I don’t quite know if, let alone how, I’m going to articulate, accurately or otherwise, the point I’m going to try make by typing this entry but here goes. I was reading an article today on dpreview.com, an article in which the author posted a picture of a lone traveller riding a ferry at dusk. It’s not so much the picture but more the comments the picture garnered from the site visitors that got me wondering why or how some people can analyse an image in such depth & have such assured opinions as to whether it’s a good image or a bad image.
The picture in question is shown below.
Even I can recognise, if not fully appreciate from a purely artistic point of view, the contrast between the cold blue exterior and warm bright interior of the ferry cabin. That’s what struck me when I first viewed the image. Beyond that, however, the picture to me is, in a word, mundane. Yet comments have been posted on the picture regarding its
“fundamental truth” (what?),
& about how the contrast I just spoke of conveys in one poster a
“feeling of existential menace, which could lead to many internal dialogues.”
OK, I guess… maybe. Somehow. One poster, poor chap, said the fact that
“the left side of the pix does not seem to be aligned parallel to the wall of the ferry” started to
“bother” him “immediately.”
However, nothing can top the poster who seems to condescendingly sympathise with those viewers who don’t
“get” the image, pitying them for not seeing
“what possibilities it lends to the viewer are just into snapping frames and don’t have a clue on the artistic side beyond pretty flowers.”
(No, that particular poster didn’t articulate his point very well but still sufficiently enough to enable mere mortals like me to get some sort of an appreciation as to how far up his own ass his head must be).
Unfortunately the online photographic community seems to be awash with critics – for want of a more apt title – of this ilk. This is especially true on dpreview itself, a site notorious for the harshness of it user generated commentary – unlike other UGC sites like flickr, pbase.com or photo.net, all of which generally offer constructive feedback of users work, on dpreview.com it seems to be a case of if you’re big enough to post it you should be big enough to take it. I don’t get it. For an art like photography that produces a result (an image), the interpretation of which is so subjective, there seems to be so many people out there willing to tell everyone who will listen how it should be done, or should look. The way I see it there is no right & no wrong. Of course there are many well-known & basic compositional rules in photography, rules that any photographer, hobbyist or pro alike, will know they are supposed to follow to improve the overall aesthetics of their image (the rule of thirds being one obvious example). I’m aware of the rules I speak of but I tend not to think about them all that much; if the picture I take happens to conform to one or more of these rules then so be it but I certainly don’t determine the composition of any photograph I take based on following so-called rules. I just take pictures & while I’m always conscious of lighting, I don’t worry too much about where the horizon may be, if the scene is too cluttered, if it’s off-balance etc. And neither do I look at an image and scrutinise it for being a good or bad image based on its coherence to rules – when I look at a picture it either strikes me right off as a good image or not, regardless of what rules it may follow or violate. Everything is just simpler that way & that’s how I choose to live life as a hobbyist photographer (and if that makes me a bad hobbyist photographer and interpreter of images then so be it, that’s what I am).
Maybe you need a sound base – an actual education say in an art or photography discipline, something I don’t have – to appreciate such things as the various compositional elements & makeup of an image, or to even notice them in the first place. Maybe. I don’t know. As I say, I’m just a hobbyist photographer who likes taking pictures. Maybe as I progress on this photography journey I’ll develop an artistic eye for an image and analyse it to a degree that goes beyond what I presently would find enjoyable. Maybe I’ll develop a deeper appreciation for the art of images, an appreciation that will have me looking beyond their immediately obvious aesthetic pleasures. Again, maybe… but I doubt it. And I guess that means I’m damned to never get the image, whatever getting the image means.