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Roger Hicks -- Author of The Rangefinder Book

Roger Hicks is a well known photographic writer, author of The Rangefinder Book, over three dozen other photographic books, and a frequent contributor to Shutterbug and Amateur Photographer. Unusually in today's photographic world, most of his camera reviews are film cameras, especially rangefinders. See www.rogerandfrances.com for further background (Frances is his wife Frances Schultz, acknowledged darkroom addict and fellow Shutterbug contributor) .


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Old 08-11-2009   #101
chris00nj
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Levant View Post
I'm sure almost all of you have seen "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent". Don't pretend you're too aloof to have never watched it....

The lesson of these shows is how profoundly delusional most people are. You see the most awful, totally untalented people attempt to "sing", and then they react with anger and genuine astonishment when told that they have absolutely no talent at all.

They tearfully deny it, accuse the judges of prejudice, and claim in their defense that "their mother and Aunt Ruth said they were the best singers in the world".

NOT ONE walks away convinced that they have no talent.
....

In our self esteem culture, no one has ever told them before that they aren't as good. But heck maybe Mommy and Auntie Ruth don't have the critical ear to determine great from good, or good from mediocre.

They've also valued their entire lives and self worth on their singing ability. When they are told harshly that they suck, it destroys them. Many of us do other things than take pictures.
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Old 08-11-2009   #102
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Levant View Post
For one thing, I hire guys like you so I don't have to "set up and prepare illustrations". My greatest wish is to continue to do nothing. And shame on you for taking what "Oscar Levant" says on an internet forum literally.

Unfortunately, my list of publishing credits would scroll off the page, but then I don't boast or peg my ego to my work.
This is as close as I have ever seen to a written admission of trolling.

It also illustrates your mind-set perfectly. "I'm so great that I make you look like a nobody, but I don't boast about it..."

I am what I am: what you see is what you get. Not perfect, not always wise, but at least honest. On your own admission, you are not what you pretend to be. Why not? What are you afraid of? Why do you feel the need to hide behind a made-up name? Why are you dishonest?

Oh: of course. 'Internet Courage', which makes nobodies act big.

R.
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Old 08-11-2009   #103
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My "admission" was merely a foil to your incessant boasting. Classic case of pot calling the kettle black.

Listen, you're an intelligent guy. I have no desire to quarrel with you.

OK, sorry for shaking you up, I'll stay out of your threads.
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Old 08-11-2009   #104
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oscar Levant View Post
The disinterested observer's reaction to such posts would have to be "WTF"?
LOL... that is my reaction to several entire threads!

WTF?
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Old 08-11-2009   #105
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This is an unfortunate side effect of our false "everybody's special" culture.

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Originally Posted by chris00nj View Post
In our self esteem culture, no one has ever told them before that they aren't as good. But heck maybe Mommy and Auntie Ruth don't have the critical ear to determine great from good, or good from mediocre.

They've also valued their entire lives and self worth on their singing ability. When they are told harshly that they suck, it destroys them. Many of us do other things than take pictures.
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Old 08-11-2009   #106
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Okay from one guinea pig to another....

I think the first photo envokes an emotion of driving home in the rain... wanting to get home, waiting for the darn light, etc. However, there is a lack of a clear subject or focus.

I also have to agree that I don't see anything special about photo. Perhaps If it wasn't as close up and showed something else like, a deserted street or a couple people smoking? Is a connection to the place that you like about it?

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Originally Posted by historicist View Post
OK, I'm also going to be a guinea pig. I would like to think that I photograph for myself, but nevertheless I put pictures up on flickr and check how many comments etc. I get.

I'm going to post two pictures. The first is pretty popular, but I think it's pretty mediocre:



The second is one of the pictures I am happiest with, but no one else (more accurately, no one on flickr) seems to think so:



c&c, civil or vicious, welcome.
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Old 08-11-2009   #107
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If your lawyer isn't an "artist of the courtroom", you wind up an "artist of the jail cell".

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Originally Posted by functus View Post
See, that's the problem with today's results-oriented society. If I win the case I'm a good lawyer. If I fix the car, I'm a good auto mechanic. Where's the room for artistry, for creativity, for being allowed to explore my vision?
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Old 08-11-2009   #108
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Quote:
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I was once a columnist for a metropolitan newspaper (population of the area is ~3 million) and every month or so, tried to pick out an artist, (painter, photographer, ceramicist, fabric artist, etc.,) to write about. When it became apparent that I was serious about art, I got a lot of requests to "come look."



My solution to the question of what to say was...I didn't say anything, if it was bad. Thanks for showing me, see you later. The fact is, if the stuff is consistently bad, the producers of it will eventually catch on and do something else; they don't really have to be told.



If I thought something was good, of course, I said so, sometimes in terms more glowing than was warranted. Support the arts, etc.

When I made an error in my assessments, it was always on the generous side. I gave quite a good review to one particular painter, and years later, after leaving the newspaper business, bought one of his paintings. I look at it now and wonder what the hell I was thinking: it's awful, and it's now in my attic, where I see it two or three times a year. It doesn't get better.

.

I think I have put a few of mine into my own "attic". ;-)

Question may be, which images succeed and which fail, if your attempt is to produce a serious piece for display, i.e. others to view, and it fails, you should be the first to know it.

And there are degrees and categories of failure, technical, composition, timing, etc. Photography may be a medium where failure 35 out of 36 is not failure.

That is not to say you are firing salvos of film in the "spray and pray" of an action movie.

I am disappointed as much, perhaps more so, by an image of mine that just does not quite make it, as one in which I would simply put in the trash can, in the attic-- to a degree because I know I should have seen and/or done something differently, or things just did not align themselves.

If you offer a critique or suggestion for a good print, you may also merely be finding a different image within the original.

As stated above, it is not easy.

I would hope also to make comments on someone's work that are sound, and perhaps part of a dialogue.

Regards, John
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Old 08-11-2009   #109
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I have a problem with internet (and to a lesser extent, print media) critique - it is too immediate. In the past, artists worked in a relative vacuum. Their friends would offer encouragement, and occasionally there would be a criticism, which may or may not influence their work.

Now, one posts something on the internet, and immediately it is reacted to by many strangers. Influential posters on the various sites will offer their critique, and a large group of posters will agree with that critique (after all, who wants to see naked emperors?) If the critique was positive, well that's all to the good. We may say otherwise, but who really does not want to hear "great shot"?

If on the other hand, the critique is negative, the photographer will start shooting and posting pictures that are more like what others want to see. This is called improvement, as styles, and the use of tools, are brought more in line with the norms for similar works. In the end it has the effect of pounding the nails that stick up, flat. Potential artists are not allowed the space to develop without immediately being "corrected" into the realm of acceptable photos.

---

!
Reading backwards through this thread a bit, I find a lot of what you say to be spot on and well stated.

I do catch myself wondering when I put up something in the gallery how it will be received, when I probably should not.

I leave some images up when they seem to be ignored, knowing not whether they were missed (bad timing), have no thumbnail appeal, are simply not what folks want, or perhaps they are dreadful, and I should appreciate that folks are being polite ;-).

We do seem to be in a cycle of "instant is not fast enough", but posts can be edited and images deleted.

Regards, John
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Old 08-11-2009   #110
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I criticized the photos on a website posted here, and was taken to task (here). I still think they were just fire hosed shots from a DSLR and not even post processed, but like some say we will know in the end. Of course we won't be here to know about it.

Roger and your wife, Frances, thanks for the review of Ektar 100 in Shutterbug. I use this film and your insight was great.

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Old 08-11-2009   #111
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Quote:
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No, that's great. But what gets me is people who say, "As long as I like them, that's all that matters," and then show them to me. If they really don't care about anyone else's opinion, ever, why do they show them to anyone else, ever?

Like you, I shoot to please myself. I don't know anyone else well enough to do otherwise. But if I show them to anyone else (which in my case my job requires me to do) then I have to be prepared for adverse as well as positive criticism. Or, on occasion, for the outright insults which some people feel it is their duty to bestow.

It occurs to me that I should clarify the original post. Unless I can say something moderately constructive such as, "Perhaps you could consider a little more contrast," or "No, actually that picture isn't anything like as sharp as you think it is," or "Sorry, I can't really distinguish the principal subject from the background," then it's no use at all to say "Your picture is complete rubbish and you is a idiot."

This is even more true when the person seeking the critique clearly are a idiot.

Cheers,

R.

Would the real horror be an image you made and do not like being widely admired? ;-)

If you are genuine in an effort to help someone with aesthetic work, you have to have an appreciation of where they are, and where they may be going. I think also it would be best to avoid hurtful non constructive comments, which is why many people may abstain from commenting.


Regards, John
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Old 08-11-2009   #112
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This works both ways, as I was saying earlier, before you deleted all my posts.
Believe it or not, I didn't. Somebody else must have. Not that I am heartbroken at this.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 08-11-2009   #113
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Cheers for your comments chris00nj, appreciated (and Oscar Levant, blazeicehockey too)

Quote:
I also have to agree that I don't see anything special about photo. Perhaps If it wasn't as close up and showed something else like, a deserted street or a couple people smoking? Is a connection to the place that you like about it?
You mean the neon sign pic, right? Actually the situation surrounding the first picture was much more significant personally than the second - then I was on my own on a busy, unpleasant street in Cologne, overnighting on my way from Berlin to London. It kinda reminds me of a Wong kar wai film, I think that's why i like it.
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Old 08-11-2009   #114
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The rainy street picture is to me meh, I like the colours but that's it. The neon sign picture I guess I like because it reminds me of a Wong kar wai film.
For me, the rainy street picture is an immediate shared experience: perhaps good, perhaps bad (the experience, not the shot): somewhere we've all been, with a lot of emotion. The neon sign... is just another neon sign. I've shot 'em too, and (like you) admired the elegance of their lines. But it doesn't have enough narrative, enough shared experience, to engage me like the rainy street, which I find that I like emotionally more than I find reasonable intellectually.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 08-11-2009   #115
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No, the pictures are often better on the radio. And they're much better in Private Eye magazine.

I don't own a television. Haven't since I moved to France. The only reason I could be arsed to buy one is to improve my French, but then I stay in an hotel and see some television and think, no, I don't feel THAT strongly about improving my French, and I can live without the satellite stuff. Which is why I can say with a clear conscience that I have never watched either Britain's Got Talent or American Idol, though I do dimly remember some gruesome talent shows from (I think) the 1960s.

Of course, not owning a television allows me to devote more time to other mindless pursuits, such as the internet...

Cheers,

R.

Roger, it is not a proper ethical choice unless you own one and refuse to watch. ;-)

I do appreciate the ads on French TV, and my French is a bit too slow to catch as much as I would like from the news, which I hope is better than what is proposed to be news here.

There are those movies I view as a continual display of good photographic images though. A subject I have not seen explored, perhaps another day.

Regards, John
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Old 08-11-2009   #116
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If i put up images here or somewhere else in public, i am aware that people might dislike them.
I don't understand all the mimoza souls that get "discouraged" from some less positive comments.

Of course i like those people much more, who tell me i am great.
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Old 08-11-2009   #117
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This comment is not about "aweful photos" but about commenting on photos.

The choice of words used in a critique of a photo can be very infuriating for some people. I can still recall an incident where I participated in a RFF photo critique of photos. One photo was of a B&W ocean/beach image. It gave me a feeling of sadness and despair, and instead of me commenting on it by stating "this [excellent] image conveys to me a certain emotion ... etc.", I just said "I find the image depressing". My comment was very badly received, which at the time confused me.

I really meant to say the same thing, but written messages can be understood differently unless they are well explained.
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Old 08-11-2009   #118
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I don't know why one would be so worried about outing a "truly awful picture." They are usually forgotten.
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Old 08-11-2009   #119
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The wife and I have a art gallery.

Quite a few years ago, now, a young man came to me and asked if I would critique his picture. I did not find it to my liking at all but not wishing to turn him off I told him it was quite good...perhaps excellent and proceeded to talk about the good things in it.

Really bad idea I'm afraid. The fellow then wanted me to buy it and when I said we couldn't do that, he went to other galleries who then told him it was "juvenile", "crap", "junk" and "not ready". My understanding was that he was quite devastated after all this.

Five years ago our towns public gallery offered to have a public art showing of various local artists critiqued by three paid professionals. The "critiques" were not acceptable to these artists so the critics were fired and new ones hired who were a little more accepting of the works.

Again only last year a critic offered her services to do a critique of a public showing at the same town gallery. After the hubub died down and the mortally offended placated, she offered to those who would listen that she'd rather stick her head in a blender than critique our town gallery again.

I am completely unqualified therefore to judge anyones work.
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Old 08-11-2009   #120
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This works both ways, as I was saying earlier, before you deleted all my posts.


So you are following up on what you ignore?
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Old 08-11-2009   #121
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I keep returning home from the 'great outdoors' ( remember them? ) to find this thread alive and kicking!....sigh!....if only I had paid more attention in those far off school days - I would have been able to stay home, and participate in debates at this level!
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Old 08-11-2009   #122
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A reaction to an image, good or bad, at least shows a level of interest. Indifference is what really hurts.
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Old 08-11-2009   #123
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OK.. I'll put myself up on the stand next. I'm in the position that I'd really like constructive criticism. I get the usual "your photo's are amazing" from friends and family... but I often have a hard time telling if they're being honest, if they're being supportive... or they just haven't seen a large enough body of photography to form an informed opinion. From browsing flickr I'd concider myself middle of the pack... more technically skilled than many but not as good as many more... same goes with the creative side of things. I think it's great to have a forum full of experts in both skill and experience.. and sometimes experts in both to draw from.





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Old 08-11-2009   #124
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Some of my photos might indeed be truly awful. All of my photos might be.

Who knows? (Well except the people calling them awful! )

In all honesty, I'm not bothered too much what others think on a pure "I like it because..." or "I don't like it because..." -- I just take pictures, I enjoy taking pictures, I like some of my photos, and think the rest are sucky but try to analyse why I don't like them and how I could make them work if I took it again. Also if people enjoy my photos (or manage a good fascade that they are enjoying them) that's a bonus.

But nothing stops me enjoying what I do.

Photos of suburbia and rather otherwise banal things are interesting to me, but I can appreciate why some people would be like, "huh?"

E.g...



Most people would find that pretty boring (most people would also rightly find trapsing around Milton Keynes for weekends at a time boring, but I find it exciting and revealing, interesting too), and they're probably right, but it does something for me.

I'm not doing photography for acclaim, or some grand vision that I'll be one of the greats, but because I enjoy it, I get to study things in a depth that I enjoy, it keeps me out of trouble (I could be car jacking and do crack but I don't) and if I haven't said it enough, I enjoy it.

For example, I never have nor probably will see the big deal with Eggleston except for his use of colour at the time when colour was not the done thing in art fields. Apart from that, I don't have much to say about his work; but he clearly gets something from it, so do others, live and let live I guess.

So long as I don't lose the love for what I do, or the enjoyment in some of the results; in some ways, critique comes second, although I value it greatly. But if someone said to me today, "All your photos are crap or very dull," Sure I'd be a bit like OK, sure, that's fine but I wouldn't pack in what I do, I'd ask them why and try to see it from their viewpoint. Maybe the subject doesn't stir them, maybe the compsition is clichéd or dull, off-kilter etc.

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Old 08-11-2009   #125
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OK.. I'll put myself up on the stand next. I'm in the position that I'd really like constructive criticism.
No. 1 is the one that does it for me. I really like it, but I'd use the exact opposite approach to differential focus, with LF (or at least a rollfilm back on a 4x5) and a tilt front/back to hold it ALL in focus, for those glorious textures and shadows. Also, perhaps, I might light for a little less contrast (or add a bounce). Then I'd try reversing the swings to hold just one line of nails (or whatever they are) in focus -- perhaps diagonally.

Cross-process is something I don't really 'get', so I'll leave that, and the third might work as a big real-world print but I don't see it on the screen. I'm not condemning either; just side-stepping them because they say nothing to me personally in the format presented.

Usual disclaimer: http://www.rogerandfrances.com/photo...0critique.html

Cheers,

R.
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