Lately I’ve been getting a lot of criticism on my artworks. Now 4 years ago when I started taking photographs this criticism would have floored me, perhaps enough to make me give up photography altogether. But after being a student for a few years I have become accustomed to criticism: from tutors, classmates, members of the public and other artists. I share my work in magazines, in galleries and to online social media and as long as I’m doing these things then I’m essentially inviting people to critique my work, however painful that can be sometimes. I have realised that criticism is actually rather helpful as long as it is valid. The real trick is working out whether it is valid or not.
I hear a lot that my work is too dark in nature and I ought to create more joyous works. In essence my work makes some feel uncomfortable that I am evoking dark feelings within them. But in the same way, I receive a lot of feedback that some love how they can look at my work and see themselves in it, providing a comfort somehow.
So is the criticism valid?
Of course it is but that doesn’t mean an overhaul in your practice. It means that some like it and some don’t! For every positive review, there is a negative one too for we are all different and all have vastly different views on pretty much everything! This is why it is very important to understand what you like about your work, what you get from creating it. You cannot please everyone but you can please yourself.
You might hear the criticism and think ‘yes, this person is right’ and begin to explore ideas that you can grow from where you are and head off into a new direction. Or you might simply be happy with what you’re doing and dismiss the feedback and continue on your path because it makes you happy.
In either case the criticism received challenges your original thoughts and it reminds you to constantly evaluate what you are producing. It gives the photographer an opportunity to understand others perspective on their work and inevitably grow. It is a bonus that a lot of criticism comes for free.
So instead of letting criticism get you down and make you second-guess what it is you love doing, take a minute to think about it, what do YOU like about your work? Where do YOU see yourself going with it? Are you still getting what you need out of it or do you need to go in a new direction? Rely on yourself to know what is best for you and your confidence to deal with criticism will grow accordingly.