I would like to explore the idea of a critique and how to stimulate reflection and the critical viewing of photographs. The necessary ingredients of a well-stated critique are reflection, critical viewing, knowledge of the matter in hand, and ability to communicate. Would it be proper to say that “opinions are democratic, critiques are elitist.” Now, some may take issue with my choice of words, like “elitist” but that is part of the reason I am writing this anyway. Allow me to elaborate.
I want to emphasize the point that although everyone can pass on their opinion, not everyone has the necessary ingredients to offer criticism. That’s why I think that opinions are democratic, everyone has them and entitled to their opinions. Where critiques, well thought out critiques, are elitist in the sense that people with the necessary knowledge, insight, and skill in articulating their thoughts succeed in providing useful critiques. These skills, at least up to a point, can be developed by anyone.
From this, I also reach another conclusion that not all statements about a photograph are a valuable critique of the work. It would be interesting to start talking about “the elements of composition” to see if we have a reasonably good and at least similar understanding of this often used word. I read on many a photography site comments that say “the work is excellent compositionally” and I sometimes wonder if we use the word to mean the same thing. There may be those who have studied these concepts formally. They could make a significant contribution by sharing their knowledge about the subject with all of us.
I also think that a single photograph is difficult to critique. A photographer’s work cannot be distilled into one photograph. I would like us to think of ways to critique a group of photographs that a photographer presents. This is where our gallery site may help where members can organize groups of photographs for others to critique, no sugar coating, no formula statements, honest, frank and insightful comments and critiques that will talk about what works, what does not, and include the “why.”
Penny for your thoughts!