If You Can Explain It, Are You Sure It’s Art?

The judge will say it's too busy. I don't think so. The judge will say there's no clear subject. I disagree, because I'm drawn to that dark place in the woods. The judge will say that, if that is the subject, it is too near the center of the image. Yada yada yada...

At our monthly meeting, the Ojai Photography Club invites a guest judge to present on a topic of his or her choice and then critique images submitted by members. We encourage newer members to submit their images again if they want a second opinion, and it is not uncommon for one judge to bestow an Award of Merit on an image severely panned by another judge one month earlier. We enjoy the diversity of opinion.

Some judges weigh technical criteria very heavily, while others bow to emotion. When the entire room gasps in exultation at the sight of an image, it does little good to point out that the “rule of thirds” has been violated, or that key areas are not critically sharp.

Personally, when I’m reviewing a publicity or commercial image for a client, I’m extremely attentive to technical issues. But when evaluating personal expression, I have a single criterion: either it gets me or it doesn’t. If it gets me on an emotional level, then I might engage intellectually, but the fact is that once I’m emotionally invested I will rationalize any intellectual basis I need to justify my feelings. And this is true of my own work most of all.

Last night I reviewed some images from an October 2007 visit to Wisconsin, looking for a picture that, when I found it, did not impress me so much in reality as it had in memory. But I also found two images I had ignored at the time. And I like them very much. In fact, I like them so much, I would not dream of submitting them for critique. We can all cite many “violations”, but no checklist of pros and cons will change the fact that I like to look at them. For me, that’s enough.

Nothing to see here. But I like it. That's not enough to make a living, but enough to make me happy. That'll do.


Filed under Composition, Motivation, Nature Photography, Personal

2 responses to “If You Can Explain It, Are You Sure It’s Art?

  1. Myrna Cambianica

    first image is lovely … maybe dark area is near center … could be cropped, but i like it as is

    second image is great too … there is a cross there … somewhat a universal symbol of faith, pain … something to see here that perhaps you missed and a judge might too … could be made more obvious with rotation … i like it as is


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