November 5, 2009

Critique is Like Confession…Never Say “But…”

So as some of you know, I got the Clubber Lang knock out on a website critique of my website yesterday.  And like when Rocky got his butt kicked in the first match with Clubber (my Clubber happened to be the lovely Zack and Meghan..please Meghan, don't think I think you look like Clubber Lang!), I'm having to think hard and long about the critique and comments flowing in as a result of that life moment.   Don't get me wrong, the critique was self-induced.  I asked Zack and Meghan to critique my website.  And I'm already starting the rework of the site...but what about the content?

Examination of Conscience.

Asking for critique is like going to confession.  Prior to confession, Catholics have a truthful self Examination of Conscience prior to entering the confessional.  If during the confession one feels compelled to use a word like "but" in the confession, then the confessor really hasn't come to the table prepared for confession and the Examination of Conscience falls a little short. For example, "Forgive me father, for I have sinned..Last week I blahbidy blah blahed...but I was in a bad mood".  Sure, the confessor confessed the blahbidy blah blah action.  However, the confessor took the accountability away from the action and blamed it on being in a bad mood.

In C&C (comment and critique) sessions, it's really no different.  One must truly come to the table prepared to listen to the critique and honestly digest it rather than try to justify or get defensive about the item being critiqued.  Just be careful WHO you ask to critique your work...Ask critique from non family/friends you trust...

And like the Catholic that is in a constant up and down pursuit to live a life as Christ-like as possible, there’s no rest in my photographic pursuit of a unique style and creativity that rests on a solid foundation of composition and exposure (sorry to steal that from you Zack). Yeah, it would be nice to accelerate that pursuit by studying under my beloved 4(who rock in that ability in their careers right now).  Oohh to have the opportunity to just spend one day standing in the background watching, learning, and taking notes on a photo shoot with the likes of Joe, Zack, Chase, or Scott…THAT would be priceless…but this homeboy’s MasterCard is maxed out!

So as I listened to what Zack and Meghan were saying about my website and content, it's funny how my mind kept going back to the initial headrush of shock when I read the email from Zack stating my website was in this week's critique session.  The first whispered words out of my mouth upon reading that fateful email; "Oh god...".

As I rode my motorcycle home at lunch to view the critique, it was all I could do to keep my concentration on the road instead of letting my mind wander playing out the emotion and feelings I was about to try and justify in this battle of critique I was about to witness on my creation.  I was about to enter that confessional and it scared the crap out of me.  How was I going to handle it...was I going to start babbling a bunch of "buts" during the critique, or was I going to take notes and start a self examination of work and start trying to align the critique to the reality of the world I work in.

Wait... "align the critique to the reality of the world I work in"?  Isn't that like saying "but"?  Zack and Meghan state very clearly on the critiques, the "Rules".  I won't regurgitate them here, but they are honest and caring rules.  So when I say "align the critique to the reality of the world I work in", it means I need to align the critique to things like my clientele, business model, and what kind of photographer am I trying to be....

And that last one is what hit me the most.  What kind of photographer am I trying to be?  Regardless of my clientele or business model, my photography will fall into one or two categories that sometimes must co-exist; Artistry and Function.

Am I the artist of the likes who creates art for no-one but themselves?   Or am I the hired artist at a photo shoot that dances the fine line of attempting to create a photographic piece of art for a client that encapsulates what the client finds "cool" and important with what I bring to the table in creativity and style.  And sans apprenticeship, do I sweat at the chicken and the egg paradox of having that creativity and style resting on solid foundation of composition and exposure I've been having to learn on my own?

True, my clientele is of a much different nature than say, Zack Arias, Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, or Scott Kelby. But who cares!  I still have a burning desire to deliver a product to a parent that shouts of professionalism, creativity, and style that makes the parent hug you after they reviewed the portraits you took of their child!  And yes!  I do  want to experience the same someday in the world that Zack, Joe, Chase, and Scott work in…just as long as it’s not for some self absorbed hunt for fame BUT instead for the love of the shoot.

Let's face it....if I’m lucky enough to survive parenthood, I REALLY want someday to go learn under one or more of my beloved 4…be it workshops or sitting down to a cup of coffee.   But right now, my life doesn’t hold those cards.  Yeah, that may cause me a prolonged growth in the composition and exposure foundation, BUT the love of my family, and the fun and friendship I experience along the way of developing a creativity and style for the clientele I have here is truly priceless.

Later…Mike