Criticism

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Photography, Social media

Sometimes these discussions in the aforementioned New Landscape Photography Facebook group are quite hilarious, now that they are more heavily moderated than they used to be. Obviously its aim is to facilitate a platform for constructive criticism among landscape photographers. I find the ones about criticism itself often the most enjoyable. I also read a few blogposts lately on how social media is not the place for showing critique, probably out of fear to loose followers and connections. And also of course, because criticism requires attention, time and a serious reflection on someone else’s work, which is more than most of us are willing to give when scrolling our newsfeeds.

And yet, everyone seems to be yearning for criticism. Mourning the death of criticism on photo sharing sites like Flickr, telling us how they value the opinions of their peers. It made me wonder how I feel about criticism. I don’t know really, because I seldom receive any. Simply because there are very few people that I ever discuss photography with.

Sometimes, when reading criticism on platforms like NLP, it’s not that difficult to apply the same thing to my own work. Like this. To me, it’s quite obvious why the photographer chose to place the little bush in the centre of the picture. Nothing odd about that. With another composition, it would have been a completely different picture, one that, to me, wouldn’t make much sense. I often place a subject in centre. It works for me. And I’m glad that I have never learned that I shouldn’t. Or learned any other silly rule that tells me what is right or wrong.

Some time ago, I was discussing a couple of pictures with J. that I took of a pop up exhibition at work. He said that I was photographing a space, more than an exhibition. It was an observation more than criticism, but I found it very helpful. I never realised I did, but I wasn’t surprised either, because architecture, landscape and interiors are my prime interests. Since then, I am more aware of my tendency to take too much of a distance to the subject. Or rather: I’m more aware of what my subject really is, in any given situation. I think it resonated, because I was able to relate it to his own photography, and saw what a closer look could accomplish in this particular context. And also of course, because I admire his work. I’m not sure I do things differently now, but at least I question my choices more consciously.

For criticism to work, to benefit from it, it’s important who you receive it from. I think there are only a few people, in real life and from my social networks, whose criticism I would find truly valuable. Why would I want to put a picture up for critique on a platform like NLP? I don’t know these people, and I often find the pictures posted in the group uninspired and sloppy. I don’t think I need them to tell me what is right or wrong with mine. On Flickr it would be different, I like or even admire the work of the majority of the people I’m connected with. And I would be interested to hear their opinions. But would I really take them to heart? Would I do something with their insights? Probably not. I’m stubborn. And in the end, I prefer doing things my own way, for better or worse.

Not saying that I find discussions about photography useless, on the contrary. I just don’t think that criticizing individual pictures on a public platform is very helpful. I do like to see good photography that shows me how other people deal with the medium or the subjects I care for. I like to hear what people with some authority in the field have to say about it. Also: I just purchased a copy of Why people photograph, by Robert Adams. Recommended by the good people of NLP : )

A couple of pictures from recently. Somewhat different from my usual stuff, but not really. All Fuji x100T, except for the tree.

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