Philosophy About Criticism: the three key questions

emerson

Top Veteran
Location
Maritime Canada
Real Name
David
Many years ago, in a university Art History class, I was taught that art criticism was really about answers to three pertinent questions:

1. What did the artist set out to do?
2. Was it done well?
3. Was it worth doing?

These three questions have served me well when critically examining my own photography, and indirectly in many other aspects of my work and life. In fact, I have yet to find a better approach.

Is there an approach to criticism that you find useful?
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
Paintings require a much larger investment of time than photographs. The first two criteria still apply, but the third is diminished. Taking a photo requires little personal investment unless you need to climb a mountain to take it. So “was it worth it” is, relatively, a more flexible criterion.
 

rayvonn

Hall of Famer
I think that criteria is more applicable to art than daily life which is often mundane, there's nothing wrong with accepting and addressing that (see below article as a random example).

IMG_4158.jpg


I generally don't think it's my place to critisise other people's photos but notwithstanding that, I would apply the following:
  • Advise what could be done right, not simply what you don't like, though that applies to everything, not just photography.
  • Is the person that made the image asking for critique or just pleasing themselves? It's often the latter, in which case, if critique isn't asked for, don't bother.
  • Is the critic willing to listen to an exchange of views? It could be the case that there's something, maybe a main point to the photograph that's been missed, unbeknown to the reviewer. Just because the reviewer may have missed it, doesn't neccesarily make the image a dud.
  • It also helps if the person providing the critique is actually not so bad at taking photographs themselves. That's not a rule, just a pet peeve of mine; too often I've seen images critiqued by reviewers who can't shoot for s%*t (and when that's gently pointed out, react like a lion whose tail's just been pulled).
  • Also, never mention gear, it's not about that.
 

agentlossing

Top Veteran
Location
S. Oregon Coast (the Northernmost-Cal of them All)
Real Name
Andrew Lossing
Paintings require a much larger investment of time than photographs. The first two criteria still apply, but the third is diminished. Taking a photo requires little personal investment unless you need to climb a mountain to take it. So “was it worth it” is, relatively, a more flexible criterion.
I think, for the purposes of the method, you could substitute "was it worth showing to others." It's fairly effortless to take a photo but takes effort, not to post somewhere or print, but to source an audience who you believe might appreciate what you were trying to communicate.
 
I was taught when critiquing photos to take the approach of, why don't you like the photo, what do you think would have made the photo better, and what would you have done differently if you had been taking the photo. The second two of my list sound similar. But it was emphasized to me that the second in my list was intended to mean what about the photo as is may make it better. IE cropping the image, pp work/less pp work, or anything else one may think of.


Paintings require a much larger investment of time than photographs. The first two criteria still apply, but the third is diminished. Taking a photo requires little personal investment unless you need to climb a mountain to take it. So “was it worth it” is, relatively, a more flexible criterion.
That really depends on the shoot. I've worked on shoots where it took hours of set up. Models going through makeup, body painting, costume work, etc. Setting up lighting. Then all of the tear down work and make up/costume removal post shoot.
 

drd1135

Zen Snapshooter
Location
Lexington, VA
Real Name
Steve
I was taught when critiquing photos to take the approach of, why don't you like the photo, what do you think would have made the photo better, and what would you have done differently if you had been taking the photo. The second two of my list sound similar. But it was emphasized to me that the second in my list was intended to mean what about the photo as is may make it better. IE cropping the image, pp work/less pp work, or anything else one may think of.



That really depends on the shoot. I've worked on shoots where it took hours of set up. Models going through makeup, body painting, costume work, etc. Setting up lighting. Then all of the tear down work and make up/costume removal post shoot.
True, but painters need similar procedures, and they only get one exposure. 😜 In one sense, it's all post-processing for them. I'm certainly not saying photography is not time-consuming. In truth, I really can't draw very well, so painting seems like magic to me.
 

wee-pics

Hall of Famer
Location
Germany
Real Name
Walter
Many years ago, in a university Art History class, I was taught that art criticism was really about answers to three pertinent questions:

1. What did the artist set out to do?
2. Was it done well?
3. Was it worth doing?

These three questions have served me well when critically examining my own photography, and indirectly in many other aspects of my work and life. In fact, I have yet to find a better approach.

Is there an approach to criticism that you find useful?
Let me quote an Indian reference that is more than five thousand years old:
Whatever you want to say about or to somebody else make sure it follows these rules:
1. it should be true (in all respects)
2. it should be helpful
3. it should do no harm
If only one of these would be violated, remain quiet.
When criticizing or judging any work of art including photography this certainly would lead to more mutual respect.
 

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