If you could choose. . . ?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by landrum_kelly, Jul 15, 2016.

  1. If you could choose between being a moderately good photographer and being one of the very best critics/analysts of photography--but not both--which would you choose to be?
  2. Depends on what I was getting paid...
  3. I don't choose to be anything in this regard. I choose to do and let others judge the results which have no baring on what I am as a creative person/critic and photographer.
  4. Assuming that income is not a factor in either decision - in other words that I remain as I am now, retired and not hurting for money - I'd rather be a better photographer. Others can judge, others can burn all my junk when I die. I just like to take pictures, and hope that occasionally someone else will see one and say it's good.
  5. Which will get me the better job?
  6. Given the only 2 choices I want to be the photographer. That is any profession I want to be the one that create great stuff not the one that critique on other people work.
  7. I'd choose to be the best photo critic. I've gotten used to being a bad photographer so the idea of not ever reaching the level of moderately good photographer is something I've already come to terms with!
    Besides since I've started my blog, I find I enjoy writing about photography!
  8. I'd prefer being a photographer.
    I can't get rid of the feeling that the world is still needing more of them, since underdocumented people are still around.
    IDK about critics.- Are they ever inspiring folks to shoot more? or just arguing which artist deserves more wall space in living rooms of the wealthy?
  9. Speaking for myself, I would have to be a very insightful critic to make me want to choose that activity over photography, regardless of my level of photographic skills.
  10. I would choose to create.
  11. Odd choice - "moderately good" vs "very best". Though doesn't matter to me - I get more enjoyment out of doing rather than talking about someone else work. Of course, if the choice comes down to making a living from it....
  12. Odd choice - "moderately good" vs "very best".​
    Well, Dieter, if I had said the "very best" v. "very best," all or almost all here would surely have chosen photography--I think.
  13. I am happy with my photos as they are so I just choose that. I just shoot B/W film and it's not a big deal or anything. I do not want to be a critic or a super snapper.
  14. You can make a good living a as a moderately good anything if you also happen to not mind doing the work of being in business. But being a very good photography critic and $3 will get you a cup of coffee.
  15. Certainly to be the very best critics/analysts of photography.
    What passionates me is creativity in photography like on other forms of art. Shooting is a way of expressing my creativity - when I succeed, that is, which is certainly not the case every day.
    Being the very best critics/analysts of photography would provide me with a maximum of inspiration for working on my paintings and sculptures.
    To be paid as critics/analyst, on the other hand, does not attract me at all. There are other and more prosperous ways of earning a comfortable living in life.
    Those are interesting links, Phil. I especially like what he had to say on the history of photography:
    [Szarkowski] argued – brilliantly – that photography differed from any other art form because its history had been "less a journey than a growth". "Its movement has not been linear and consecutive but centrifugal," he suggested. "Photography, and our understanding of it, has spread from a centre; it has, by infusion, penetrated our consciousness. Like an organism, photography was born whole. It is in our progressive discovery of it that its history lies."​
    I especially like that last phrase, "our progressive discovery of it." There is something inspirational there for me. My own growth is not necessarily particularly dependent on what others are doing or have done, but on my own continuing explorations and attempts. That, at least, is what that phrase says to me.
    Phil, I think that you, Fred, and Julie--among others--could take the dumbest thread and make it "run." I did think that one of the most interesting emphases on a recent thread was Julie's insistence on history, combined with what you guys had to say, starting with Fred's references to Winogrand and Avedon.
    Szarkowski's way of looking at the history of photography reminds me of Einstein's view of the universe, especially as interpreted by Stephen Hawking with regard to the "location" of the beginning of the universe, that "place" where the Big Bang occurred. As Hawking said, it is not here as opposed to there or over there; it is everywhere and in everything. There is no fixed frame of reference. Where we are, and anywhere we could possibly be, is a remnant of what was contained in the Big Bang. There was a beginning, yes, but where we are now is (by implication) as good a place as any to start in our movement outward in either our physical travels--or our personal artistic growth.
    Specifically, what Hawking said is that the universe is expanding outward from every point in the universe. We cannot possibly specify the location of that "place" where the Big Bang occurred, since it started everywhere. But that statement is about physics, not necessarily about photographic. There yet might be possible implications for how we look at photography regarding its beginnings and its subsequent "expansion" or growth. There are a lot of paradoxes in the Theory of Relativity (from whence comes the idea of the Big Bang), and there are quite possibly paradoxes in any theory of aesthetics and the history of art in general.
  17. So, there was the beginning of photography, its "Big Bang," so to speak, but each of us is another "bang," another beginning--no, not the first, much less the biggest, but a beginning nonetheless. Development and growth for each of us begins from our own place in the photographic universe: we can expand in every possible direction from where we are. Every conceivable continuing expansion or growth must be from where photographers are in their own development. Obvious? Perhaps. Perhaps it is not obvious or trivial, if such a view liberates us from any preconceived idea as to which direction we ought to go next: it might not matter.
    Perhaps a corollary of his view on the "history of photography" is paradoxically that it might not matter very much, if at all, how we got where we are as that we are here now, at whatever stage of photographic development we presently are. We are our own starting point for any possible growth and expansion--and there is no "right" way to go.
    No, Szarkowski did not say all of that, and I am not certain that what he said implies any or all of that, but what he did say offers us a new way of looking at both the "history of photography" as well as our own possible future(s) in photography, regardless of our own personal histories as to how we got to where we now are.
  18. In other words, I would rather be a photographer than a critic, even if not a very good photographer, but I am grateful for those who are insightful critics and analysts. I can learn from their insights--and my own photography can conceivably be better as a result.
    Sometimes I think that we just need some encouragement to get back out there to start shooting again. There is no theoretical limit as to what we might find or how much we might grow.
    Szarkowski's viewpoint suggests all that to me--and thus inspires me to want to be better than I am, by encouraging me to believe that I can be better. The limits that constrain me are strictly self-imposed. The same might be true for others.
  19. "That’s why not only can’t even the most perfect history buff fully understand history, but the key people involved at the time can’t ever know the full story. History is a giant collective tangle of thousands of interwoven stories involving millions of characters, countless chapters, and many, many narrators."​
    Thank you for these marvelous links and quotes, Phil.
    I think that the quote above us is a reminder as to how too many historians (of all sorts) have too often gone astray by emphasizing only political history, especially with regard to who was king, and what the king did, and how big his realm was. Good history finds something insightful in the lives of all persons in all epochs. It is hardly to be found in the stories of the "rich and famous." (Literary types recognized this a long time ago.)
    As photographers, we don't have to take pictures of rich or famous or powerful people to make our own mark. We can start from where we are, from what we see--conceivably in anything that we see, if Szarkowski is correct in saying that everything is a fit and worthy subject of good photography.
    I could say some of the same things about philosophy, by the way. We tend to study the "great" philosophers from ages past, or the "best" philosophers from the present epoch. Good philosophy is always right under our noses, in every potential conversation with ordinary people--as if there were such a thing as "ordinary people." Everyone is rather extraordinary, and everyone has a story to tell--many stories to tell, most likely. "Ordinary people" can also spot the failures and foibles of the rich, powerful and famous--not to mention the contradictions in their beliefs, and the hypocrisy in their--and each others'--lives, our lives.
    THAT is a great link on history, by the way, Phil.
  20. Being the best is too static a condition for great art to thrive in.​
    Or for anything else. Even for the competitive athlete, what does he or she do after passing the prime? At some point the best former competitive athletes are going to be about as good (or bad) as I was when I was at my "peak" as a runner (read "jogger").
    For that matter, what do I do when I no longer expect to exceed my "personal best," which was probably some time ago in just about anything? What motivates me? It cannot be any delusion about being "the best" (as if it ever was). What does one do, that is, as one faces the prospect of greater and greater decline with age? (One does not have to be "old" to face that prospect.)
    One tries to find meaning in the moment, I presume.
    Criticism? Mm, not so much. . . not in my case, at least.
  21. Or otherwise work your way through it. . .
    I watched my wife fight cancer for almost twenty-four years before finally succumbing to it. There is decline, and then there is decline.
    Something to look forward to. . .
  22. Thank you, Phil.
    The gift of art is that it also allows us to move inwards, as viewers and as creators. But the terrain can be treacherous.​
    This is one reason, I suspect, that even the philosophical language and issues I raise cause some unease among some readers. My own view is that one never knows what is going to be relevant when evaluating aesthetics and emotional impact.
  23. Tough Call! Looking at Photography can be so much fun, but I think I feel most comfortable on the other side of the lens.
  24. Those who can, do.
    Those who can't, teach.
    Those who can't teach, administrate.
    Those who can't do, teach, or administrate, criticize, and poorly. They tend to have a chip on their shoulders, frequently resent that they failed to be producers or other contributors to the art they now hold themselves out as qualified to critique. I will always prefer commentary from a successful practitioner, versus the professional critic. The critic's vested interest is to create controversy, to attract attention to his own words, rather than contribute to the art or development of the artist.
    For myself, I would always much rather be a doer.
  25. Dave, by your logic, as an architect you are only a planner and designer, not a doer. The "doers" lay brick and put in the plumbing and electricity.
    There are a lot of things that represent "doing." Constructive and insightful criticism can be something that one "does." So can teaching.
    Intellectual work of all sorts is definitely "doing," and that does, of course, include architecture. A chemist can "do" chemistry as well as teach it. A similar statement can be made for a mathematician or a philosopher and many others, for that matter.
    HERE and HERE are Phil's links to Szarkowski's work--as both photographer and critic.
    In casting the question as I did, I never meant to suggest that in reality one could not be both photographer and critic.

  26. All philosophical issues and questions must start and end with the photograph if one wants to address the issues photographically ( as an addition to addressing such philosophical questions through other means ).​
    "The photograph" is the operative phrase here, Phil. One can also speak at times in more general terms: "photography" (or perception, or aesthetics, or something else. There are those who will always insist that there is too much theory--especially those who do not quite get the point of a given theoretical/philosophical foray. The more general and abstract the discussion, the more most persons are to lose the thread that ties it all together. I never write to the lowest common denominator, and, if that means that I might be misunderstood in many cases, so be it.
  27. I still strive for Artworld domination and still want to be in the Art history books. So whatever art I choose to do, and not just photography, that is going to get me there, then that is the route I am going to take.
  28. Dave, by your logic, as an architect you are only a planner and designer, not a doer. The "doers" lay brick and put in the plumbing and electricity.​
    Not so. Architects do architecture, and bricklayers do bricklaying. Those are two completely different disciplines. But not many people writing a criticism of the replacement World Trade Center would know how to think through the enormous air handling systems, the structural load management, the elevators, the code requirements, or any of the thousands of other things that go into the architect's professional day.
  29. I actually agree with you, Matt--by my logic, not Dave's.
    In addition, however, there are professional critics as well, and they "do" criticism in the non-pejorative sense, whether they be film critics, art critics, literary critics, or something else.
  30. A photographer wants to express their vision.
    Others use their vision to be employed.
  31. Given every person on earth has his/her own idea of what is artistically appealing, critics of the arts are basically useless, so I'd definitely pick being the photographer, regardless of skill level.
  32. Well, I probably am a moderately good photographer, but I'm a lousy critic. If you want to be really good at either you really have to put passion and energy into it and the old phrase is "pay your dues".
    I'm glad that Phil S. posted the links to John Szarkowski above. I knew that the dichotomy in the original post implied a false dilemma, but I wanted to see where people come down in terms of preferences.
    The nice thing about Phil's introduction of Szarkowkski is that he (Szarkowski) does not fit on either horn of the false dilemma of "either-or." He has been "both-and."
    Szarkowski, that is, has been both critic and photographer, and very good at both. The two roles are not mutually exclusive. The two roles are also arguably symbiotic. Critics do not, after all, only criticize. They also analyze. They are theorists as well, showing linkages and pointing up problems of glib and banal interpretation--and disagreeing with one another and forcing the rest of us to think, whether we want to or not.

  34. I would choose to be a moderately good photographer. For me the pleasure is in taking photos, not so much analysing them :)
  35. And to follow up on that, just came across this article! Pretty interesting, and something most of us realized long ago...taking photos makes us happier!
  36. Lanny, your original post posed a non-realistic set of conditions. My response to it was likewise non-realistic, in that it denied the reality of continuum that exists between pure artist and pure critic, or doer and non-doer. For myself, while business was slow last winter, I spent a great deal of time trying to share useful and meaningful critiques on this site. I was "successful" to the point that I (briefly) was accorded a "golden critiquer" recognition. The Elves won't say what qualifies one as golden, but I hope it was more than shear volume. Still, I would much rather invest myself in my own photography, all else being equal.
    My complaint, if you want to call it that, remains with the attention and credence given so many critics in so many fields whose most salient qualifications are that 1 - they are failed practitioners, and 2 - that they are effective at garnering attention and creating controversy, thereby furthering their own notoriety, and marketability. As an architect, I have grown ever so tired of critics who render grandiose judgments from high in their ivory towers, with little or no perspective or acknowledgement of the ground truths, engineering, codes, budgets, and other criteria that drive every project. My architecture school experience gave me a very refined appreciation of what makes good criticism, but it also left me intolerant of fools and dilettantes who pretend to be experts in fields in which they are not competent practitioners. There are some few exceptions to this pattern, for which I am grateful.
  37. Given every person on earth has his/her own idea of what is artistically appealing, critics of the arts are basically useless.

    Mmmmm sorry nope. T S Eliot. Wallace Stegner. John Berger. Of the photographers, Newhall, Steichen, Stieglitz, although you could argue their role was more curatorial.

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