Thursday, September 24, 2009

On Receiving Criticism

Yesterday, I posted something on a photo forum I regularly visit and participate in. The post was my take on some previous words and actions by a member of that forum.

The member had angrily deleted his thread and pics because he didn't like some of the criticisms he received, specifically, from the forum's owner and administrator, as well as yours truly. I didn't name names and few others on the forum initially knew who or what was the catalyst for my words--that member's post and pics weren't up for all that long--until that person jumped into my thread and, well, it all became much clearer.

Before long, the thread became something of a flaming free-for-all. The end result had the person who "inspired" my OP (Original Post) taking his ball and going home. (He deleted his account on the forum.)

I'm not smugly happy about the end result. I would have much preferred we all ended by putting our opinionated differences aside, agreed to disagree, and continued the illuminating and enjoyable pastime of sharing pics, discussing photography, and all that. But that wasn't to be. Wha'd'ya gonna do, right?

Anyway, I thought I'd reprint my forum post here, on the blog, as it serves two purposes: 1) It makes for a "makes-sense" Part Two to yesterday's blog update; 2) It saves me the time and energy required to write, from scratch, something completely new... leastwise for another few days or so.

Alrighty then. Here's my forum post from yesterday that created such a stir:

Crybabies, Whiners, Thin-Skinned Posters, and Harry Truman

"If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." -Harry S. Truman, President, USA.

Plain-talking President, Harry S. Truman, was known for his home-spun candor. "The buck stops here," was another Trumanism that has survived time, changing social mores, an ever-evolving language, and is still oft-repeated in our (sometimes absurd) politically-correct society.

How do Truman's words apply to a photography forum?

Oh, that's easy.

If you're gonna post your photographic masterpieces on a forum, be prepared for some critical review. You might not like what others have to say, you might not agree with their critiques, but if you're gonna put your work in the public's eye, leastwise, a forum's eye, man-up (or woman-up) and accept it for what it's worth, whether you think it's worth much or worth little or worth something in between.

"If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

In other, other words, if you don't want to hear/read critiques of your work, if all you're looking for are "attaboys," "attagirls," ego strokes and pats on the back, or you're going to be a crybaby, a whiner, or a thin-skinned poster, do everyone a favor and don't bother posting your work.

I've learned more from the critical comments made by people viewing my work than I've ever learned from all the "attaboys" I've ever received. I didn't always like hearing/reading it, but it has always made me think... think and view my own work with more of a critical eye.

I've always tried my best to respond to criticism to my work in a positive or, at least, tolerant way, regardless of whether I thought such criticism was mean-spirited or well-intentioned. I may not have always been 100% successful at doing so, but I've always tried to be. Criticism of things like my political and religious views, of course, are a different matter. (As I'm always right.)

When it comes to your work, i.e., your photography, "the buck stops here."

It's your work. You're responsible for it. You snapped and processed and posted the image(s) without anyone forcing you to do so. You own it and you own the responses to it.

If you're gonna cry or get mad and take your ball and go home (e.g., by becoming angry, defensive, unduly argumentative, and/or deleting your post cuz you don't like what people say) save us all some time and don't bother sharing it.

If the only person you're work is supposed to impress is you, yourself, then keep it to yourself. You don't really want to hear what others have to say anyway... unless they're stroking your photographic-ego.

The pretty girl at the top is Devin from a couple of years ago. I'll resist the urge to make a pocket pool pun. Ooops! Guess I just did.


Bill Giles said...

It wasn't hard to find out where you were coming from. Other than the fact that everyone gets bent out of shape, the thing that bothers me about these flaming wars is that people forget who said what and start blaming you for something that you didn't say. It's really hard to keep track of who said what. I just don't bother too much with these threads. In the long run, what matters to me is whether I like the photo, or not. It's one reason I don't comment on many of these images. I met the OP several years ago and always thought that he did good work. I might have been jealous of his abilities, but I never had much to do with him. Thanks for your thoughts.

jimmyd said...

@Bill Giles,

No doubt about it, the OP who quit the forum shoots really good stuff. I've attaboy'd him many times... with some 'splaining why, of course.

Damion009 said...

my god!

Mark said...

I see this all the time in the forums I frequent. Sometimes, though, I think the way critique is given can set the tone of the response. Starting out with the positive (what you like about the image) and moving to the more constructive criticism seems to work best.

lee said...

I love that photo but why the hell did you chop her fingertips off man!!!

jimmyd said...


I'm going to manicure school and thought I'd practice cutting fingernails. ;-)