Michael, I've GOT to learn to break "quotes" so that I can maintain the train of thought. There are a few things here I would either LIKE to, or feel COMPELLED to respond to. Let me see If I can do this coherently.
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
I have never received a "Proper Critique"? Well - it has been a while, and I have had what seems to be an extensive variety of them. How can I tell which are "Proper"?
You disagree with EVERY critique/ comment I have made? Every one? OK, I guess ... I'm disagreeing here - so I guess there is some sort of "balance".
The image I refer to is entitled "Lips" and I'll leave it in the "Critique Gallery" - I will eventually move it to my "Personal" Gallery. Uh ... you commented without seeing it?
Would you mind tracking your assumption that I haven't considered the information in other critiques? This is not a new image, and I've probably made more "intermediate" prints of this one than any of my others. Six (6) prints were hung on the wall in my studio, where I "lived" with them for a few months. I've considered MANY possibilities.
I've tried to stay away from the favorable comments I have received about this one (from a few Photographers and Artists that I really RESPECT) - to "display" MY aesthetic "innards". There have been *very* few instances of "My aesthetic vision is better/ "proper" and yours isn't".
I will only say this once Michael: I am NOT lying when I praise ("give laudatory comments") others work. Those are my honest opinions, and I will not apologize for it... nor will I lie, with the justification that "They need it to become "better".
I'm not "afraid" (You used "afraid" a few times...?) of anything here ... my decision to consider the "feelings" of another may SEEM shallow to you, but believe me, there is a considerable amount of thought behind it, and rational consideration of "cause and effect".
The strangest statement is, "They cannot do anything better , so..."
I've never thought that of anyone else, much less myself. ...Or, possibly .... "better" may very well involve a far too nebulous concept. Maybe "better" is NEVER possible - but "Different, Unique, Fresh, Thought-provoking ... Beautiful" - all those are.
THAT is the direction *I* choose - to make photographs like that.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I'll try to answer you, Ed.
No, you probably never did receive a "proper" critique. The problem is, one doesn't know that until one receives a proper one. Where might one get one? NEVER in a camera club; rarely in a college or university; sometimes in a workshop; and just about never from amateur photographers (not that there is anything wrong with being an amateur, but I cannot think of another word here--what I mean is someone whose lifes work is something other than making photographs), and usually by a photograph whose work you have the highest respect for who is also a teacher. There are a handful of these people around, but it can take considerable effort to locate them. Many, many years ago, it took me three years to get to the one person I wanted to comment about my photographs (not anyone whose name you or others would be likely to recognize). His comments were minimal, but extraordinarily helpful. When, in the early 1970s I taught my series of advanced classes--private classes with guests such as Arbus, Michals, Caponigro, Friedlander, Kertesz, W.E. Smith, Ueslmann, and on and on, I found that only one of them gave better critiques than I did, and I learned from him. Some of the others critiques were useful to the students, some were not. Was most interesting.
No I do not disagree with "all" of your comments. Just all of those I read that one day--the only day I ever read that stuff or looked at the gallery. You were praising work that could have been a lot better. The function of such "kind" comments can only be to make people complacent. If you know, personally, the photographers involved and know they are emotionally fragile, there is some justification for your comments, but still, without a caveat on how they could be improved I believe such comments are destructive.
I looked at "Lips." The reason I did not do so before was that my comments were not about that photograph. I was just using it, as an anonymous photograph, as an example of a point I was making. but I looked. Someone suggested cropped out the lips???? And you listen to these people and subject yourself to that crap?
Your own desire to be kind is not shallow. I never implied it was. I do believe, however, that such desires can be as destructive as ones that are deliberately ill intentioned, so I would be careful with them.
Yes, "Different, Unique, Fresh, Thought-provoking ... Beautiful" are all very nice and are things to be sought, but so is better. Better, as in, well, better. And after that, better yet. As an artist, one is never satisfied, or is so only momentarily. It is that desire to make work BETTER than drives artists. Actually, I will take back my comment that your list includes things to be sought.
One should never TRY to be different, unique, fresh, or thought-provoking. One should try to make the BEST WORK one is capable of. I'll quote Picasso here, "The artist who tries to be original deceives him/herself. If he/she achieves anything at all it will only be an imitation of what he/she likes." If one does ones best work and constantly pushes at ones own limits the work may indeed be fresh, unique, different, thought-provoking and beautiful--but those are never things one TRIES to do. (Unless one went to art school, in which case they are so confused that 99% soon stop working in the field, but that is a whole other discussion. Let's not pursue it here--it was dealt with in another topic.) These things, "different, unique, fresh, or thought-provoking" happen or not. Just like happiness. Happiness is nothing to strive for, it is something that overtakes one in the course of leading a full life.
The goal is to always get BETTER. I'm not sure why you are afraid of that word. Is it becasue it implies a value judgement? What does better mean? It means deeper, more full of life, more resonant. It means having a greater capability to connect us to the world and to each other. How is that done: by making pictures better, both visually and technically. What is better--and here we come round to the beginning--if you do not know, a good critique will help get you started.
Is this the first Michael/Ed pissing contest of the New Year? One thing for sure - ya gotta admire the health of those prostates! :wink:
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"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive" - Howard Thurman
What are we arguing about here.
Ed on the onehand feels eternally bad because he was harsh in his critique of a young girl's picture of her pet. Perhaps he was. But we also have to remove the subject of the picture from the esthetics of the picture. When I was at a course at Winona School of Professional Photography, years ago some guy puts a picture up for critique. It was a pretty bad shot of a family. The person doing the critique started to cover all the things that could have been better. When he was done the person who took the picture said yeah but the young son in the picture was killed in a car accident a few days later and the family was so appreciative of the picture that they cried in front of him. Some of who were kind of new to photography kind of felt bad at the critique now. But the crusty old photographer who was doing the critique merely replied. Then it it up to you to do a lot better work so their memories will be even more precious.
That kind of stuck with me. Since I've done portraits of people who died or were killed I came to believe that the crusty old guy was right.
Michael A Smith in the other hand states, I believe, that we have an obligation, if asked, to deliver a thoughtful crititique to help people to get "better".
I agree with this. Ed's utopian idea of give them all a kind word and send them out into the world to me does not help anyone.
I monitor a couple of photograph forums and "photogforum" is kind of interesting. Amateur and amateur/semiprofessional/professionals constantly submit prints and it is just really a cheerleading session. In fact most of the participants seem to be women who photograph kids. More often than not they are their own kids. Instead of a critique to help them get better they fawn over mediocre shots and comment on how lovely the children are. (It's true the children are lovely, BUT...)
I doubt that the participants get anything from this except stroked egos.
So in my opinion, telling everyone their work is wonderful and not giving rules ( of composition etc) or guidelines or constructive criticism is not really doing them any favors. I have to admit I'm coming from a place of being a professional ( doing it for a living) but I stll believe like Michael says everyone wants to get better. It may be hard to define but we all know what better is.
I cannot remove the subject from the aesthetic content. I work *much* more holistically than that.
Originally Posted by blansky
A "fine" photograph would have been "much more precious"? I doubt it. They weren't looking at the photograph -
"Everyone knows what is meant by a `Better' photograph ...?"
Nope ... I've considered it. I don't. - I am included aren't I?
BTW - I am/deal with a few "Professionals" myself. And Amateurs, and Artists and advertising types - a very close friend has five (5) degrees in Art, and owned his own Ad Agency for more than 25 years. I don't see any kind of correlation here.
BTW - he is even more "gentle" than I am.
There is a *very* great difference between "Empowering" and "Ego Stroking."
Ed Sukach, FFP.
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To mix up a few metaphors, it seems to me that Ed want to nurture little flowers while Michael S prefers planting flags on the highest peaks. And Ed's initial tale reveals, as Michael M has pointed out, a confusion of abstract photographic merits with those inherent in direct, "unary" subjects. And maybe eight year olds.
(I had a similar experience recently -- rating a web gallery of blankly uninspired photos made from someone's vacation visit to Auschwitz (hey, they asked). I commented on the lack of interest in these photos, save for those of the PARKING LOT -- which I felt spoke volumes about the dull banality of the modern-day experience at what has become a modern, morbid, tourist attraction. I was threatened with a ban from the forum, from people who felt that my attitude betrayed inherent juden haas, despite the many years my children have spent in Hebrew school. This was Auschwitz! The photos must be automatically good! (One hears a lot of similar sentiments about 9-11-related shots, including those made by tourists in the past couple of weeks))
I have to side with the Michaels here because c'mon -- APUG, while public, is not about newbies. When people ask me about learning photography in a general way, I tell them buy a digicam, shoot like crazy, and look very carefully at the results.
When someone already has their own darkroom and is scanning a print from their 6x7 negs, their intentions and investment in resources and time are already clear. Coddling cheapens these intentions, rather than encouraging them.
I do think, Michael S, that valuable criticism can come from reviewing web postings, though as you say even a small print far outshines what one can see on the web in terms of detail and physical presence. A great difficulty, IMO, comes from the nature of public galleries, where popularity and community-building "niceness" factors come into play. This has been a universal feature of public web galleries, as far as I've seen (and likewise photoblogs).
The marginal exceptions have been through online groups that did not have galleries per se -- in fact a lot of the best criticism I've gotten in recent months has come from a private mailing list run by a well-known photographer and professor, where members post photos (and even, occasionally, proof sheets) to their own web sites and others make what are hopefully constructive (though at times difficult) comments. But to work, it needed to be closed, invitation-only. No kittens.
My back has improved, to the point where I can set aside all the pillows, heating pads and other paraphenalia. I now longer make a credible, audible, involuntary impression of a wounded water buffalo in heat when I go from a horizontal postion to a vertical... and I'm mobile enough now to have actually visited my darkroom, for the first time in ten days!
Originally Posted by Michael A. Smith
I *missed* that place, and its lure will keep me occupied for the foreseeable future - so - probably to the relief of many here - I'll be spending less time at this keyboard.
I'll be brief - "A `good' critique". I'm quite certain I've run across one or two of those at one time or another. I certainly DO listen to all the "crap" ... possibly this is a good time to repeat "Sukach's System of Receiving Critique":
1. LISTEN to all of it - no mater how irrelevant or inane. It will take some discipline. Occasionally the worst drivel will contain brilliant gems of insight.
2. CONSIDER the content. Here, I would suggest a time limit. Usually 3 - 5 seconds is sufficient to determine if there is anything of value.
3. DISPOSE of it. If you have discovered anything of value (relatively rare), USE IT. Think about it ... integrate it into you subconsciousness. You have discovered a pearl of great price.
If there is not (far more common), let it go - as if it never happened. It may be marginally interesting - but it can serve no useful purpose.
This has worked well for me over the years.
But... I am always open to new ideas. You may have done this before - but could I ask you to repeat a "simplified" method to be used for the recognition of "proper" criticism?
Now - again with `Better' - and again with the "afraid" bit. No, I'm not afraid of the word "better" - but "I've never stretched its meaning quite THAT far.
To me, "better" requires a comparison: "A" is `better' than "B". That involves some sort of judgemental system ... and I think that any that might be even marginally effective in comparing human "spirit" or "soul" or "being" -- if at all possible -- would be incredibly (literally) complicated.
I really do not believe "Praise" is a negative factor in teaching.
I hope to say this as a matter of simplification... I do not intend to demean your - or anyone else's - philosophy. If I could find a way to say this "more gently", I would:
I think your teaching system could be summarized as the "Carrot and Stick" approach. One would not want the mule to ever GET the carrot ... so he will continue to TRY and the cart will be drawn forward. I've seen that approach - expanded and thinly camouflaged - tried many times, as a Middle Manager (previous life). I've never seen it work... at least not with human beings. I don't know whether or not it works with mules.
Enough "stirring". To the DARKROOM ....!!!!
Ed Sukach, FFP.
You do have an ability to flip things around from thier initial statements.
Subject vs aesthetics I didn't make any mention how you work whether your "holistic" or not. Your example of the little girl with the pet. She saw the pet, you saw the photograph. You critiqued her photograph, she could only see her pet. In my example of the family with the dead son. In your opinion, they only see the son. In my opinion, how I represent that son will enhance their memory of him. If it is a crappy picture with bad light, as well as bad aesthetic elements, I believe, it is a disservice, when I have the obligation to do better.
I didn't say a "better photograph". I said everyone wants to get better. I believe that most everyone here can track their progress of getting "better"
When I used the term "professional" I added making a living off it. What I was saying was as a professional that we have an obligation to get better and that is how I slant my comments. We owe it to who pays us for the work. An amateur has no obligation to anyone. There was no comment made that you don't know any professionals. I'm sure you do.
Your last comment about empowering vs ego stroking. You, it seems fancy yourself as an "empowerer". I don't have a problem with that, however, what you consider empowering, may just be ego stroking to the recipient. There are people here and on other sites that display work for the sole purpose of getting their egos stroked. Your comments to them may well be from your point of view as empowering. I think that the line between the two is far finer than you do.
My comments are not antagonistic towards you. They are just opinion and please read them carefully from that point of view.
I replied to one idea: "You have to separate the subject from the aesthetics." I sat here trying to do so,... at least in my mind's eye. FOR ME ... I find that extremely difficult under any circumstances. My reason, as near as I can figure it out... a markedly Holistic approach. You did not mention that ..., I did.
Originally Posted by blansky
I "fancy"..??? As in "flights of "Fancy"?
I can't answer that ... I *try* to "empower" - to clear the way - to do what I can to supply the tools and techniques... to HELP.
Let me try for an example... A student once came to me with an interesting photograph. Unfortunately, the exposure had been made with the camera in the "Automatic Exposure" mode, and the frame had included a window with bright sunlight streaming through it. The window itself was exposed quite well, but it was not the "object of interest" in the photograph. The student judged her own work: "Bad", hopelessly "bad". I told her not to give up on it. We set the negative up in the enlarger, analyzed for everything in the scene EXCEPT the window and produced a "successful" photograph.
I don't call that "ego stroking". She did learn something about using a light meter ... and analyses in the enlarger with the ColorStar... and the capacity of color film to record images at different light levels... and much more.
I *COULD* have merely labelled the image a failure, coldly, justifiably (in the eyes of some) ... brought her attention to the mistake.. and sent her out to "do it again". I chose not to. There is much more that lies out there to do.
That is what I mean about "empowering".
And ... No, I don't take your comments to be "antagonistic." I will guess that you are doing the same thing I am - trying to make your opinions known, clearly... without getting the entire world p***ed off because of what you believe in.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
Help me here, Ed. What is "Automatic Exposure" mode?