I am often asked by other photographers to look at their work. While I do not always have time to oblige (I get busier every year), I think it’s important that, as a photographer with a modicum of success, I try to give something back to the photographic community. I would be lying if I said that I thought I was the most qualified person to provide a critique, but I would be lying if I said I were the least qualified. Let’s just say that I feel, in all sincerity, that I AM qualified.
As many of you know, I penned a blog post entitled “Stop Worrying if Others like Your Work and Create, Dammit!” and I stand by that statement. YOU are the ultimate “decider” of the value and quality of your work. Not others. You alone. However, that is, in no way, meant to imply that a bit of outside perspective or insight cannot be useful. Consider the Old Masters, the greatest painters in history. Did they achieve their status alone, or did they have mentors and teachers? Hint: they had the latter.
Professional critiques (or ANY critique, for that matter) should never be a value assessment about “good”, or “not good.” Not ever! They should also never be an insistence or command. Instead, they should a conversation whose primary goal is helping photographers better understand and communicate their own visions and styles and intents, and to help hone their craft. The goal isn’t to tell someone how to do something better, but to provide the insights and tools to allow them to discover for themselves how they can “improve.” Also, and this not to be understated, providing reviews and critiques forces me think about photography and art, and to consider my own work and my own vision. They make me a stronger artist.
In other words, critiques are not about teaching, they are about learning.
And that is why I will critique other people’s work.
Note: I wrote this as a response to Cole Thompson’s recent post entitled Why I Don’t Critique Other People’s Work. In it, he brought up some very valid points which are hard to disagree with, but I thought I would proffer up a slightly different take.