Do I have a similar "problem"?
I am under the same "necessity" of evaluating my work, but I do not consider it to be a "problem".
The first requirement is to ask yourself, "What purpose does this evaluation serve?"
The criteria for submission to a Gallery may be far different than those for a Solo show. If a theme is involved, that should - must - be taken into consideration. It is inefficient to submit work consisting of Abstract Nudes to a Seaside Resort Gallery specializing in Seascapes and Ships Under Full Sail.
If you are trying to determine which of your own photographs are "best" -- the question becomes "Best" - in whose eyes?
What I have found, over many years, is that the work I LIKE or I consider to be my best work (with no one else involved) is most likely to connect favorably with the audience. Not completely iron-clad *always*, but more often, by far, than trying to judge it through the eyes of someone - anyone else. Subjective? Certainly!! Art is subjective.
This touches on a wider subject - not beaten to death yet, in my mind, and it never will be - the search for that element that makes a work "Art".
"If I say it is Art, it is ART!!!" At first glance that sounds incredibly pompous, facetious, --- dishonest - and indicative of someone trying to foist crap on the --- US honest practioners. However ... I think, under closer examination, that would only be dishonest if I made that statement about ALL of my work. That does not happen -- very few of the images I produce meet my internal self-established "standards" of what to be considered as "Art". Very few. Too few, damn it.
One has to ask, "What is the aternative to exhibiting work that you - subjectively - consider your best"? That can only be, "exhibiting the work that you assume - guess - will be seen as `best' through someone else's eyes." I've tried that. It doesn't work. Possibly, if I had some infallible way to know what others consider to be "good", it might. I don't. I've expended a LOT of effort trying, and I seem to be farther away from that lofty goal than when I started.
Of course, if I was infallible about anything... including these ideas ...
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I do not believe that anyone is in a position to objectively evaluate their own work. If you are making images to suit yourself, as am I, then an objective evaluation is less likely to be meaningfull.
Possibly I rambled far too much in my last post. This subject is something I've given a LOT of thought lately.
Assuming that an objective evaluation is possible, what would one look like? - And what purpose would it serve?
Does anyone have an example of an objective evaluation?
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Claire, I don't agree that evaluating ones work objectively, if it is indeed possible, should turn into a sterile unmeaningful event. I believe a removed and clinical look at our own photographs is not liekly to help in determining our best.
Originally Posted by Claire Senft
I believe it is still possible to look at things as if you just arrived to the world, as a stranger who sees everything new for the first time, and who doesn't have a standard for what is good or bad, nice or ugly, acceptable or not acceptable. Looking from that point of view is looking from a point of view of an open heart and open mind.
I believe the other important part of the equation is to be familiar with the history of photography, to know what our materials and tools can do when used to the maximum, and to strive for the best we can do without having the history itself limit us in our development. It is all to easy to do work that is not ours, that is painful.
I fight with an image till I get what I want. Sometimes I'm supprised and something un-expected happens we shoot it and I'm thankful but for the most part I dig and Dig to get "it". Sometimes "it" happens the first time and sometimes it takes years. You know "it" though when the shutter is released, at the moment. The tough part is when there is a mechanical problem or processing problem that ruins what was captured knowing the moment is probably gone. periodacally that happens and that really hurts but there will be another moment so the battle continues.
Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!
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Colivet I said nothing about being sterile. I said that I do not care if my evalution is objective...or least that is what I was trying to say. I regularly see the works of others in one form or another. I am well tuned with the history photography and capabilities of the items I use. My work is always being personally evaluated against my own internal standard which I consider to be subjective. Which leads to work that evolves and comes closewr to what I want.
I find it helpful to periodically have both mentors whose work has inspired me and peers whose work I respect look at my pictures. An informal peer review process. This gives me an idea of how 'objective' my assessment really is. Or isn't, as is often the case.
Originally Posted by David
Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful responses. A theme in the responses was the notion of distance: either in time, emotional space or in Michael's good idea, physical space and thought (imagination). I also appreciated the reference to purpose. Usually I ask 'why' I am taking a picture in the first place as forcing the articulation clarifies many diverse elements of the image. The 'why' isn't, of course, always evident.
It is true, as was mentioned, that direct purpose dictates the judgment about the image inasmuch as there is a standard by which to judge. A commercial picture is 'good' if it describes or depicts what was desired. A fine print, on the other hand is good for me if it is evocative, usually best if it inhabits the borderland between beauty and emotion (not necessarily warm, fuzzy ones). Maybe the beauty emerges out of the print itself rather than the specific object being photographed.
Since starting this thread I have read Minor White's article entitled 'Silence of Seeing', While the article focusses on criticism (not just the negative variety) it highlights the state and stages of photographic criticism. The following extended quote was noteworthy:
"I am viewer, photographer, critic and image at various times and in random sequence. Nevertheless the larger creative cycle turns within relentlessly, though not evenly: inception, the waxing upturn, the full flowering of the idea-feeling force in the image, the waning downturn showing images to friends and benefitting by their responses... All the phases have characteristic and emotional rises and falls...
"In the role of photographer I rarely can observe in myself the currents and cycles of all these forces working, beyond an intuitive recognition of rapport with livingness. In a state of heightened awareness an intuitive recognition of living energy accelerates work on an image. My energy is expended in the rite of exposure. but things go differently in the role of the viewer. I can see the whole inner-outer action that results in response. At htis stage I become aware of what was going on during the exposure ritual. Long years have given me faith that the photograph made in a peculiar kind of half-seeing and half-sensing its importance it will reveal to me later the whole of the experience. I can make the journey in leisure. To be sure sometimes I am surprised at what the journey reveals that I had no inkling of during exposure.
"In the role of the critic (enlightened and knowledgeable viewer) I am saddened when I feel obliged to pass judgement. Hence I feel that I dare not make evaluations from anything less than the total experience of the image in a state of concentration and contemplation. I feel compelled to give out of my deepest self, response, and out of God knows where, judgement.
"No matter what role we are in - photographer, beholder, critic - inducing silence in seeing in ourselves, we are given to see from a sacred place. From that place the sacredness of everything may be seen."
I find that the work of photography is both serious and fun. Ultimately the photographs that matter to me are the ones that come from some deeper place and then take me on a journey back to either that place or new places. So I can be concerned about tonal ranges, compositional arrangement, lighting, subject matter, ad infinitum, and also the personal experience. When these elements work together, then it is good.
One of the joys of photography is that it can't ever really be figured out, that there is always more to know and that it is possible to grow as a person through the process.
OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH! that's a good one.
Originally Posted by David
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004
I cannot agree more with what has been written here. I am not especially familiar with Minor White - this is my first serious contact with his internal philosophies. I share that viewpoint about that aura of mystery, that "unexplianability" of the entire process.
That challenge (if you will) to post an example of an "objective" criticism was loaded - I do NOT think one exists - at least none that I have ever read that make an attempt at objectivity have by the greatest stretch of the intellect - or imagination - ever passed a higher test: that of coherence. The "doublespeak" in some of those "objective" critical reviews would shock the characters in Orwell's 1984.
"Objective" infers, by definition, measureable. The temperature today is 10 degrees Celsius. That is objective. To say that the temperature today is "cool" is subjective.
So, subjective we are, and as far as I can see, subjective we will stay ... unless someone - some as yet undiscovered genius - can devise a system ... a "meter" to measure the human soul - and its reaction towards art.
Ed Sukach, FFP.