About wizwow

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

What About Critics?

inthearena

Should We Listen To Critics or Show Them The Door?

Ahhh… the world of the artist. A place where we can nurture our ideas and share our bountiful creativity to others who will accept it into their lives with open arms, and smiles of gratitude.

Or… not.

There seems to always be someone who doesn’t get what we are doing. Someone who finds it so desperately wanting as to cause them to sit at a keyboard and tell us that we are wrong… our work is wrong… our art is wrong.

“It’s just wrong, dagnabbit!”

And all this time, we were laboring under the impression that we were creating something that others would find appealing, not wrong. What does that mean anyway?

How can a piece of art, a photograph, a frame from our experience be “wrong”?

I will answer this in a few, so hang tight.

Critics. They produce nothing. They rarely know much about the art we create. They are usually not prepared for much of anything in the way of actually having much to say, rather it is the saying of that nothing that is their reason for being.

Now, I am not talking about critics who actually know a bit about the work, who delve into the motivations and the artistic goals of the artist, who can compare and contrast and understand the value of the work as it stands before them. There are a few of those out there, and while we may not agree with them all the time, we do know their knowledge runs deep, and that counts for something.

No, I am discussing the critics that are unsolicited noise brought to a higher volume with the social media frenzy of armchair experts. Followers of movements, online gurus, and phocelebs who create a frenzy with every “off camera flash” image they create. Being a devotee of someone else seems to be all that is needed to have permission to spew unrelated criticism of others work, or make judgements as to its value.

How we deal with this noise is important. Many budding artists have been sidelined by the nagging doubt as to their spot in the art world brought on by a casual remark on Facebook, or an unflattering note made by ‘someone on twitter’… and that, that is wrong!

A couple of interesting phenomena here.

Artists seem to give more weight to the negative remarks than the good ones.

Why? Why do we do that?

100 people see our image: 90 people like it, 8 people are non-committal, and two of them do not like it. One of those detractors adds a personal note like “This work is getting boring to me. I think you need to kick it up a notch or you will never be any good.”

Who does the artist seem to remember the most? Those ninety people who love it? Nope. The ones that didn’t? Nope… the one who decided to add a bit of criticism to the mix. The artist will focus on that one negative and bring themselves to a panic wondering if they really do need to ‘kick it up a notch’ even though no one on the planet has any idea what that really means…

How do we stop that from happening?

We stop it. Ourselves.

Having detractors is part of the way we know we are doing something right. No artist can please everyone. Avedon did not get every job he wanted. Spielberg has had to ‘sell’ himself as a director, and even the greatest actors around still have to audition.

The creation of art focused on the smallest common denominator usually produces art that is of no value anyway. If you want to make photographs that fly off the shelf at Walmart, you will be sad to find out that there are still those who will not buy them.

Detractors are not important. We simply stop giving them power. Know they exist, forget about any usefulness for them other than to remind you that you are not creating work for everyone.

And you shouldn’t.

The end of the ‘expert’ phenomena has not been of much help, that is for sure. People have gone through a lifetime of believing that every opinion matters, everyone’s ideas should be heard.

While that may play well in the skules, it is pure bullshit in the real world. An opinion that 4+4=9 is of no value, nor should we give accolades for being close. If I want to know why my refrigerator is acting up, I need not bother with my 10 year old daughter, nor the guy who sells slurpies at the QuikMart. I need someone who knows refrigerators. An expert.

Today, too many people think they are experts in photography. They are well versed in the lingo, have themselves an “off camera flash” and can ‘beat the sun’ for a cool looking picture. So naturally they have all that is needed to tell you what you are doing wrong. And they want to do it from the anonymity of the interwebs… safe from all retribution or inquiry.

STFU, dude.

If I want to get portfolio help, I will go to someone who I respect, who has similar sensibilities, who I can believe in for realistic ideas and motivations. I would not seek out someone who simply did not meet that criteria.

Nor would any of you…

So why do we even listen when the criticism is offered without our solicitation? Is a remark on Facebook telling us to ‘work on our processing’ really worthy of much attention?

If it comes from Rob Haggard or Selina Maitreya, then perhaps it is worth exploring. If it comes from someone who lacks the credentials and experience of those two, perhaps it is simply an opinion… and opinions are like… well, you know that line.

Opinions are not criticism. Opinions tell us more about the one who has it than of what they have an opinion. An ‘opinion’ that Avedon was a terrible photographer tells me more about the one with the opinion than it does about Avedon.

Stop confusing opinions with genuine critique.

A critique is something that you request. It must have parameters around it that indicate what the artist wanted to create what the goals of the work were and how well they think they accomplished that mission. Only then can a critique be given… with care and acknowledgement of those stated goals.

Critiques have value, opinions are are personal polls. And polls don’t mean much to artists, especially when they are a poll of one.

At least, they shouldn’t.

Lastly, those who love your work and what you do should be rewarded by your faith in them, your attention and goodwill toward them. Haters are hating on them by proxy. It is the detractors gift to themselves to turn someone who is a fan of yours into a non-fan. Giving the detractor fuel by ignoring those who care is not productive. Forget the detractor, pay more attention to your fans.

Let’s wrap it up with a small list, shall we.

1. When you receive an unsolicited critique, first remind yourself that it is not a critique, but an opinion. Ask what that opinion means to you or your work. Weigh it against what you know to be true, and dismiss it.

2. When you get an unsolicited opinion, investigate your detractor a bit. Click and see… do they have the chops to really give this opinion? Are they really worthy of the power they are trying to wield, or are they simply sharing their complete lack of tact and knowledge with you?

3. Understand that having detractors is a good thing. Nothing of value can please everyone. A photographer must create work that they love themselves, and not try to create a ‘one-size-fits-all’ image that will offend no one. Those images are used for picture frame sales and cheap calendars. And even then… heh

4. Know the value of your own opinion of your own work. If you believe in it, do not let someone who does not detract you from your work. Instead, let it be a force for creating more images that you love.

5. Turn your attention toward those who support you. The 90% of your followers, fans, customers who love your work. Don’t insult them by giving more weight to the detractors than you do to those who are on your side. Reinforce their commitment to you by ignoring those who are denigrating them by criticizing you.

6. And lastly… don’t let them win. Don’t let a week, small, petty person with nothing to do but try to make those who are actually out there doing stuff feel bad. Never give someone like that any power… not over you, or your work, or your fans and tribe… ignore them. And that is what destroys them the most. Not angry responses or tears of shame… ignoring them brings them the self awareness that they really have nothing to contribute, and they have even less power than they think they do.

Stay committed to your work, and be true to those who support you.

Have a great week, everyone. And tell the unsolicited critics not to let the door hit them on the way out.

One Layout – Many Solutions: The SANDWICH

tue_assign30_anders_eriksson

The Project52 Pros knocked it out of the park with this assignment to shoot “The Infinitely Amazing, Always Tantalizing Sandwich”.

With layout provided, type in place on a layer, they had to shoot to the specs of the shot and keep it all perfect. That means the type had to be readable, and work within the layout.

When shooting to layout, it is important to consider those items furnished to be PART of the image delivered. You will see several ways the photographers used the shape of the typography to work with the image behind it.

The lighting ranges from full natural light, to multiple strobes, and the approaches are all within the parameters of the assignment. We give VERY strict assignment specifics on some of our shots, and they did well within those restrictions.

I am quite proud of these shooters.

assign-30-Gabi-Wright-Tues assign-30-jean-pierre-De-Rycke-Fri Assign30-Alicia-Bonterre-Tue2 assign30-Clare-Bambers-Fri assign30-katherine-gooding-p52ex-fri-2-02 assign30-katherine-gooding-p52ex-fri-2 assign30-nicole-fernley-tues "The English Afternoon Tea Sandwich Collection" by Sam Breach 20 Fri--Assign-30-Incredible-Sandwich---J-Chatzkel sandwhich-assign tomas-jansson-assignment30... tomas-jansson-assignment30. tue_assign30_anders_eriksson
Assign-30-Carol-Rioux

The Image Is The Thing

donotenter-small

Becoming a “Photographer” – or being a “Photographer”… what does that mean, really?

Does it mean that you now have a top of the line camera? Does it mean a bag of lenses? Does it mean an awesome set of studio lights? Or a light meter? Boom?

Storbs? (inside joke, sorry)

Nope. Sorry, none of those things mean a damn to whether you are a photographer or not. What matters is that you make photographs. Images. Snaps… whatever you want to call them.

And that is ALL that it means.

And the emphasis for photographers is the making of and viewing of their images. The goal line is the image. The product is the image. The whole enchilada is the image!

And I am not sure that we are all on the same page with that.

Look, I love to ‘make’ images. Working with lights, being in the studio with booms and stands and all that those tools entail is a thrill. I love to work on making a photograph.

But it is the photograph that is the ultimate thrill. The image that was created, not the effort that went into its creation.

I remember being at a workshop with Bret Weston. It was an exquisite time for me… 8×10 Deardorff and a stack of film holders at the ready. We were at a small beach near Carmel and it dawned on me that we were where Edward had made some of his most incredible images.

We spent time looking first. Before anything else, we looked. We looked in order to see. Before we make the image, we have to “see” the image. That ability to find the photograph in a full 360 degree scene is quite difficult when you are used to only looking through the camera when taking photographs. And we were asked to ‘see’ as a camera in order to find the image we wanted to make before seeing it through the camera.

I will say that the ability to do that was not won on the beach that day. But it indeed was won over several years of shooting and seeing and seeing then shooting. I look at the world much as a camera would now before bringing it out into the world.

I still refer to it as pre-visualization, although Ansel Adams rightly noted that was a term that was redundant. Visualization is what it was. To add the ‘pre’ was to allude to the visualization twice.

No matter, I am stuck in the redundant of the redundancy of pre-visualization so if you hear me say that at some point, you can be aware that I am aware of the redundancy of saying it that way. Sorry, Ansel.

The goal of the visualization is to take the camera out of the equation for a bit, and be deliberate in the choices to be made. Of course serendipity arises, and one can certainly make changes with the camera at the ready, but in many ways the deliberate choice becomes the correct choice over time.

We become the master of the tools, not at their mercy. We choose to make the photograph we see, not the photograph that simply appears in the viewfinder.

In other words, a photographer is a photographer even without the camera, because they are always visualizing the photograph that would be taken.

After a wonderful morning at the beach in Carmel (which included a berating from Mr. Weston with the most colorful choice of four lettered terms) we returned to the studio to process our images.

I had taken eight sheets of film with me, and had managed to expose only four.

Processing and printing took a little over two hours and the rest of the afternoon was spent pouring over each of the students work. My berating still stung, but the subtle compliments paid me by Mr Weston took most of pain away.

Imagine a workshop where the taking of the images is but one small part of the day, and the viewing of, dissecting of, criticising of, and joyously immersion of the imagery was the greater.

We talked about composition, and compared images to see how putting the subject in different areas actually gave it different contexts, and different relationships to the surroundings.

And different relationships to the viewers. We looked at how exposure could change the mood of the shot as well as create an emotion – intended or not.

Framing, light, shadow and viewpoint were discussed in length. We spoke into the night and slept with dreams of images, tripods and Dektol…

I would suggest such a workshop today would be somewhat difficult to sell. The emphasis in many circles seems to be more on other things, the taking / making of the image, not the image itself. “How do I do it” becomes the main question when “what will I end up with” should be.

There are noted exceptions of course. Jorge Colberg’s wonderful Conscientious for one. I do not always agree with him, but he always makes me think about imagery. And thinking about photographs, looking at photographs and understanding photographs is what a photographer should do when not actually making photographs.

I think, anyway.

John Szarkowski wrote a book entitled “Looking At Photographs” in 1973. This was a seminal book for this newest of art forms. I suggest you pick up a copy and spend some intimate moments with great photographs (at least taken previously to 1973).

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art

Here is a link to some clips of Szarkowski discussing many of the contemporary and modern photographers featured in the book. It is well worth an hour or so of your time, believe me.

No discussion of camera gear can hold a candle to the actual examination of the images produced by those cameras.

The image is the culmination of all that we experience in our lives, and how we bring those experiences into the medium of the photograph. The photograph gives us context for our vision and we give the photograph its own context with our experiences.

Shared experiences and personal experiences are the basis for the extraordinary image that we strive to make with our cameras. Whether they are iPhones, P&S’s, ‘grampacams’ or extraordinarily expensive professional tools, the end product is a two dimensional ‘glyph’ captured with the personal context and values of the photographer.

The most successful of them are created with a deliberateness that is unfathomable to most beginning practitioners, even if they are shot in an instant of a moment. The seeming grab-shot can be as deliberate an image as the most deliberate tripod mounted view camera shot.

The long practiced synapses are simply firing quickly, and the vision is the driving factor. The time it took to make the shot is of no consequence to the emotion it evokes in the viewer.

The image can stand on its own.

I love photography. I love photographs even more.

If I could no longer make them, I would immerse myself in the best of them made by others. They are precious to me. Always have been, and I see no waning in my intense love affair with the photographic image.

How about you?

Look at photographs. Print photographs. Put photographs all around you. LIVE with photography. Live as a photographer.

It sure is an interesting life.

From This to That

THIS-TO-THIS

PHOTOGRAPH BY ALICIA BONTERRE

One of the recent assignments at Project 52 PROS was to make the worst photograph they could make. The assignment was designed to make the students think about what makes a good photograph in order to negate that in order to make a terrible photograph. You can see the assignment here.

Alicia Bonterre turned in a perfect example. The image of the bottle and the glass on the left were not staged. Simply set down and shot. She then worked her magic on the image to the right. I think this would be a very good way to show clients the power of what you do as a professional photographer. Think of some ways to show before and after shots that educate and inspire your clients.

McGunn Media turned in this image. flowers   Catherine Vibert shows a badly conceived portrait and then a lovely one with wonderful light and context. sidebyside