I read this section on and off - seldom post. The reason? I simply donīt believe criticism - or critique, if you prefer - has a legitimate part to play in the life of a photographer or painter or, for that matter, musician.
In my mind, these are artistic endeavours that belong to the artist. To say that something would have been better if only... is, ultimately, only to say what the critic might or might not have done in the same circumstances and worth nothing in real terms.
I learned early on that one of the worst mistakes I could ever have made was to have paid attention to two critics, the first a head honcho in a camera club Iīd joined simply to get using a darkroom (I was trying to get darkroom experience): there was a "competition" where one had to make and show a print on any subject at all. I did a still-life of a mandolin, an old Chianti bottle and a third item Iīve forgotten. The remark? Far too commerical - not good. As I already knew where I wanted my life to go, I was amused if pissed off. The second event was in night school where on mentioning that I was a fan of David Bailey, the "lecturer", who worked in a local studio, informed the class at large that if he shot like Bailey heīd quit photography. Yes, right. I quit the night schol instead and never looked back, Bailey or not. Oh, that studio eventually folded...
So in my mind, I think it an error to subject oneīs work to the opinions of another. Whether he likes your work or not is HIS problem; itīs your work and if you like it, thatīs good enough. As Russ has pointed out - I think it was he - there are too many people around in positions of influence who simply donīt have the ability to practise what they preach which, again for me, makes their opinions worthless if not downright dangerous. The painter paradigm suits beautifully, too.
If you are new, then fine, everybody is at some stage. My suggestions for self-improvement? Simple: look at a lot of work in magazines, browse through libraries and bookshops, cruise the web of an evening, form your own private list of heroes but never, ever ask somebody else anything about aesthetics. Ask about technical matters for sure - saves a lot of time and the LuLa is an excellent resource where I have picked up a lot of information and a lot of direct help. The same is true for small, private groups. But what you put INTO your image is your business.
Never forget that the world is as full of wannabe gurus as it is of wannabe photographers. Hell, you can make a career of both!