This post was motivated by discussions with participants in my classes who were seeking affirmations or criticisms about their photographs.
When someone asks me what I think of their photography, I ask them what do THEY think of their photography. I’m not avoiding the question; I’m attempting to get the photographer to actively engage their own work.
Getting an affirmation or criticism from someone who we may view as an authority is not going to help us to become better visual communicators, or find our own way as photographers.
No one is a more qualified authority of your photography than you and no one is a more qualified authority of my work than me.
I think what helps us the most as photographers is to become our own critics. We must learn to see our own work with a cool and critical detachment. If we see our photograph as a success, that’s great! If we don’t see our photograph as a success, that’s great too! What’s most important is that we evaluate OUR OWN photographs by OUR OWN criteria; not by the criteria of other photographers, teachers, or camera clubs!
Why is our photograph great if we view it as unsuccessful? Because when we start identifying what we see as the shortcomings in our own work we can identify where we may need to strengthen our understanding and application of the craft of photography. By craft I mean the technical information and acquired skills that a photographer applies to the medium, including understanding the limitations of photography. By strengthening our understanding of craft we can apply this knowledge to our work to use photography as an effective medium of expression/communication.
I think that the most effective way to improve our photography is by strengthening our understanding and application of craft and by seeking comments and opinions about our pictures from the people who are the most helpful authorities of our work, ourselves.