In Honor of
Ernst Haas & Brassai
Taken in part from my forthcoming artists’ book:
Presenting Photography to Curators and Museums
Postcard Display Amsterdam 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
Someone asked me why I shut off the comments.
Since I’ve put my work on the internet, and this is no exaggeration, I have received maybe 8 comments over the years that I felt are deserving of a photog with my accomplishments. But, when it comes to stupid, ignorant, hateful, useless comments there is no shortage of them.
It would be one thing if these critics were world class photogs. The sad thing is the comments are pretty much by photogs that can’t shoot their way out of a paper bag if they had razor blades glued to their cams…just nothing photogs, that will never get anywhere with their work.
Consequently whenever I post things online I try to turn off the comments if I can. I am not looking for your comments, likes, thumbs up or ego stroking. I am only looking to display my work…nothing else.
Here are a few of the critiques / comments I’ve got over the last couple of years….
“Your pictures are lifeless.”
“I don’t like color.”
“I don’t like BW.”
“I don’t like HDR.”
“I don’t selective color.”
“I don’t like diffusion.”
“I don’t like Hyper-Real HDR, it is too cartoonish.”
“Your photos are too contrasty.”
“Your photos are too grainy.”
“Why don’t you take pictures of something pretty like flowers or a sunset instead of those ugly things.”
“Your trying to make something out of nothing.”
“Your photos are too sensational.”
“Don’t photograph the homeless.”
“Don’t photograph kids without their parents’ permission.”
“I find photos of people boring.”
“Your not a very good photographer.”
‘Your exploiting the homeless.”
‘Your photo doesn’t work for me.”
“I don’t like flower photographs they are boring.”
“What were you trying to say?”
“Digital photography is not real photography.”
“I find it disturbing you think your work is museum worthy.”
“It is over processed.”
“Don’t take pictures of people in public without their permission.”
“Don’t photograph anorexics.”
“Cover up her breasts.”
“Your photos are staged.”
“I don’t like your photo because it leaves nothing for the imagination.”
“Never crop your photos. If you have to crop a photo it wasn’t meant to be taken.”
“Your photography is vernacular.”
“You should trash that photo.”
“I don’t like fisheye photos.”
“Don’t shoot digital, shoot film, digital is no good.”
“Don’t send unsolicited photos to museums.”
“She (the person in the photo) is a drunk…she is fat…she is an attention whore…she needs to go to the gym…she is trailer trash.”
“Your an arrogant fuck.”
“I don’t like wide-angle distortion.”
“Your a phony…your all talk…you don’t know how to take photographs.” (When I don’t send in any photos to the photo forums.)
“Your a troll…your looking for attention…your trying to boost your website traffic…your an egomaniac.” (When I do send in photos to the photo forums.)
“I’d never shoot digital. If and when film becomes unavailable I will give up photography.”
“It is porno.”
“I think somebody should tell you: your shots are very boring, nothing is happening there, just very normal snapshots, and you are trying to make them look interesting by shooting with a wide angle and HDR…they are all trash.”
“It looks horrible.”
“It’s a hack composite, looks like it was done for some Sunday paper magazine.”
“It looks like the view through the bottom of my shot glass after my fourth tequila at Cozumel.”
“15 seconds of my life I will never get back. What a waste.”
“Only commercially printed books count, your self-published books don’t count.” *
‘Unless a museum solicits you for your work it does not count if you solicit them.” *
“You have no one-man shows or critical reviews.” *
“No one wants to look at that.”
“I’m not interested in looking at that crap.”
“You have low morals.”
“You’ll never win a Pulitzer.”
“I prefer Danny Lyon.”
* Shortened and paraphrased comments.
Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. When it comes to art…you can never argue taste – there is no right or wrong. But whenever the topic of ‘opinion’ comes up I must recount what Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty Harry’ character once said…
“Opinions are like assholes…everyone’s got one.”
I’ve been shooting for 49 years. My work is in 130+ museums and curated public collections around the world. I hold a number of world records pertaining to photography, as well as producing many landmark artists’ books.
If I don’t know what I’m doing by now…I’m in trouble. One critic told me having my work in 130+ museums and public collections means nothing. But if the choice is to have my work on Flickr (Flickr banned me after 9 days.) to please the critics or have it in 130+ prestigious collections…the critics can keep their pix in Flickr and I’ll keep my prints in the museums.
As an artist, you first must master the basics. Once you are comfortable with your skill set, you have to become comfortable with your own style and learn to trust your own instincts. If you can’t trust your own instincts, then you must follow the critics and do your art for the critics and not for yourself.
Now, a normal photog may be discouraged by the harsh criticism. But I’ve done many experiments over the years posting work from other famous and not so famous photogs for discussion on forums. They were all great pix I put up for review. Pretty much all negative comments for these photogs as well. Either that or no one comments at all…I guess they couldn’t figure out how to put the image down.
Here is a little known masterpiece from Cartier-Bresson’s 1952 book The Decisive Moment called ‘Tehran 1950’.
Here are a few comments from a discussion on it…
“Looks pretty marginal to me. Do you want me to bow down to him?”
“I found it more obnoxious than anything else.”
“What makes it so great? The crooked horizon? The poor composition? The distracting background? The blown out chandelier? The blown out black-blob of a curtain? The distracting bright triangle from the area beyond the curtain? The poor use of bokeh to make it hard to tell the wall is a mosaic of mirrors? The pushed-too-far contrast to remove any details.”
Let’s look at a couple of these critics a little closer. Here are some of their posts from the forum.
Here is some work from the “Looks pretty marginal to me.” critic…apparently he likes to use the word ‘marginal’ a lot.
Ingredients | Marginal Presentation and Good-Ish Light | CC Needed!
Here is something from the “What makes it so great?” critic. This guy must be a master photographer with his devastating critique of Bresson…right?
Any good tips for portraits on boring winter overcast days?
Well…when you take both of these ‘photo wizards’ and mix them together…they don’t have the talent that Cartier-Bresson had in his left testicle. When I tried to discuss this on that forum they banned me.
It seems to be a common phenomena that online critics think they can always do it better than someone else. All my critics know more than me. The 3 critics above know better than Cartier-Bresson. This is how the ego can distort reality.
Artists, and esp photogs can be a jealous bunch. Lots of hatred within some of them. Many of the harshest critics are just ‘cowards behind the keyboard’ that can only ‘talk about photography’ but can’t produce anything worthwhile.
Our work defines us and is an extension of ourselves. But deep down inside many know their work will never amount to anything. Photogs as well as artists are stressed out trying to get attention for their work. All the while the market is polluted with so many images no one person could possibly look through them even part of them in a lifetime.
All this stress can put the photog / artist in a bad mood. When people are in a bad mood they may not think straight. When people do not think straight they can’t be depended upon for right thinking. That is why online feedback can cause more harm than good.
Bottom line…from Scape Martinez
“Never give up! Don’t listen to the haters. Don’t try to be an artist unless you can work and live in isolation, without any thanks….bleak, but needed until you get to the much lauded place.”