Why do we feel compelled to critique the work of others

May 04, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The topic of critiques often arises in photography forums and social media.  Many argue that if you post it the photograph or artwork is open to critique.  Others argue that the work should not be critiqued unless a critique is asked for by the artist.  

Critiques often serve as a vital part of our learning and growth as an artist.  Critiques can also stifle creative experimentation or expression for fear of "not fitting in" or "being different".  The quesiton now becomes which is the right way?   Like many things in the world there is no simple answer despite what others may think.  Even seemingly simple issues such as these often have complex answers or answers that are never truly accurate or fit the problem.  

So why is it many believe that if it is out there for them to see that it is open game for them to critique?  Is it just because it is the accepted principal?  Is it a bit of competition?  Is it we're just "trying to help"?  All of the above?  None of the above?  Some of the above?  

Back in 1917 an artist named Marcel DuChamp had embraced an art movement referred to a Dada which was somewhat an "anti-art" movement.  DuChamp was a board member of the Society of Independent Artists.  The Society was planning to host an exhibt in New York.  The board decided they would accept any peice submitted for display as long as the "fee" was paid.  DuChamp decided to submit a piece but since he was well established he took on a psuedoname and submitted a piece under the name R Mutt.  The piece was titled, "Fountain" and was, in fact, a men's urinal laid on its back.  There was much debate amongst the board, who didn't know it was submitted by DuChamp, about the piece being art or not art.  The result was the piece was "hidden" from the public during the exhibition.  As a result of that decision by the board DuChamp resigned from the board of the Soceity of Independent Artists.  

The point of me relating this story is if an established well known photographer annoucned their next project was going to be photographs with the subject centered, slightly out of focus, shot at a high ISO generating lots of noise many would accept this as art and a creative style.  If those of us who are not well known established photographers were to submit such works we would be blasted in critiques.  I know there are those amongst you who would say they would still blast it with a critique.  The peices would be generally accepted by the masses and even many "expert art critics".  

If you doubt this to be the case, wander into an art museum and go to the photography exhibits.  Pay close attention to the photographs that are on display, chosen by the curators as works of art and begin to subject them to the same critiques that you would if the average or beginning photographer in your favorite forum would have posted these as their works.  

Is it more important to take into consideration the technical aspects of of a photograph or the intent of the photographer?  Are the technical aspects more important than the conditions under which the photograph was taken?  Are the technical aspects more important than the message or emotion of an image.  Should each of these elements carry equal weight?  

What are your thoughts?  Let our discussion begin.  

 


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