Thank you for all your replies.
Les, if you would be willing to share this, I am curious to hear more about your turning point, brought about by the criticism of your photography that you mentioned. What was said, and what did you change?
I like the analogy of a photographer being on a journey. Following that line of thinking, I suppose that there are 2 types of photographers: those that like to travel with others (and we all begin this way), and those who feel their journey is an individual one, on their own path.
Those photographers who have travelling companions would be eager for criticism of their work from their group because their aim is to conform to the collective sensibilities of the group and to keep together with their group while on their shared journey.
The other type of photographer, while still sharing the same type of journey, is not that concerned with the paths of others and in fact prefers not to follow an established path because doing so would prevent him/her from finding and following their own unique path. For this type of photgrapher, criticism from photographers on other paths is not that relevent to them. They aren't interested in conforming to someone else's vision, they are focusing on developing their own. (Couldn't help myself from wording the last line that way, sorry.)
What do you think?