I do quite a bit of judging these days, and so I see both good and bad work presented to me for some critique, and opinion.
I also do personal critique sessions, and try to help photographers with individual images they are trying to make, or panels they are trying to put together – and sometimes a photographer might be insistent that one image or another is the one they want to use or put into a group of other images – and the reason is that they have an emotional tie to that image – whether it’s a good one or not.
It’s not always what the photographer wants to hear…. that an image won’t fit – or isn’t that good….. Reasons for inclusion are numerous, but usually on the grounds that it was a difficult image to produce, or acquire, or expensive to get. My response these days is pretty much on the grounds of ‘who cares?’ – though maybe not quite so blunt.
My story is that many years ago, I photographed red squirrels in Liverpool. Not only had I not seen one before but it was around the time that squirrel pox had decimated the population somewhat – so the photos I did get were few and far between. I did get some, and the one I was most proud of, was a fat squirrel sat in in front of, and partly obscured by, the woodland undergrowth.
Proudly I put it into a local club competition, and it did very badly. Not knowing protocol – I complained to the judge at the end – and I said to him ” Do you know how hard it was to get that picture?” and his response was “Not my problem – it’s up to you to get a clear image with a diffused background” – I was taken aback, and said that it was nearly impossible to get that sort of background…. to which he replied “so go try harder then”………
Now – I understand what he meant – it wasn’t the judges problem, it was mine…. No one who views a piece of artwork or photography cares how long it took, how difficult it was to get, or how much it cost. No-one cares that you stood in an icy river for three weeks, or that you paid a fortune to a photographic holiday company.
The pain and suffering that a photographer or artist goes through is irrelevant from a viewer’s point of view. We always think it’s important, when we are the ones who have suffered so much, or paid for a shoot. It’s the painful truth though – If it’s a bad image, then no amount of pain and suffering or expense will make it into a better one.
If you want accolades and praise all the time, then photography or art isn’t for you. Take the rough with the smooth, and accept that not everyone is going to like what you produce, and sometimes the reason they don’t like it, is just because it really isn’t good enough!