|Less than popular|
Previously I had written about judging the merits of your own photo and the dangers of asking the opinion of others.
Last night we had another selection evening for the MPS, this time for our upcoming competition against Derby. As always I dutifully put in my 3 DPI's and 3 Prints to be part of the selection process ,where the top 15 in both category go forward to represent the club society.
Now recently there has been some controversy in the club about how we choose images for external competition. It used to be via a show of hands, but that was thought (rightly) that it benefited those with the biggest personalities in the club. So the club now uses a system of blind voting, where each member can tick the images they like with the top 15 going through.
So how many of my images got voted through...
Well in round numbers .....0, nada, zilch
What was more disturbing to me was that when I looked at the overall number of votes, was how few marks I actually got. While the top images got 18, some of mine only garnered 2 (and one of those votes was mine).
So what does that say about my images.
Well obviously they were not popular with the club membership (remember there were no limits on the number of votes a member could cast). However the real question is, just because they were not popular, does that make them bad?
One of the issues of such a blind voting system is that people tend to get get drawn to certain categories of photographs in which they are comfortable. In these situations a great picture of a puffin or a nice landscape is almost always likely to triumph. In fact when the results were collated it stood out that we had a surfeit of landscapes over say portraits.
Of course lack of popularity should not be the final arbiter of an images quality. I am currently doing the MOMA Cousera course on photography and wonder how images from some of those now held as greats of photography, such as Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand would do, if entered in a club competition today? Again would such a failure somehow invalidate the esteem their work is held in?
So should I just throw my hands in the air in a huff and blame the audience for not having the wit to understand my artistic merits?
Of course not.
To do so would be presumptive in the extreme. Firstly I would be making the assumption that my work has actual artistic merit, rather than the audience seeing the flaws that I cannot. Without any backlog of successful work as a foundation I have no basis to claim any superiority over those judging it. Secondly by assuming that I know best, I refuse the opportunity to learn from my failings.
But should I eschew any attempt at popularity?
This is a difficult one. I feel we should not compromise our photography to just pander to the collective. On the other hand creating a photograph that resonates with a wider audience is a skill that also needs to be mastered like any other artistic technique. The challenge is to balance the need for self expression and how much you restrain yourself to take in account the needs and desires of the audience.
Without this, there is always the danger of slipping pseudo intellectualism, and the blind artistic alleys that this will lead.
So again we need to learn from failure and look again at aspects of our work. Specifically what are elements of a photograph that make it stand out to a crowd.