You NEED Criticism

It kind of makes you want to say “Oh, God”, doesn’t it? This was actually an early photograph of mine during freshman year, when I was learning how to “fit in”. I thought the person in this picture, whose name is Quan, was really cool and popular, with his jeans sagging just right and hands in his pockets. I snapped this photo while I was walking to sixth period to show him, and maybe impress him. He probably couldn’t have cared less, so I decided to go home and photoshop it. Maybe that would impress him, I thought. I downloaded some nifty photoshop brushes to spice up this photo. I thought it was a neat thing I did; I was proud to post it publicly on Facebook. One of the comments on the photo was, “I believe you got hair on your lenses, and there seems to be a bacterial culture growing on your sensor”. Apparently that was art to me at the time. Thank God someone had the altruism to tell me what I was doing was crap.

Criticism. It’s like vegetables. Many people are afraid of it, but you absolutely need it to develop. I remember when it was forced down my throat in February during freshman year.

Before then, I took many pictures similar to the one above for weeks: ill-composed and over-edited. Some of them were just of figurines and everyday tools sitting around. I felt like I had a quota to keep up with for some reason, and I was churning out these “random” photos every other day. Photos of the water bottle standing on my desk. The gummy worms inside their wrapper. The earphones that were beautifully bunched up in knots. And the worst part of it was that I really thought this was art.

I didn’t believe in wake-up calls when I got one from a good friend named Daphne. She called me on the phone personally to talk about my photography. She said, “Frankly, Tue, it’s like you’re insulting photography.” I was in shock. I was in love with photography the entire time, so how could someone say this to me?

Long story short, it took many negative Facebook comments later to show me that I needed to apply myself. I needed to derive my inspiration from somewhere else and get a mentor, so I visited Flickr.com regularly and joined Baron Banner where I met the photography manager, Kenny. Ever since then I kept getting better slowly and I was understanding what it meant to be an artist. I guess people really were trying to help me all this time. It was all a matter of someone letting me know what I didn’t know I didn’t know.

Emotional maturity will come at one point of your life. The question is: When are you going to suck it up and eat your Brussels sprouts?

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2 thoughts on “You NEED Criticism

  1. I agree that criticism is an essential part of the artistic process- as unpleasant as it may be. But while criticism can reveal the flaws in our worst moments, or creations, it can also help to build on ideas that are already good- but could be great. I’ve found that the best criticism is the kind that challenges you to improve yourself. It’s really powerful that you were able to capitalize on your own failure by learning something from it. I really enjoyed your take on criticism/life.

  2. Criticism is indeed an instrumental part in the creative process. Often times, we fail to see our own faults because of our pride in our work. That’s why it’s important that we exhibit our our works, so that others can see it from their perspective and address what they see as flaws. However, it’s important that criticism is not just to attack the work, but to help improve it. Sometime people will have criticisms that don’t contribute to the improvement process. These are the comments that need to be blocked out.

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