The Art of Criticism

Below is an examination, perhaps a self-examination, of one of today’s most popular pastimes, criticizing others.

There is an art to everything in life. I try but often fail to practice criticism as an art. Still, I keep trying. Like most of the 21st Century electronic world, I write my criticisms for all to see. The new social order of things.

While I can hardly deny that I am one who might criticize others (especially groups) for what I see as perpetrating inequities toward other individuals or groups, I also compliment them when the opposite occurs. I do not deliver my critique with the claim that I am flawless, or even above average. I think I have criticized myself on these pages ( 1,000+ posts) quite often. I have never said, that others do not also have the same right to heap critique, even if it is at me. That has happened many times and I am absolutely okay with that. I cannot live my life with the goal of everbody liking me.

There are many who believe that we should not judge, or criticize lest we ourselves be perfect. I disagree. Criticism that is born of sincere concern, and which has been intellectually as well as morally evaluated by both personal and societal standards, serves us with a worthwhile moral and intellectual purpose. If we wait for a message from those who are perfect, we will wait for eternity, except of course for God’s Message.

We all have an obligation to speak our mind and deliver a message when we believe we are genuine with that message. Sometimes we, and I mean all of us, see something that some may miss. Or maybe that they misjudge the reason behind an action. Those who are Christians have an even larger obligation. Not because they are better, but because they are called to do so by their Holly Book. I also understand that the same may be true of other belief systems.

I try never to measure the success or failures of others by my own success and failure. Like all of us, I have had more failures than successes. That is the human way of things.

While I have been a photographer of one degree or another for more years than I care to mention, I do not heap negative criticism on the photography of others, unless asked, and even then it is unlikely. The same goes for painting and most other forms of art. The exception, might be writers. Many writers, are by the very nature of the craft, offering their own opinions, and therefore subject to the opinions of others. That includes me.

I may specifically criticize those individuals who are already in the public eye, but I usually criticize most people by a generalization of the group they choose to serve. By that I mean, Republicans, Democrats, liberal, conservative, Tea Party, NAACP, Black Lives Matter etc. We give that right, when we decide to join.

If giving opinions, is as I believe, a form of art, then I have a long ways to travel to bring that art to perfection. All art is a journey of practice. Practice does not make perfect, but it does make for frequent improvement. Being better tomorrow than we are today, is in essence, what life is about.

On to photography

Shadows on The Sand

White Sands National Monument, 1992. Pentax 6×7, Velvia film.


I have been asked at times, what was my favorite part of making images.  Not about where to go, or what to photograph, but what was my favorite part of actually creating an image. Hands down, composition.

How to “arrange” the subjects in the picture frame is what photography is about. Doing so without ever touching or disturbing those subjects, is the essence of natural composition.

I believe that depth of field and point of focus, are part of composing images. I also believe that how you arrange the colors within some scenes, is a part of composition. Visual compression, and also the visual stretching out of a scene is more than just a necessary decision, it is a part of composing pictures. Composing images should and can be, both a practical decision, and one of artistic intent.

The 25-year-old pictures I have shared with you today, are composed to “my liking” by how I spread out or compressed subjects within the scene. They were composed via where I stood, and therefore where the shadows fell. The shadows are a part of my composition.  Notice that these late afternoon images were each made looking in the opposite direction of the other one. I did that because in both cases I wanted the shadows to lean into the picture frame in a particular way, and create more drama. The choice of Velvia film rather than Kodachrome or others that would render the colors and the shadows differently, was a part of my composition.

Composing images should be similar to composing music. You already hear the melody, you now need to arrange it to meet your artistic tastes.  All while leaving the subjects in front of you, as you found them.

Remember, when you make an image, you’re not just recreating what you have seen, but what have you felt.

Have an artful day, love and God’s Blessings to you,                                                                Wayne


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