Talking about images…

I want to ask you all a question…

Without saying whether you like* it or not, what else can you say about this image? (Click to see the full size version).

21372421124_b364898df2_o Author/Source: Peng Zhang, Nothing Project on Flickr
License: CC BY 4.0

If this is not your preferred photographic genre, that’s OK. You should find it easier to be dispassionate.

There are no right or wrong answers. We can’t hope to convey an image in words, it should stand on its own. That’s probably why the quality of an image is usually inversely proportional to the length and opacity of the artist’s statement. On the other hand, as viewers of an image, we should be able to say something useful about style and composition, or our reaction to it.

Whether you like this image or not, all I want to know is why.

It’s not that easy is it? If a picture paints a thousand words, how come we find it so hard to think of any when we look at one? Scan through Flickr or 1X and the comments get about as far as ‘great shot, love your work’, which is good for the ego, but not entirely helpful. Popularity is not necessarily the measure of quality.

The reason I ask is that once I nagged some of my artistically literate friends to look at a selection of my own images and tell me what they thought about them. It was more than a little uncomfortable at times, but the outcome was profound. For the first time I not only had some idea about what was working, but also why. Since then, I take fewer images, but I delete fewer of them as well.

So, regard this as an experiment in artistic criticism that we can apply to ourselves. It’s hard to think about our own work if we lack the vocabulary to have a dialogue, even if it’s an internal one.

I have no idea where this will go, but I will leave this post at the top and check back on comments over time. I will add my own impressions at some point, but I don’t want to lead the discussion.

Have fun with it, take your time, and don’t over-think your reply. Remember, this is research, not a test! If nothing else, it will help me define some tags for my own images!

*For the record, I do really like this series by Peng Zhang. This image contains all my favourite unseenic elements, but it also shows how even a humble camera (this was taken with an iPhone6) can produce fine images with real graphic impact.

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