Critiques: Constructive or Not?

When I was first learning about my camera, beyond the auto mode, I made the mistake of asking for a critique by a group of so-called ‘professionals’. They’re images were as perfect as they could be, but their comments were anything but professional. One even told me that I should just quit and sell my camera to someone that knows how to use it. All because I asked what I need to do to reach a desired skill level.

To be honest, there have been a few times that I just wanted to hang it up, sell everything, and just be done with it. Mostly because of how someone else viewed my work. When people who do this for a living are completely tearing you down in a personal way, it can have severe effects on a person. It can destroy your self-confidence, it can teach you not to reach out for help, and it can cause a complete disinterest with continuing photography. Of the whole group, there was one that actually gave some good guidance which permitted me to grow a little more as a photographer.

Unfortunately, most of what you find are arrogant photographers that either feel threatened by you, simply lack any class, or are only in it to tear people down. It is almost obscene at what they will tell people about their work. An art that is as subjective as photography really cannot be corralled into a small frame that fits everyone’s ideas. Sure, technical stuff can be critiqued, and personal opinions can be offered, but it doesn’t have to be done harshly.

I know there is a belief held by some that harsh is the only way to make new photographers learn, but that is delusional at best. In fact, it can cause them to give up and never even pursue it anymore. Someone out there could be the next Ansel Adams, but because of some rude or harsh words chose to give up. In my opinion that is robbing the world of a potentially great artist.

It took many years and even more rude peoples before I realized something. I shoot what I see, not them. Anything that I put in a picture is because that is what I saw. It doesn’t have to match someone whose skills may be better. I shoot my ideas based on how I see them. I don’t ask for critiques because most of the time, those people were not there. They don’t know what I saw or even what I was trying to achieve. Now, I shoot for myself. I do not open myself up to negative people that seek only to destroy their perceived competition.

One site I am a member of has a very good policy for critiquing. One positive comment, one constructive comment to improve something, followed by another positive comment. That is a good way to teach someone how to do it better next time, not humiliate them and make them doubt their vision. After all, no one is born a professional, everyone has to learn to be the kind of artist and person they want to be. I refuse to let those bad seeds in the photography community tear me down. I shoot for me. I shoot what I see, and that is good enough for me.

Where Inspiration Is

Everyone’s life is a pool of inspiration, whether it is for light or dark themed creative work. I am no different. In my work, I explore the traits that I see in the characters that are created or an antithesis of an idea. Sometimes, deep within my dreams, an idea will burn its way into my mind. Then, and only for the briefest of moments, a window opens. The dream is alive and for that fleeting few seconds, it is there, as real as you or I.

My life is one lived in fear because of the anxieties that plague my days. When I create a character, I want to show the strength and courage that I myself no longer possess. They should embody the traits that make real warriors and heroes who they are. Courage, honor, and integrity are at the forefront of all of my projects. Each model is carefully selected to encompass the entire character, otherwise it just would not work in the end result.

Inspiration is found in many places. When I am out hiking, there is always the chance of finding that one unique location, or maybe several pieces from different places that can be brought together to create an environment that doesn’t exist on this world. Artwork of heroes and warriors that exist only in the creator’s mind and on their canvas open the doors to a plethora of ideas. It can make the impossible now possible.

Sometimes the passion that exudes from another artist is enough to light the fire of creativity. To watch as their idea forms right in front of you can inspire anyone to create. Sometimes, as you watch, the idea can take on a life of its own and become so much more than was envisioned, and that’s ok. Being stuck to an idea that has no room to grow is limiting. Limits placed on idea can quell the fires that had burned so brightly.

Inspiration can be found at any time, from anyone, and in anything. Seeing it and transforming that idea into a tangible reality is the challenge of the artist. That is what makes it rewarding to create. My inspiration comes from the values that become increasingly difficult to live by, the fear and anxiety that rule my life, and the world I so much want to be a part of, yet always seem to be on the outside looking in. Of course, if my life had not taken the course it has, would my ideas still be what they are? Each of us has our own creative urges and ideas to explore with multitudes of avenues to do it. There is always something to inspire, even if you may not realize it yet.