Be critical with your idols
I was thinking some time ago about my sources of inspiration and the photographers I admire. And I find it rather difficult to nominate only a few of them. But what I found more surprising is that there is absolutely none of them that I could say that I like ALL of his/her work. There are photographers that have some superb work, some images that I really enjoy each time I am seeing, but also some images that I would not even keep in my portofolio. Some images that tell me nothing. Is it just me? I am the only one that is so critical with all the images that is seeing?
I was reading about this experiment done on flickr (http://petapixel.com/2011/07/13/why-you-shouldn't-give-too-much-weight-to-anonymous-online-critics/ ). Some guy posted an image of Henry Cartier-Bresson in one of those Keep or Delete groups where people vote if a particular image should remain or should be removed from the pool. And surprisingly enough, the image was voted to be deleted. Some posts on this meter were trying to reduce the value of anonymous feedback from the online crowd (especially the negative ones). They were accusing the flickr users for giving negative feedback for an image that was later sold with 265000$ in an auction. I pretty much agree that online feedback, to some extents is not really relevant. There are millions of average or crappy images out there, that receive raving comments just because they author is also reciprocating (I will write about this in the future). Based on this, also people tend to minimize the impact of a negative feedback (although I would personally take it more serious as people having the guts to tell that they do not like your work are at least more honest that the whole bunch of "nice pic" dudes). But another interesting aspect is the difference in the feedback knowing the author. How is your feedback changing when you are aware that the image you are looking at is produced by Henry Cartier-Bresson, Michael Kenna or Steve McCurry, rather than some random young photographers that just started to showcase their images on flickr or facebook? How much would this image be sold without being signed by Henry Cartier-Bresson? I bet with a lot less than 265000$.
So don't take me wrong. I really like this image of Cartier-Bresson and most of his work. I am not saying that all the classics are bad and their images, published by other people, would have no impact. That's not true. In order to be a well known artist, you need to produce constantly extremely high quality work for a long period of time. This work should please to both critics and regular people. But everybody can produce things that have a lower quality than the rest of his/her work; or simply pieces that have no impact on me or other viewer. And this is normal. We should realise what we like and what we don't like fat some particular image, without being impacted by his/her name, just based on our personal aesthetic criteria. And understanding why we like or we don't like some particular work we can improve. We should not start producing works that we do not like, just by copying some classic, hoping that someone will like them just by a strange associative logic rule. It will not work. You should always have an honest opinion about any piece of work, no meter who it belongs to.
Especially if it is yours.
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