I started to write this blog last year, but I never got round to finishing it, however, we have time on our hands it seems, and so here is the completed blog.
For years one thing has bugged me about the online photography community on social media platforms, there's no critique. Everyone is...too nice.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying everyone has to be nasty, that's not the point I'm trying to make, but the lack of 'critique' on social media is building up a watered down photography culture, where photographic art is merited on how many likes, shares and Retweets it gets.
When I began my photography journey almost 10 years ago, a young, slightly less bearded Matt uploaded his first photographs to an online forum, I was proud of my first photographs, I thought they were the 'Bee's Knees' but...they were ripped apart by fellow forum members. Did it hurt my feelings? Yes!
Was I annoyed? Yes!
Did I want to give up?
The members weren't exactly nasty, in fact they were very nice whilst dissecting my image apart, and they delivered their criticism constructively, I'd be lying if I said my pride didn't get in the way though, at first I shrugged it off as 'clicky' forum members roasting the newbie, but the more I read the feedback, the more it made sense. I listened to what they had said and applied it to my photography, and, low and behold, my photography started to improve. I wouldn't be the photographer I am today if I didn't receive that critique. it was essential.
Now, however, I feel times have changed, and critique is almost none existent on social media platforms, and its creating an army of photographers with built up egos fed by thumbs up, hearts, and overly used words like 'Awesome Image' and 'Perfect Capture'. This, in my opinion, is changing what it seen as 'Art' within the photographic community.
Let's start with instagram, put the right hashtags on a poorly composed, grainy, under exposed photograph and it will receive thousands of 'hearts' and 'comments', giving the photographer a false high, making them feel like what they have produced is a fine photograph, a perfect shot with no need for improvement, when in fact its just algorithms and a socially compliant culture rushing to 'Heart' the photograph. This creates a photographer who feels they can do no wrong, and no longer looks at their own work and look to see where they can improve, instead, they hunt for the 'Hearts' and 'comments' for validation that they are a great photographer. The only time they judge their photograph is if it doesn't get the amount of 'Hearts' and 'Comments' they so desperately crave, in which case it's usually removed and re uploaded at social media peak times, with altered hashtags.
If, let's say for example, Instagram shut down tomorrow, all those 'hearts' and 'comments' disappear instantly and all of a sudden, it's no longer relevant, is it?
Twitter and Facebook work the exact same way, shares, comments, ReTweets and likes, all creating this false 'Value' to the photographers work.
Why, when a photograph that is clearly suffering from issues, is there no critique? Is it easier to be just say "Nice image" and turn a blind eye to the issues? Are we scared to hurt someones feelings? Are we scared the same person receiving the constructive criticism will come back and critique our own work? Why, is the art of critique dead on social media platforms?
1000 likes = Great photograph and happy photographer
10 likes = Shite photograph and a very upset photographer.
I personally know many photographers, some, will upload a poor image, and receive 1000s of likes, even place in competitions, then I know others who will upload a blinding photograph, composed beautifully and they then doubt their own ability based on the fact the image they just posted only got 10 likes. It's madness.
One photographer friend I watched upload images that were great, but the white balance was completely off, and for years I didn't mention it because I didn't want to offend them, eventually I inboxed them a few weeks back and let them know, and you know what, they were thankful and looked to change it straight away, resulting in a better photograph and photographer. Why was I so scared to critique the image?
Obviously, there's exceptions. For example you wouldn't look to give some constructive criticism on someones public business page, that would be terrible and un called for, possibly driving away business for them, that's not what we're trying to achieve.
I'm not a perfect photographer, I don't know anybody who is, if anything I'm my own worse critic which is why I'm always looking to improve my art, but please, we need to stop with the ego massaging, its building poor photography skills up and tearing great photography down. I'm not saying we aren't entitled to an opinion, I'm not saying you can't comment however you want, I just wish we were more honest about it. I for one will start to be more honest, not to be nasty, not to be awkward, but to be constructive.
What's your opinion, do you think there's room online for critique?