How Do You Like Me So Far?
I've had mixed feelings about opening up my photography to critique. And it's not for the reasons that you might imagine. On the one hand, there's obvious value in getting objective 3rd party appraisal. If you spend a lot of time and energy on something, you can really lose all sense of perspective on it. On top of that, I find that other people often notice things that completely escape me. I'll be so keyed in on one aspect or another, that I'll completely miss some obvious faults or strengths of the work.
The rub for me comes from, candidly, being too accepting of criticism. Over the years, I've put a lot of music out there on the Internet for people to critique. My attitude is that if you're going to do it, you have to accept the feedback that you get graciously, without argument and with minimal justification. Suck it up and take it, or don't put it out there. But in the past, I've taken that attitude so much to heart that I've forgotten that a lot of times (especially on the 'Net) critiques are worth about what you paid for them. I can remember one episode in particular where I spent several weeks meticulously crafting and recording a song. Now that I've got some distance on it, I view it as one of the best things I've done. I put it out there on one of the music forums I used to frequent, where it received very enthusiastic compliments. Except for one guy, who I'll call Mr. Kindly who basically eviscerated it. In my desire to accept criticism openly, I didn't really question whether Mr. Kindly was right or not. I spent a lot of time and energy questioning not only my song and recording, but also my talent since I obviously couldn't hear how crappy my work was! (It sounds crazy to me now, especially in light of the overwhelmingly positive feedback that I got overall. But that's where my mind was at the time...) As it turned out later, Mr. Kindly had a deep history of being hypercritical about other people's music, not just mine. He kind of made a sport of it. Another person on the forum called him out on it later, and even went so far as to say that Mr. Kindly did it in order to make up for some kind of personal insecurity of his own. And in a moment of amazing self-reflection and guilt, Mr. Kindly admitted it! Still later, Mr. Kindly set about on a project to transcribe my song (why he picked my song, I'll never fathom) and e-mailed me asking for help because he couldn't suss out the rhythms. Think about that for second. He didn't have the talent to even work out the basics of the music that he'd so vigorously panned!
And I had a mini existential crisis over this dude's opinion?! Good grief. Obviously I learned a valuable lesson from all that.
Yes, if you're going to put your art out there for criticism, accept that criticism with grace and humility. Give it sincere consideration. Absorb as much knowledge from it as you possibly can because sending your babies out there to be called ugly ain't easy. But don't forget that a lot of critics are unqualified, asshat-like, or both and even if they're not, they just might be wrong.
Anyway, the photo above is one that I sent out there for critique on Google+. Most of the feedback was useful and pointed out things that I'd missed. An enlightening experience. A little bit of the feedback wasn't and after giving it due consideration, I discarded it.