Here I try to answer one of the questions you posted about my discussion with Joe Cornish
Among the numerous comments I have received after publishing My Inspiring Discussion with Joe Cornish, someone asked me how I would have felt if Joe had given a negative critique to my own photographs I had sneaked into the pool to be reviewed by him. As I started replying, I realised this question would deserve more than a 2 line response, and I should do a video about it which would maybe start a broader dialog with you all. Before I answer that specific question, I’d like to expand the topic if you do not mind.
What is, for me, Photography and Art in general?
I deeply believe that Art is a mean, for us human beings, to express ourselves. While some may be very eloquent, other will be better at drawing, painting or even dancing for example. Like many of you, I suppose, I am rather poor in the drawing and painting department while I’ve found Photography more adequate.
Do I care what other people think of my work?
That is the $1M question. Well the answer is not so simple as you can imagine or maybe it is but it is a rather long one to explain.
If we establish that Art is a mean for us to communicate it is rather obvious that we are seeking some attention if only just an ear or a pair of eyes. I do think that the human being is conscious of his/her inevitable mortality and is obsessed with existential questions such as: Would people notice if I was no longer here? What trace(s) will I have left behind once I am dead?
Warhol spoke about everyone seeking his/her 15min of fame. I do no think this is necessarily about celebrity like movie and tv stars but also within our own, much close community. The above questions imply a second party, a witness to oneself. It is not, I think therefore I am but I am because you can see, hear or touch me. Without you, my witness, I am not or at least my proof of existence is none.
What would be the point of starting a conversation with someone who does not want to listen? That would be a waste of effort, wouldn’t it. So do I care about what other people think of my own work? I have to admit yes I do very much. However, how much do that awareness and concern for others’ perception influence my creation, my message?
If I am being honest, it probably does right from the beginning when I decide to grab my camera to capture a scene. I’d like to think that most of my actions have a purpose and while many of my photographs will never meet the eyes of someone else, the initial intent is always to deliver something to my witness. In the making of that photograph, I remain aware of my end goal, my message, and that will dictate my exposure setting. Finally, during post production when I finalise the photograph, before and after each stroke of my pen on the graphic tablet, I constantly wonder how strong or weak the format of my message is becoming. That being said, it remains my message.
Do all opinions matter?
Thankfully not but they can hurt nonetheless. It is obvious that the option of the people we love and/or respect is worth more than of a stranger. The critique is essential in life. Whether it is constructive or not, it shapes our character one way or another and some may say it makes us artist. In the social media era we live in, there is an infinity of art contests and forums where one’s message is being judged by strangers or SMF (Social Media Friend) and subsequently, hearts get broken & sadly sometimes dreams get shattered.
Even on the Tom Migot Photography Club ( my community on G+) where members post their work for the community to comment in a helping manner, feelings get scared. No later than this week, someone posted a photograph he took, asking for the opinion of others on whether that piece was conveying something valuable. One the members admitted he could not understand the message and tried to explain where the rhetoric had lost him. The immediate response from the artist was full of emotion as he felt misunderstood and subsequently hurt. I tried to jump in and bring some unbiased clarity but I am not sure my message was well received either.
There is an intrinsic rule of publishing that is well acknowledged but too often forgotten. No matter where one publishes something, one exposes oneself to the public opinion. Art forums, art galleries, and the internet have never meant to be a place for artists to publish everything they produce. I consider those places like the street in front my house. Do I really want to go there and cry my lungs out everything that comes to my mind? Of course not. I do not even tell my loved ones everything that comes to my mind. The human brain is an incredible organ which triggers thoughts at the frequency of the speed of light but let’s face it, quantity rarely rhymes with quality. One needs to learn to filter. That is a very important skill for an artist. From filtering his/her own thoughts in order to focus on the prime message he/she wishes to convey to filtering his/her production before showcasing it. Finding the right balance between the audience and the message will ensure the chance of reaching the end goal: being heard.
As mentioned previously, while i have met Joe only twice, his body of work has deeply inspired me over the years. I am sure Joe and I would not agree on everything, but when it comes to landscape photography, his opinion matters a great deal to me. If he had given a negative critique on my photographs, I would be lying if I said it would not have affected me. I was both anxious and curious to know what he thought. But did I take a big risk in having him critique my own work, in a video for the internet? Not really. Let’s be honest; I did not pick the photographs randomly. I chose them from my published work, and I knew or hoped at least, those would resonate with his approach to photography. So how did I feel about his positive feedback? Call me whatever you like, but I was deeply moved. Do not think for a second, that the years of experience will ever fill the holes created by my own self-consciousness. I am and will always be checking in with the witness of my own existence some time to time.
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