One of my favorite parts of art classes was the critiques. I loved getting to see everyone else’s work because it was either 1) amazing and genuinely fun to look at, or 2) it was not that great, which made me feel better about my own work. Usually it was the first one. Another reason was because I love talking about art. I was never quiet in critique, I would always tell someone how much I truly admired their project, or I would offer suggestions.
But by far the best part of all was getting critiqued. When I would tell my friends about critiques, they would be horrified. Especially friends who were casually into photography, they couldn’t wrap their heads around it. They were terrified at the idea of letting my peers give most of the feedback instead of the professor, the idea of hanging up my work just to be judged, the idea of having to stand there and listen to everyone else tear my work apart.
I never thought of it that way. Maybe it’s my desire to be a better artist, maybe it’s my desire to be the center of attention, but I loved when everyone’s gaze would turn to my work, and discussion would begin. I counted on my peers to give me honest feedback, and I trusted their ideas to make my work better. They were innovative and removed in a way that I couldn’t be, and I was able to see my images from a new set of eyes. Of course, the suggestions weren’t always great, but they were always an interesting insight into the way that my peers worked and thought. Usually my critiques confirmed my fears. If I wasn’t sure about the lighting, or thought a particular image or shot was weak, my feedback usually reflected that anyway. It reminded me that if I’m not sure about something, I’m probably not the only one. It reminded me to trust my gut, and don’t get lazy, because other people can tell.
I am always looking for feedback on my work still. Whether it’s trying to get a response out of my friends who insist they “know nothing about art,” to just counting Facebook likes, I find that I still need that criticism to let myself grow and challenge myself to do better. But sometimes I take a picture like this one:
And I just don't know what to do with it. I think I like it, but I'm not sure. Is it good? I have no idea. I tried asking my friends. Did they like it? Did they respond to it? Did they find it interesting? No one else seemed sure either. It got to be a bit of a joke how much I was obsessed with whether this picture was "good" or not. I started asking people I had just met, virtual strangers. Maybe they were just being nice, maybe they were scared of me. They didn't know what to think either.
In the end, it doesn't matter if it's "good" or not. I like it. And sometimes I need to ignore what everyone else has to say, and not worry about the critique, and just let myself like something for no reason in particular, just for me.