The past few years I have always had this nagging feeling of failure that sits in the back of my mind. Failure seems to occasionally knock on my door of confidence to remind me to stay grounded. It likes to remind me that giving up is not an option because I know I can do better. So when I fail at something I keep trying until I succeed or finish it. I have always been the type of person that was harder on myself than anyone else could be on me. Growing up my parents always new that I would practice, practice and practice doing something if I loved or enjoyed doing it. This was with baseball, martial arts, video games, my music and my photography. The one thing that really helped me except the failures and to grow above them was the support of my father and mother. I remember I would throw this tennis ball against the side of the house over and over again. I did this to practice catching the ball from different heights. This would help me out in the baseball field. My father would hear this ball bounce off the side of the house so many times that he would come out and finally say, “ok Chris, time to stop”. I laugh thinking about that! The point is that my father let me do that for almost an hour before he finally had enough of the noise and told me to stop. He let me practice and grow even though it would occasionally drive him nuts.
I wanted to share this because I think people forget how important encouragement and support can mean to someone. I see a lot of people giving critiques to other people’s photographs but giving no real value or support. I see a lot “this sucks”, “Don’t do that”, “you should have done this”, “this looks like crap and I don’t get it” and so on. I think a lot of people who are in the photography community have forgotten where they started from. I think a lot of them are so engulfed in the popularity of their channels or success that they apparently disregard what it means to be a mentor. Everyone starts from a humble beginning when doing photography or any kind of creative work. I see so much blatant, over saturated and meaningless critiques that only boost the elite feelings of the critiquer. I wish there were more people trying to encourage and take time to look and see what the person sharing that photograph was trying to represent. I know there are great people out there doing that but we seem to be over saturated with crap now.
I think you can critique someone and give them the opportunity to grow by positive reinforcement and encouraging criticism. Sitting at a desk and saying to someone, “that sucks, you did this wrong, do it this way and it will not suck so much” does not help anyone. I get that some people might not have the eye for photography but I don’t understand the concept of being overly condescending about it in your critique. I would not be doing what I am doing now unless I had good people around me giving me meaningful, encouraging critiques that help me grow and not want to make me give up. I have said this before that photography is an evolving creative art form. Photography can be represented, processed and captured in so many different ways. When looking at someones photograph and critiquing their work it can be very subjective, but when you realize that and take in to account the persons creative view then you can start the real process of critiquing there work. You might look at a photograph and say to yourself “I would not have done it that way”, and that is fine but you’re not that photographer. You have to look into the perspective of what they were trying to capture and help them enhance and build on that idea so when they take that picture again, in the style they want to, it will be just a little bit better and help them represent their creative work in a better form.
My dad was one of the most supportive people in whatever it was I did. If he had a critique he would do it in such a way that made me want to build on it and learn from it, not give up and feel like a failure. Some of these photographers, you-tubers and so on need to remember where they started from. Start educating, helping people grow when critiquing their work. Don’t give them the opportunity for failure or the ammo to fail. Instead remember where you started from and embrace the opportunity you now have to help someone grow. Don’t be dick about it.
Thanks for reading.