the "neophyte" has NO idea of merit - that the real trouble with them is they don't KNOW what is "good" and what is "bad". Unfortunately, I don't consider myself a neophyte any longer ... and I will freely admit to not KNOWING either ... that is, "not knowing with any degree of certainty." I have spent a great deal of time listening to my own reactions ... and marvelling at why they occur. I don't KNOW that, either.

    APUG is a great resource. The information exchange is wonderful, and it is a great place to interact with kindred souls. The others - well - ALL souls are just not kindred.
     
  2. mark

    mark Member

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    Huh?
     
  3. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    You know Ed you have interesting musings. Why don't you start up a members journal for your mental meanderings? Just a thought. Oh my God what does this say about me??!!
     
  4. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Hmmm... well, I'm not sure where I stand in your judgement, but I will offer my comments (critiques? :smile: of your note here...

    I'm a recent subscriber, and have found the Critique Gallery one of the best features of the site. I am not a professional photographer, but merely a hobbiest. As such, and with no formal photography education, I find the Critique Gallery a great learning tool.

    I believe that collaboration is the essence of learning, and the opportunity to both critique and be critiqued is a wonderful way to advance one's own skill in assessing an image.

    I have purposely posted my own judgement of others images, and then followed up in the thread to see if others agreed or disagreed. By this I am able to exercise my own eye and calibrate against the views of many others as well as the original photographer.

    Similarly, I have chosen my best images to be critiqued here, and have valued the input.

    I do note that there appears to be an unspoken culture that if you really don't like the image, don't hammer it with a negative comment. Thus, I note that several of my images got lots of views but no comments. I take that as feedback, and even the non-comment helps me with my own art.

    I like to see what others say about my work. I prefer that people are genuinely critical - giving me feedback, good or bad, on composition, lighting, technical details within the image, etc. I do not expect only positive feedback, and I do expect that others will not see what I saw in the image.

    For me, if I only want a pat on the back, I'll place the image in the Standard Gallery. If I want objective, and sometimes painful, critique, I'll put it in the Critique Gallery.

    I do hope others will appreciate my feedback in the spirit it is given, and I expect the same in return. And in my case, if I offend I am happy to receive a private message pointing out my offense, and I will be prompt with an apology.

    I really like this resource. I think it is advancing me as a photographer. Thanks APUG!

    -chuck
     
  5. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Interesting musing Ed. I have a different take in critiques. First, I only critique images that I like. because the critiquing process for me is about determining what I like about an image. Second, I determine what I don't like about the image. I try to avoid statements like "crop this..." because, in most cases I really don't know what the photographer is trying to say, and because I don't know their likes/dislikes, and I don't choose to inject my likes/disklikes into the process.

    I use the critique process to improve my own work.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I much prefer critiquing photo's that I can hold in my hand and when the person who took the picture is standing there so, like Robert, I can ask and understand what it is they are attempting with the image.

    As far as Ed's post -- I don't have a response. As far as Ed's figure studies go. I love them and suspect I would like them more in person. I like the high key, and I like it when there is more contrast or even blacks. I like the poses they are generally not the self conscious, contrived poses that scream "See I am fine art because I am in this <insert stupid art phrase> pose -- I'm not an excuse to document another young nubile body" Is this making sense? Who cares?

    The work has, IM-not so-HO merit. The colour is sometimes a bit wonky, but I like this too. Even though the wonkieness may be a digital artifact or unintended.

    Back to the News Hour (its pledge week and I've pledged not to hear them beg).
     
  7. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I read through the criticisms on your images and you are right, the critiques do speak of the critics. They were uniformly honest, thoughtful and constructive reactions to the photographs that you posted.
     
  8. chuck94022

    chuck94022 Subscriber

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    Me too! Ed, can I come to your studio during a shoot too???? :smile:

    -chuck
     
  9. djklmnop

    djklmnop Member

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    I think the biggest problem with critiquing a photo on a website is that many people do not provide enough information to go by.. I see an image and I can talk all day about the composition and how the image makes me feel. I can also say an image is muddy or lacks shadow detail, but without information on how the negative was executed or printed, we wouldn't know the first route to take in helping the photographer correct the error.

    I try to never comment on cropping as well, unless they are new to photography. I also feel the artist crops an image a certain way for a reason, and I can only accept it as it is presented.

    Critiquing an image is quite easy. What's difficult is actually receiving a critique, rather. All of our work is part of us as a photographer and we tend to take any negative criticism as a personal attack. The hardest part is to accept the critique and apply them to the next photograph we take. My heart sinks when I see people come back with the same shoddy image over and over again even after they've been told what to avoid or how to correct certain problems.

    In regards to viewing someone's portfolio in return, I think it is our natural instinct to. It's all about credentials. If a homeless man gives you advice on running a profitable business, would you take his advice over, say... Bill Gates? Okay, bad example, but you get my point! If you don't find the same quality from the person that is expecting so much from you, then it becomes nothing more than a double standard.

    Andy
     
  10. Sino

    Sino Member

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    Let me start by saying i'm really just getting started with photography -- and that these are personal views i'll be further describing.

    So, when i started taking pictures seriously and asking for advice from the only pro i knew [and that happened to be... my father] i started to realise what bugs me until the time i'm writing this: closed minds. Yeah, i can take all the technical critique and use it to my advance -- now.

    I used to be close minded myself, on the other side though. I hated all the technical stuff of taking a picture and printing it. I experimented with everything, and, well, if the result looked good to me i was happy. What? Apperture? Yeah, i like cinammon cookies myself, thank you very much.

    After that age and way of thinking, i've discovered how the "technical stuff" i so much disliked could actually make my photographs look better and help the viewer understand how i was thinking and why i shot this -- what the image is about, in short words. Then, i moved on to asking technical critique -- "is this crop ok, or do you prefer this one?", "are the tones here OK? Should i increase contrast?".

    But my worry until now is... subjects. I shoot random things. Anything that comes to mind, anything that triggers me. So why should i apologise for that? Even if the results do not look good, one can simply view another thing on his screen or let my negative and prints album alone, go out for coffee, have sex or view the news on his TV. Why bother so much?

    It's a conclusion i've came through: people like seeing things common to them, so they can offer their help. Most photographers i know [from close] really stick on to a subject or a series of subjects close one another and critisise badly or "ignore" everything else. So yeah, if "art" [in which i do not believe, i prefer "expression"] and "artists" are supposed to be so open-minded, why all this negativity? Why not do what makes you happy and let others alone doing what makes them happy?

    I can not offer any help with the tech-stuff on anybody's image, so i simply don't comment his or her technique. He/she probaby has a reason for using it. I do comment on images that i like and i usually explain what i like about them though. And i hope that helps... =)


    -Sino.
     
  11. Daniel Grenier

    Daniel Grenier Member

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    Art Critique: One definition?

    The guy who sits in the passenger's seat, knows & shows the way but can't drive the car.

    But seriously, do you feel unable to put into art-speak your feelings about a piece of art? Do you, too, like some of those ACs, want the gift of Critical Response to the Art Product (or CRAP)?

    Simply use this link below and you too can instantly add matching verbiage to any photograph. All you have to do is enter a 5 digit value you place on a piece of art work. For instance, I felt a 12345 value best reflected my feelings about a certain EW photograph. With the help of this wonderful tool, my feelings magically appeared into words: "With regard to the issue of content, the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships brings within the realm of discourse the distinctive formal juxtapositions." My thoughts exactly :rolleyes:

    So here you are, budding Art Critiques, your troubles are over. Go forth and inflict us all with your cryptic verbal diarrhea easily and effrortlessly. Better yet, have that car drive into the ditch why don't you.

    http://www.pixmaven.com/phrase_generator.html
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2005
  12. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I very rarely comment in the critique gallery. Mainly because I see the majority of work there demonstrating photographic skills far in excess of my own, I therefore do not feel qualified to give a serious critique.
    Another reason is many critiques seem to go out of their way to focus on the negative aspects of a photograph. Personally I never see anything wrong with any photo I view, I may see things I would have done differently, but that does not mean the photographer has made a mistake.
    Also I have lost count of how many times I have seen 'lacking contrast/saturation/sharpness etc' written, I honestly don't see how anyone can comment on anything other than composition, given that every monitor is different?

    If I like a photograph I'll say so, if I don't I see no reason to attempt to impose my personal tastes on others in a 'critique'.

    Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every beholder has a different eye.
     
  13. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    You are welcome, anytime. Just don't pop in unannounced.
     
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  15. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Thanks, Daniel. That added necessary "lightness" to a "dark" discussion!

    I LOVE that automated critique site!!! The great mystery is how it was made to be SO relevant without any specific input from the works themselves ... :rolleyes:
     
  16. blackmelas

    blackmelas Subscriber

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    First I should say that I spent 8 years in architecture/art school where a critique meant that more or less knowledgable people (professors) stripped you naked for your colleagues to see. In spite of these negative memories (that I sense many people here might have as well) I will probably continue to _only_ post my photos to the critique gallery. I'll have to look to see how and what people said about Ed's work but Apugers have been very sensitive to me and my work. I feel as if the critique gallery is one place where I can be honest and sensitive and get an honest opinion in return. I comment on anything that I feel about the photo, composition included, not because I want to trash a work but by placing it there the photographer is asking for an honest opinion. I put my work there because I'm too invested in it and I want to know how it is perceived by other eyes. If I think a critic is wrong about my work, I suck it up and thank that person with that same words that I use for another critic that praised me. I'm with Chuck, the citicism that I receive from people here is helping me grow as a photographer.
    James
     
  17. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    What a riot that link is! Here's one of the two phrases that I got from it.

    Umm... the disjunctive perturbation of the sexy fish notates the substructure of critical thinking.

    ROFLMAO! :D
     
  18. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    How does one judge "shoddiness?"

    A short anecdote:

    I am the "curator" of a modest public Gallery, owned by the Town, and accepting a wide variety of work from artists of every station and ilk.
    One of the exhibitors was a Roman Catholic Nun.

    We got to schmoozing (with all the practice I've had, I should be far better at that than I am) and she asked to see my portfolio. I think, from my submissions here, you may have some idea of its contents. I said, "Uh... I do a lot of figure study work." She replied, "That's OK ... I appreciate ALL art."

    With the assurance that I would not get my knuckles rapped with a ruler, I hesitatingly gave her the portfolio. She proceeded to - really LOOK at each image, and then started her critique: "Nice image, but, the background is too cluttered -the hands should have been placed - so; Cropping like this would have been the way to go...."

    After fifteen minutes of this, with me standing there with my hat in my hands... She looked up...

    "You're not going to do any of this, are you?

    Me: "No."

    RCN: "Good!!! I wouldn't either. This is your work, and trying to mix it with the vision of anyone else can only degrade it. Keep it your own. Nothing is more important."

    There has been a lot written here about how it is right and proper to administer strong, bitter tasting "medicine" to each other in the form of sharp criticism, justifying the total lack of social grace, or mercy, with, "It's for your/ their own good."

    Nah! I submit that the most effective way to ALLOW a photographer / artist to realize their potential is to loosen the soil around their roots, and to apply the nurture of positive re-inforcement.

    DO NOT hammer them into the boxes of our choosing... that can only stunt their true growth.

    One last thought ... we here in Ipswich have been studying, and trying to find ways of dealing with "Bullying" in the School System. This is by no means, an isolated problem, and it has been shown to have a severe negative effect on the quality of education.
    I can't help but wonder - constructive criticism is good; the problem is in determining which is "constructive" and which really fits best into the "bullying" slot.
     
  19. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Great story Ed!!

    My story is about how people in positions of power can be blind; how people with more experience and knowledge than you can get it totally wrong.

    I was accepted to a fine arts college with nothing but 4x5 B&W contact prints in my portfolio...there were no sketches, drawings, or paintings in it. They let me in on the strength of my compositions, but felt that I could reveal more tones in my prints with further work in the darkroom.

    I took the same contact prints to the head of the photography program at the same college...he said my printing was good, but that my compositions were weak! Moral: never blindly accept the advice of others, no matter who they may be.

    In the last sentence of that Nun's critique, she gave the best advice for artists of all time!!

    Murray
     
  20. SteveGangi

    SteveGangi Member

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    I am in the same boat as AndyK. I look at many of the photos posted as "this is how it should be done", sort of a self-teaching thing. I am also aware that a jpeg is not the same as the original print or slide.
     
  21. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Unfortunately, a lot of people have this idea that critiquing an image, means talking about the negative (bad) aspect of the image. Try concentrating on what you like about the image; anyone can do that, regardless of your skill level. It does bring value to the photographer, if they have any sense, because it allows the photographer to see if what they were trying to convey in the image actually got across. When we get hung up on details that may not be perfect, that message doesn't always come across. It is a good way of refining your technique.
     
  22. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    When I first came here, I was very reluctant to comment on photos in the gallery...especially the critique gallery. I was given good advice...'add your voice to the chorus!' is what it amounted to. I started putting in my meager 2cents & I found that I learned from looking at those photos. I think it's a good thing to give your input...especially when no one else seems to be looking. :wink:

    It's really easy to look at photos taken by people we consider to be really good. You see the comments...all the 'players' are there. But we have so much talent here that I have to wonder... does talent demand a price in the form of giving to the non-stars?

    I have no clue! But I think it would be a great service to those of us who are not masters!
     
  23. Joe Symchyshyn

    Joe Symchyshyn Member

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    As someone who has added critiques to Ed's images... I'll follow up to his comments.

    IN MY CASE, I comment on work that interests me or that I might have some comments on because I do similar work. While it may be true that critiques reflect the critiquer in some regards... I also read a subtle undertone that says "if you don't constantly praise the work, you must have some issues yourself."

    This can be looked at 2 ways...

    Either the critiquee can't/doesn't want honest opinions and is just seeking praise, and the critiquer is trying to help.

    or

    Perhaps the critiquer does have an agenda that is inappropriately being presented, and the critiquee is being wrongly "helped" because of it.

    Personally, I feel that I tend to critique work technically. With no background on the image other than technical information, I only have the pose, colour, style etc... to critique. I think expecting people to respond to images based on intangible elements that only the photographer would know is a bit unrealistic.

    As for critiquers not having their own images up... To each their own. Does a music critic need to be a virtuoso of the same instrument to know what is good or bad or in-between? I don't think so... In my case I started to upload some images, had some comments made, messages were posted about shortfalls in the gallery for storage, so decided to help by eliminating my own gallery space. I've yet to repost any images as I don't have a scanner hooked up at home.

    Just a critique on my critiques...

    joe
     
  24. djklmnop

    djklmnop Member

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    In some respects, this is true, but I don't think there is anything wrong with the critiquer constantly being harsh, providing that the critique is sincere and not for the sake of being spiteful. Some people just have really high expectations and to become a perfectionist, that just may be neccessary. That's why Ansel Adams was so lauded as a master technician, would one discount his credibility simply because he was continuously griping about certain aspects of an image? I think not. That is why we generally react by viewing the critiquer's portfolio in return.

    I think the problem with most photographers is that they have no concept of what "good" is.. Rarely is there an original concept in photography. Our works are usually influenced in one form or another by what we see as good. Some people look to American Photo magazine, or Outdoor Photography for their definition of good and hold themselves to that standard. Others look at Ansel Adams, or Weston and hold themselves to that standard. Others immitate postcards at the local gift shop. It's all about preference.

    I've stated this many times, but her goes again: Photography is as difficult as one wants to make it. You can stop at aperture and shutter and still create an image, or you can work with the zone system, or you can dive into sensitometry, or you can plate your own negatives.. That's what makes photography so great, it never ends. Don't blame the critiquer for holding such high standards on an image, it's not their fault they are so critical :smile:
     
  25. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    Reason I haven't put any of the things in my personal gallery into the critique gallery yet is that those are the only things I've scanned. I have other stuff that I consider stronger but have not yet scanned. What I'm saying is that I have a basic understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in my work, and do a lot of self-critiquing. When I get other things scanned, I'll put them in the lion's den for you guys to have at 'em.

    Some of our work is strong, some is not. A friend of mine once said he felt he had a good year if he got ten really strong images. And he probably made a few hundred 4x5 negs a year, as a serious, full-time, gallery-represented photographer. We know that certain images have a quality that raises them above the crowd. These are the ones that have staying power, and have drawn a response from many people over time.

    Criticism is an essential tool in all the arts. Too bad it has become so embarrassing, and in many cases an "in group" kind of nepotism. But it's still needed. With media like photography and now self-publishing (of poetry, etc.) it's easy to produce a finished product, but it's all become so ubiquitous that the really good work gets drowned by the mediocre work. It used to be the job of critics to help sort it all out.

    If you don't accept that some work is better or stronger, then this entire conversation seems ridiculous. But if you do think there's at least SOME kind of reasonably objective standard to aim for, then you might agree that criticism is essential to the artist's growth, and to the betterment of the medium.
     
  26. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    So many replies ... so little time...

    First, Joe ... I've never said, and I've been very careful to avoid implying, that one had to post to be enabled to critique. A critique is a reaction and everyone can and will react - no prior qualifications necessary. Yes, I am seeking "honesty" ... where is it mandated that honesty is necessarily accompanied by a lack of sensitivity to the feelings of others?

    You speak of two (2) possibilities - "The critiquee doesn't WANT honest opinions, seeking only praise ", and "The Critic could have some sort of hidden agenda...". I maintain there are other possibilities, many others - possibly as many as there are people.

    I want to share, and to a lesser degree, learn about the reactions of others to my work. That is why I submit my work for critique.

    Praise? Praise is good, but, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I certainly will not lose sleep over its absence. I'm already losing sleep over the "grey card" thing.

    I can hear it now ... "But .. but ... how can you expect to improve ...?"

    The way I always have - by DOING. Stillman Clarke called it: "Shoot, shoot, and shoot some more. It will come. It WILL!"

    Let's try to reduce this, and lessen some of the energy by considering an illustration away from the photography field:
    A child is learning to ride a bicycle. How effective is "harsh criticism"? Is the learning process enhanced by calling to attention *every* single flaw in the process? If the child's center of gravity is 1.3 cm away from where it should be and s/he loses their balance --- what then? Smack them with a ruler so they won't forget?
    There was another statement, I don't think it was yours ... no matter, I'm not judging - that "The trouble with new photographers is that they don't know what is good". Think about that, for a moment... does the child struggling to ride a bicycle "know what GOOD bicycle riding is?" I think they do. They just don't know HOW to do it yet.

    Again (substitute wherever appropriate), To ride a bicycle, ride it, and ride it again (neglecting the mistakes) and ride it again. It will come. It WILL!