an opinion on opinions


Many photographers who wish to fine tune their craft seek the input of others, by way of critique or critical feedback. Whereas positive responses can validate the artist, those that are negative can lead to self doubt or worse - a shift away from an artistic vision.

But is it wise to seek the opinion of strangers? Can we expect their taste in art to align with our own, or appreciate the story as we do ourselves?

I take the following narrative from the blog of Cole Thompson (not only is much of his work outstanding it is built on a backbone of story-telling).

A young artist is exhibiting his work for the first time, with a well-known critic in attendance.

The critic says to the young man: “would you like to hear my opinion of your work?”

“Yes” says the young man.

“It’s worthless” the critic says.

“I know” the artist replies, “but let’s hear it anyway.”

Although designed for comedy this speaks of truth - while the critic may have one view, that of the artist may differ completely. Whereas the artist creates work reflecting experiences, emotions and vision, the critic merely interprets what he sees, influenced by personal taste and preferences.

So who’s view is correct? is it that of the experienced critic, or that of the fledgling artist ? The answer is both - each have a personal and unique experience when viewing a piece of work, and the interpretation is heavily influenced by how well the artist portrays the vision and story within the image.

As photographers I fear we may allow the opinion of others to overly-influence and perhaps divert us down a path that no longer aligns with our artistic vision. It is often easy to forget the the inspiration that led to the image, the emotional engagement with the environment and the pure joy in creating artwork to be proud of. Such personal experiences are not available to the viewer - it is the job of the artist to convey that feeling as best they can within the image itself.

So I encourage all to be both the best critics and advocates of their work. Seek opinion and suggestions, but use carefully as a tool to understand the perception of others and for tips that may align with your vision. Be comfortable with knowing that YOU are the best critic for your work and that throughout the entire process yours is the only opinion that matters. It is YOUR vision and YOURS to OWN!

I will leave with a couple of pertinent quotes;

Everybody looks at what I am looking at but no one sees what I see
— Felicite Lamannais
The eyes are not responsible when the mind does the seeing.
— Anonymous