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On unsolicited criticism

So I've a jumble of thoughts on unsolicited critisms, so I figure I will think out loud. A part of me really don't like them. I mean, whether it comes from a friend or a stranger, as an artist, taking criticisms sucks. Also, I feel I'm young as a photographer, I am still struggling to find a style or a voice I like. The wedding market is saturated with photographers. Why do I need to take feedback from other photographers, and make pictures that look just like theirs? Also, having booked 11 weddings with what I have done tells me that people like my work. I don't need to win everyone, just 30 brides a year.

The other side of that is, I feel in most artists' world, people don't get feedback except good ones. Take my blog for example, everything there is complimentary. And to be honest, if I found a degrading comment I wouldn't approve it. But it's also my marketing tool. I find a lot of improv boring and tiresome, but when I say it to people, they just get mad. But when I do find a show delightful, and tell them, they just take it as a compliment that was due to them, or absentmindedly say thank you. So I only really tell Andy what I think. Same thing especially in the photography world, I rarely give people feedback, unless they ask, because I figure they would get hurt. But photographers will happily critique a third photographer when that person isn't in the room.

So I guess I don't really have a firm stand. If you send me a private email (which is the only way I will accept unsolicited criticisms without feeling offended, or a private talk), I will read it. Ponder it. I may disagree with you, and it goes straight to the trash can, but I will have read it, and pondered it.

I signed up for $4000 workshop next January. It is an insane amount of money, especially since I've been strongly pining for Hawaii and beaches and oceans. And Andy and I could've had a great vacation with that amount.

It's a 1 week workshop, fworkshop.com, and you're split into small groups of 6, with a team leader, 2 mentors, and a volunteer. There is also a large staff group. My team leader (David Murray) and mentors (Ben and Erin Chrisman) are some of the top wedding photographers in the world. In this case though, I have a year to prepare myself to get my work torn to shreds. Supposedly a lot of people end up crying during the critiques. I'm pretty confident of my work, and my process, the older I've gotten, the less I worry about having my own voice. But in this case, I welcome other photographers tearing into my work. I'll keep an open mind, though not too open to change who I am as an artist.

Anyways, so yeah, no conclusions or anything, just thoughts.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 11th, 2011 08:24 pm (UTC)
I think most humans dislike critiques, even if they are intended to be constructive.
Mar. 11th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
Personally, I don't place any value on what I think of as socially required compliments. So post-performance, if a person is drawn into my sphere passively (i.e. I'm talking to someone they're talking to or they're introduced to me), the socially polite thing is to generically say they liked my performance. I count those as a meaningless social pleasantry. I try not to do that to other performers, but I've felt myself caught in the pull of the expected sometimes.

However, if someone says something very specific or makes an active effort to approach me and say something, I treat it as sincere.

I like critiques because it's difficult to grow without hearing them, and I don't get enough good quality video of my work to be able to evaluate it well on my own. But I never, ever want a critique right after performing. If I know I've had a bad performance, I'm too raw, and if I've felt good about it, I want to be able to bask in the glow. I also do not believe critiques should be given unsolicited. I value critiques, but it's still difficult to hear them, and I need to prepare myself mentally for it. I really believe people should ask if the artist wants feedback and accept an answer of either no, never or no, not at all (I have on occasion had a friend give me negative feedback directly after a performance after I explicitly said no, I'm not ready. What the hell, people?).
Mar. 16th, 2011 06:46 am (UTC)
That's precisely how I feel.

"Nice show!" or "Pretty pictures!" is just random social politeness, it may or may not be a honest assessment, but regardless of that, it carries no real information and isn't really even intended as feedback as such.

But *specific* comments, especially if it shows the person thought about it, is different. "The perspective on that photo is original, but I think that [object] steals attention from the motive." is a comment of a different sort.

But I'm also not particularily interested in hearing -everyones- random opinion, because I frankly don't care. I *am* interested in hearing some peoples reasoned opinion, even if it may be negative, but I generally ask for it.

On the other hand, I totally suck at -not- stating my opinion randomly to people who might not wanna hear it. (I've gotten -better- but I still suck.)
Mar. 16th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Re: *this*
I'm the same way, giving people my opinions, I'm better now after people got hurt and they complained to Andy about his blunt girlfriend.
Mar. 18th, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)
Sky Candy was a subject for a Foundation Workshop. From the looks of it, it's a tough as nails, but super worthwhile experience.
Mar. 18th, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
no waaay! that's awesome. I would *love* to see the images they took of you guys...

yeah they were in Austin this year, I think it's somewhere in the outskirts of dallas next year.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


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