There is a cause to this furor over critique, and it is very simple - me. I'm different, and different here is bad. I write critiques that are longer than a Tweet, and I don't give obeisance to characters because they demand it. I'll document it here in brief.
Feb. 3 - I began posting to this section of the forum
Feb. 5 - I posted a few photos in a thread called "Love Real Street" started by RSL
Feb. 5 - this is RSL's first response to me on this forum, and his first response to my few posted photos. You could call it my welcome to the forum.
RSL on February 05, 2013, 08:09:46 AM - "Guy, Sorry, but what I see is one high-school type snapshot and two environmental portraits -- no street photography. You need to go to a library or bookstore, pick up a book of Cartier-Bresson's photographs, and study it."
This was my direct response. February 05, 2013, 10:36:18 AM
"Oh my. Thanks for the advice. However, it brings to mind two of the worst dangers in art - emulation and assumption of rules. And I thank you for presenting me the opportunity to say something about them. Emulation is deadly to anyone seeking their truth through art. To grab a forerunner's style, and assume it is a standard by which your own truth must conform, will kill the enterprise before it even begins. Whatever CBs truths were as he snapped his shutter are not my truths. His life is not my life. If art is life, how can I adopt his? This is not to deny in any way the appreciation of his life, no not at all. But it is to say that his is his, and mine is different. Necessarily then, my art wouldn't be his either. This confuses many people. This difference between appreciation and emulation. Never emulate! Always seek the truth within. And yes, CB had a certain way with his photographic truth, didn't he?
As to assumed rules of photography, be ever so careful of that tight box. A rule is a boundary generally claimed by someone who might have run out of ideas and seeks to assemble the world within the limits (rules) of their imagination. This is street photography, that is not! The more exclamatory the lecture, the more one should run. The first thing you learn in the study of art (study being the dictate of the poster) is that art advances in movements by means of rule breaking. A box becomes too stale for further exploration because of the existing rules, and then POW! someone breaks them, and all chaos breaks out. Rules are tools for learning, but not intended to bound one's own expressions and truths, lest the whole world of photography suddenly look like there was but one photographer!
Photography is by far the most difficult art form of them all, precisely because it is the most open-ended of them all. (Painters can only dream of what can be done with a camera.) But what makes photography ever the more difficult is falling into the trap of emulating others who have had notoriety. How many tedious attempts have we all seen of the photographer trying to emulate Ansel Adams, instead of seeking their own truth?
The thread title was "Love Real Street." And the obvious implication is that, "real" is a state of one's own truth in their photographs out on the street, not a universal dogmatic truth passed on by some High Priest of Street Photography. If you want to join a religion that's fine with me, but I choose to search out my own universals through photography, and they are not found at the local library or bookstore under "Cartier-Bresson.""
And from that moment on, RSL and his courtiers began a crusade that is now 2 weeks old. The in -between stuff is boring snipes, insults, and hectoring, which eventually centered on the length of my comments made primarily to other people's photographs. The one notable exception was 500 words I wrote about a photograph from Slobodan.
But back to the beginning. It was RSL's standard dismiss and control routine (I learned he has a long history of this behavior). It's the sort of strategy used by rude talk radio hosts. Except this isn't talk radio and the host can't cut off your mic. I responded in the way I would to any pompous and arrogant dismissal. I am not in the least bit intimidated by such nonsense as 'go read the books.'
Everyone of this small group (the coterie) attempted different kinds of attacks (on his behalf) having nothing to do with photography, art, or the content of my critiques. There were claims I was a sock puppet for another unpopular member. There were claims I was an idiot. There were claims that I was ruining the club. There were claims I was running a con game on what the amolitor described as the "dim rubes" here. There were claims, like Slobodan's current character assault, that I am somehow in a conspiracy with Roger. There were countless out and out insults hurled left and right. One guy even attempted to lecture me on Noam Chomsky's linguistics. In spite of the many number of thank-yous both publicly and privately, I was told that no one wanted to hear what I had to say about their photos. And on it went. And on it goes to this day.
The threads which best summarize this constant hectoring are here:
I understand how Internet fiefdoms work, how private clubs develop in public forums, and I understand all the Internet archetypes and their assigned roles. So, none of this is new or unexpected or shocking. The hierarchy of roles are being played out just as it normally happens. If people want to jump into big arguments with me, have at it. I'll have no trouble keeping up my end. But I owe no person here any deference for reason of their simple demand, or their age, or their length of time here, and certainly not by their photographs. My style of critique is my own, and so is my photography. My idea of worthy art is very likely not yours. Get over it, and be thankful that not everyone is out trying to duplicate what was done 75 years ago. A critique is a single point of opinion. If you want more points than mine, nothing is stopping you from making as many as you want, on any photograph you want. We all have a mouse and a keyboard, right?
I actually don't expect people on the Internet to be polite. That idea was toast from the moment the first listserve was launched. It's fruitless to make pleas for polite behavior, or really even adult behavior. I've yet to see it on an Internet forum. What is realistic to ask for is common sense individuality and tolerance. It really is ok for people to be different from each other, and express different ideas. It really is ok for people to have their own photographic ideas. It is not painful. It doesn't cause cancer, and you have all the tools you need to ignore it if it is offending you.
EDIT: Just after finishing this post, I look and see that Slobodan is now using cyberstalking to attempt to intimidate Roger, and I presume that I am next since he as concocted a conspiracy theory connecting us. REF: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/forum/index.php?topic=75336.20
This feud has just taken a huge leap into illegal activity. Cyberstalking is against the law in all 50 US states, and I would assume many other countries too. Roger already offered that he did not want to give out his name, and in spite of that reasonable request, Slobodan proudly searched it out and issued the not very veiled threat that "anything was a few clicks away." I take that as a threat directly to me.
People have sensible reasons to protect their personal identity from online stalkers. Lives can be ruined, finances destroyed, and even personal safety becomes contested. It's an absurdity that a forum about photography can devolve to criminal activity because of temper tantrums. If I wasn't sure about staying private before, I certainly am now after seeing this. I have no clue now what the limits are on this forum. What's next? What's the limit to harassment?