Photography is art and art is subjective. So why argue about it. And then again why not?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by GerrySiegel, Dec 30, 2017.

  1. I came upon this this kind of interesting list of rules of participation( i.e.guidelines) on a Facebook membership portrait group I have been thinking lately of the value of comment and critique and why it sounds so much like " critical." And why we shun critical when it is free.

    "Thank you everyone for joining this group. I hope everyone can learn something here. This group is about portrait lighting on location, so all the photos posted here has to done on location (could be an indoor or outdoor location). Here are some guide lines about posting: 1. Please include lighting details on your post. How many lights used, what modifiers and where you place them. Lighting diagram or BTS shots will be the best. If you don't know how to make a lighting diagram, here is a free tool and it's very easy to use:Creator / Home - Online Lighting Diagram Creator - Tools for photographers2. Photography is art and it could be very subjective. Please leave creative critics only when people are asking for it. 3.Nude shoots, We have nothing against beautiful nudes, but Facebook does. All posts must adhere to FB Terms of Service.

    I wonder if my sensitivities are less than the average on the artist scale. HEy did someone once take t greats like HCB and do a spoof on their work. ( remember that?)
    Of course I think lighting diagrams are of value. Equipment, same same.. And some things we see are truly " distracting." Meaning they distracted someone from thinking perhaps.( Poverty of words can ruin an artist's whole day) Ok, not to overstate something that vexed moderators from the dawn of rtime.... What do you think about a default of leave your critique at home when you enter here?
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  2. I know you're getting this from the article and it doesn't necessarily reflect your own opinion, but I'll address it as my answer to your OP.

    It tells only part of the story on both counts, because photography is also not art and art is partially non-subjective.

    There are a lot of great documentary, photojournalism, and advertising photographs (and other types) that can certainly cross over to art but aren't necessarily, and they're still great.

    And there's much about art that's not subjective. Art is SHARED (with a viewer, an audience) so there is some degree of objectivity to it. It's out there as much as it's in here. Art is influenced by culture, history, psychology, none of which are completely subjective. Even taste, which seems among the most subjective things we have, is heavily influenced by culture, background, location, era, even genetics, etc.

    As to the default of "leaving critique at home," I think there's a lot of value in approaching new work in as non-judgmental and non-critical way as possible. Then, I will often go into critical mode as I think about it more. When I go to friends' gallery shows and openings, I am never critical on the spot or in the moment. It's their moment and they deserve it. The work deserves to speak freely when it's first shown. Later, I may very well give some of my opinions, depending on the relationship and the context. There are good times and opportunities for critique and good times and opportunities for freedom from it.

    [A more subjective critique: I love that photo (taste) and the scene it portrays reminds me of a street I lived on when I was a child (personal experience). A less subjective critique: The black and white rendering is high contrast (more objective, omitting whether or not I like it) and recalls the work of Moriyama (comparing to a known photographer and not reliving a personal moment.]
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2017
  3. Do you mean Great Photographers on the Internet. It's a spoof not on their work but on the kind of commentary in photo forums that's based on some generic rules of what a 'good photograph' is supposed to look like rather than taking into account the intentions of the photographer (which often requires an individual image to be seen and looked at in the broader context of the photographer's work and of image culture and language in terms of the history of art and photography) when critiquing the image.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  4. I am still thinking on the multiple questions. Most of which Fred has thoughtfully raised. No settled thoughts here. On the other hand this, and on the other hand that.. Is that ambiguity good or bad?; well on the one hand, and on the other hand.. It is a matter of style. Which takes work.
  5. Phil, that satirical piece you linked to is still both funny and telling, thanks for looking it up. Especially about on line commentary even more today. As Jimmy used to say " Everybody want to get in to the act." Admission is free. Anyone can play reviewer at large.
  6. I expect the price of exposure is a proportional risk of critique.
    Within the bounds of civility I suppose that is a good thing.
    If I show you a photograph it simply follows you are free to respond as you see fit.
    The most basic quality of human interaction is give and take.
    I am amused by people who go out of their way to put something of themselves out there and then demand only praise.
    People have any number of reasons to like or dislike a particular photograph.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
    GerrySiegel and Norma Desmond like this.
  7. Gerry, I don't know that it's ambiguity. I guess I see it as openness and having a sense of timing. So, for example, the fact that I don't give a definitive answer to the question of whether "leave your critique at home" is a good policy doesn't mean, IMO, I'm being ambiguous about it. I think I'm clear in noting that there are times and contexts when critique is warranted and times when it's not. This kind of not being dogmatic or categorical in terms of an answer, to me, is not about ambiguity as much as it is about flexibility. For example, most people think it's ok to have sex but not necessarily advisable or decent to have sex in public (barring some very special circumstances). I don't think that's being ambiguous. I think it's being practical and discerning. :cool:
  8. Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  9. Mark, ironically there's an example of this in a recent thread here. THE KODACHROME THREAD. In post on Saturday, 3:32 PM, I gave a critical comment about a fairly minor (but nevertheless important enough) detail and got quite a swatting for my efforts. Luckily, I've been around long enough to take it in stride. I've learned that along with having a thick skin when showing my photos, it helps to have a thick skin when offering critiques! Even so, I have to admit I was taken aback by the response.
  10. "Good pictures are not explained by words, and in the case of the best pictures a writer would be well-advised to save his paper.
    Good history can suggest the general circumstances under which a picture was made; it can attempt to describe the shared body of knowledge that defined, at a given time and place, the content of a craft's tradition. It can even attempt to evoke a sense of the intuition of a time, concerning what direction might now be fruitful.
    Good criticism can help define a common meeting ground for the work of art and its proper audience, and sometimes even a meeting ground for audience and artist. With exceptional good luck, criticism might with words construct meanings that are different from but consonant with the meanings of pictures. Such constructs of words might possibly guide us toward the neighborhoods where pictorial meanings live."

    - John Szarkowski
  11. I joined the aforesaid portrait group to see what gives. I lasted one day. On one photo I praised the headshot and made a gentle comment that I thought the girl's eyelash treatment with the uptitled curve was a little well odd and used the( clearly loaded I suppose) term "devilish." See that style in Puccini Turandot etc.... Moderator and the poster came down on me sort of hard. " You have disrespected the model" commercial photographer writes. Now a comment is a comment and I called it jsut a quibble. No dice. That was not enough apparently. No comment unless asked for and no disrespect the model who is no doubt some one's daughter and may even have not signed a release. But actually I call it candy ass and maybe horse hockey too... And no place for the homage of even looking at stuff. Just commenting is a kind of compliment. You know? It really is in a pageant of images that float by us daily. Disrespect the model...give us a break. But It will leave my memory in a day or two. Facebook has a few nice groups and a lot of flotsam. So it goes.
    Moving On likes this.
  12. "Disrespected".......
    I despise that term.
  13. I don't think there's anything wrong with the word "disrespected" or with understanding what it means to disrespect someone. I do think there's something very wrong with the moderator and poster interpreting Gerry's criticism of the makeup in a photo as somehow disrespecting the model. To me, that's simply a bizarre reaction. I have, on the other hand, heard some very disrespectful things said both to and about models, both males and females. In order for "disrespectful" to maintain its meaning and convey a fairly important idea when it comes to human relationships, it's best to use it when warranted, which it sometimes is, and not as a knee-jerk reaction to any and every criticism, especially when the criticism isn't even of the model and is just about the photo or makeup.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2018
  14. I never see respectable people whining about being "disrespected"........
  15. Well, then, why not stop whining about words others use? It makes you sound like a political correctness devotee. This word's allowed, this word isn't. Have you set up a safe space yet where the word "disrespected" will not be tolerated or are you going to stay one step short of that and just keep it on the despised list?
  16. Uh no Fred.
    I said I despise the term.
    You made all the rest up.
  17. In any case, the photographic point for me is that I wouldn’t hesitate to criticize a photo of someone or the way someone’s makeup winds up looking in a photo and I don’t think doing so is disrespectful. I can hold that thought at the same time I can accept the fact that some models have truly been disrespected in a variety of other ways and ought to be heard, can still be very respectable, and are not necessarily whining when they say so.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  18. I think, one of the greatest forms of disrespect (sorry for the oxymoron) is to ignore someone, when that person is desperately trying to be heard. Another great form of disrespect is to censor a critic with the blackmail of 'disrespect': 'shut up or I accuse you of disrespect!'
    GerrySiegel and Moving On like this.
  19. Yeah, and I did the swatting for good reason. Every comment I made in that Kodachrome thread was directed at criticizing the creators of that article, not the OP's decision to post the link to the article or as criticism toward other thread contributors.

    I go by a PN member's posting history style on whether they mean to be helpful in their posts or expressing an ulterior motive in an attempt to cut someone down to size because they have been perceived as criticizing individuals in the thread. You criticizing a minor flaw in a portrait restoration I used as an example toward the intent behind the creators of the article (not any person in the thread) motivated me to respond the way I did.

    It was clear it was out of character for you to volunteer post processing tips since most of your criticisms and expression of opinions are far more eloquent in writing style as evidenced in this thread. You, Fred, are more well read here than most due to your writing style. Because you come across as an intelligent person who often claims to have a sensitivity for other people's feelings and intent behind what they mean when they post an image, made me wonder what was the point of your nitpicking on something that had nothing to do with the Kodachrome article.

    I'll say it your comments, criticisms and opinions toward the subject of the OP, not toward individual commenters (unless they specifically ask for it).
  20. No.

    While what I pointed out to you was a detail, I wouldn’t have said it if I’d thought it was nitpicking. You posted a portrait with some fairly bad marring of the person’s cheek. Since her cheek was a small part of the frame and you were concentrating on other things when processing, it seemed like an easy thing for you to have missed, though once noticed it’s an important detail. I thought you might be giving her a copy and thought it would be nice if you fixed it before doing so. I don’t need to be asked to give such advice on a website where I assume I’m dealing with mature adults. I feel perfectly comfortable, and will continue to do so in the future, offering such critiques even in a forum where it hasn’t been the main topic of conversation. The recipient of said advice is, of course, free to take it or not and, of course, free to criticize the substance of what I suggest. But telling me not to speak up isn’t going to work, not in a public forum where you don’t control the flow of conversation.
    Vincent Peri likes this.

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