(and why knowing what others think is beneficial)
caution: a long post
When I started my public crowd sourced project to narrow down my 2011 travel pictures I stated why it was I was doing it this way. It's been a couple weeks so I'll recap and share some other thoughts as to why I still feel it's important.
How I learned
When I started in photography I learned everything by myself… sure it took years and lots more hours that someone starting off now (with all the helps out there) but the way I learned and the mindset has still stuck with me til today. I had and still have a self-motivated push to always experiment and discover new things and let my creativity take me wherever it would.
AND one of the biggest helps I had was my ability to view first hand the reactions and expressions of other people. I sat down with people at the computer and watched them look at my pictures.
Sure I had an advantage coming from a family of artists and I believe that helped me in my understanding of what good art looked like. However I really fine tuned my knowledge of good pictures by showing my own pictures to my friends and clients and seeing how they reacted to the pictures. Not Just what they said but their very expressions and laughs or silence. Especially important is what they did with the pictures after.
Yes, this method required a lot of people skills and meant to not read into everything all the time.
Aesthetics, in a sense means: What is pleasing to look at… what people like to look at. Some one that is good at photography knows how to make a picture that the majority of people like seeing.
I have a better ability to look at a picture and say: "I know most people will love this picture even though it's not my favorite and understand and accept it's value even so"
In fact my favorite picture from 2011 travel didn't make the top 5 … i think it got 7th place… and it's still my favorite. But that's largely because of my personal emotional connection to the picture and the theme. And now I know which other pictures pull at the heart strings of other people the most and the one that does the best job at that is my second favorite … so… it's pretty good eh?
I think people can look through this album of top 5 and if they were following the whole culling process down from 100 they can learn soooo much about photography and how people react to pictures… a learning photographer can read between the lines and hopefully learn lots about what interests other people. (and I hope we're all learning photographers)
If you ever come across a photographer that says something like "It doesn't matter what other people think about a picture" to be fair they're most likely trying to make the point that the photography should speak to you and make you excited to take pictures. Because the excitement and personal emotions are so very important to your progression in photography as well as developing your trust in your own judgement. It's important you don't become dependent on the opinions of others.
BUT, photography to 99.9% of people is about sharing the beauty we see and we can create with others.
IT IS IMPORTANT to know what others find beautiful because when we know we are able to create things that will bring beauty and enjoyment to their lives.
I believe it's about creating a healthy balance between both these motivations.
So in the end if you were to ever run across a photographer that dubs himself "a teacher" and he tells you "It's not important what other people think about your pictures" all while talking to you about how to improve your photography and talking aesthetics…
That teacher is doing you a dis-service, they may understand the point but they're just telling you things they think you want to hear to gain brownie points and they're being LAZY by not helping you understand the balance that there should be in building your internal passion to create and perhaps the therapeutic effect on the soul along with a healthy respect of the judgement of others and the concepts of aesthetics.
If he's adamant and he actually believes it really really doesn't matter what others think and he's not just saying it to prove a point… RUN AWAY (unless he's your therapist trying to help you do something that is truly just for you)
It's cute to boil it down to cliches and one liners that sound great and get you a lot of sympathetic Likes online… well I think I've made my thoughts clear. (which is much better than the previous scathing remarks I previously wrote and then of course did not post because there was this much kinder way to say how full of crap I thought someone's sentiments were)
So to recap: A large part of how I got good at photography was that I knew what people appreciated and I knew what would make them happy. In general and with specific families and peoples.
It works for landscapes too. AND I knew and followed what motivated me and what made me passionate for photography.
My way is unique and very ME and yet it appeals and came from a healthy understanding of what other people like. But it's not imitation or regurgitation.
An epic scene from Capitol Reef National Park
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