Recently, I have read a number of posts that touch on giving and receiving comments. For quite some time, I was one of the lurkers who visited numerous sites but remained silent, because I felt that since I was such a wet-behind-the-ears newbie, my comments weren’t of any interest to anyone and I didn’t really know what to say anyway. Now that I have been at this a little longer, I still classify myself as a newbie with tons to learn, but since I am blogging regularly and making new photographs while I continue to read avidly and study the work of others, I am more interested in the art of commentary. Nowadays when I visit other blogs, I want to acknowledge the fine writing I encounter, and I want to leave behind a thank you for the inspiration that has been offered to me.
As usual, I don’t claim the following thoughts are purely original insights. Rather, I am offering my take on subjects that have been well covered by a number of thoughtful and wise people. Sean McCormick includes on his site a clear and explicit message as to the types of comments that interest him (see "No Comment" under Words) and his thoughts had a profound impact on me. Recently, the thought process was kicked off again by Paul Butzi’s post, Cliché. Mark Graf’s article titled Embracing Failure is closely related and set the wheels turning once again. Neil Creek wrote a piece sub-titled, A Guide to Commenting on Other People’s Photos, for Digital Photography School, and it is worth keeping handy for those times when you would like to leave a comment but are at a loss for words. Now, yesterday, Paul Lester put up a post reminding us that one of the secrets to growing as an artist is to listen to one’s own voice.
It makes sense to me that if you are making your photographs public, you are probably looking to make some type of connection with other human beings. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you keep the images hidden away and for your eyes only? Making any work of art public entails certain emotional risks. (Of course, every step of art-making entails emotional risks, but that’s too large a topic for this post.) Those of us who choose to make our work public must face the fact that most people don’t have a clue as to how to comment on any type of art. Many are too shy to put their thoughts out there, others just don’t want to invest the time in articulating what they are experiencing. Some feel compelled to demonstrate their expertise and/or their credentials, but few individuals trust their own feelings enough to put them into words.
I am going to spend some more time with my thoughts and post on this topic again, because I have some strong feelings about the role of the Artist and the Critic along with the responsibilities of each. But, for now I will just say I am thinking that perhaps it is the responsibility of each of us to let viewers know what type of feedback we are inviting. In other words, if I make my work public, maybe I should include on my site some thoughts about what type of comments I would most like to have viewers leave. If I put my work out there for public viewing, I should be sufficiently secure in ownership of my creative core to resist placing a burden on my viewers. I am accountable for the nurturing of my creative spirit and I should not attempt to shift that burden onto my viewers. On the other hand, if I put my work out in public view, I am clearly hoping to connect with those who pass by and view the work. Furthermore, it seems appropriate to invite those who drop in to “sign the guestbook”, so to speak. If anyone is looking for a reason to bother leaving comments, I think it’s an invaluable learning tool and offers benefits to both viewer and poster. I have found that the more I comment on other people’s work, the more I get out of the viewing experience.
I am delighted by the viewers who post comments here and take the time to remind me that I am not just talking to myself. I have become quite attached to the friends that I have found in the virtual world of photo blogs, and I invite any drop-by visitors to join the circle. I post photographs, record thoughts, and share stories at my site, because I am interested in connecting with others and love to get feedback. To any and all who drop by, please join in the conversation. Add your own thoughts and questions to the exchange. And, if you are comfortable talking about feelings, please tell me what the photos and/or the posts make you feel. In addition to your thoughts on the topic discussed, let me know if something caused you to smile, frown, laugh, sigh, shake your head, or yawn. Let me know if I have struck a spark of feeling. Let me know if something I said or photographed connected with you.