Tuesday, July 15, 2008


(Please click on the thumbnail to view the larger image)

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.


  1. I have appreciated your comments; as a photographer you may be a "newbee", but you are well connected to your feelings and thoughts, which is much more important to me.;- )

  2. Doug - as I mentioned, the more I look and wrestle my feelings and thoughts into words, the more I see. Thanks for letting me know that my comments are welcome. I will keep them coming.

  3. As much as I want to be able to make so many comments, it becomes a function of time. I realize it is much the same for people visiting my own blog as well. Some perhaps don't know what to say. I know in some ways, the blogging community to some a "quid-pro-quo" arrangement as well.

    But you stated it very eloquently in that writing something out often helps one collect their own thoughts.

  4. For me, it's always and interesting topic to talk about comments. Of course, I like if someone says that they really like a particular photo. It feels good. It's a form of validation. Yet, I want to have my own internal validation, first.

    I use to have a photo-a-day type blog, but grew weary with it rather quickly because of the types of comments that Sean McCormick talks about. It really amounted to people giving suggestions for me to change my photos to their liking. If there is an actual flaw in the photo, I'd like to know about it so that I can be more careful the next time, but as for aesthetically, well, that's up to me. :-)

    It's funny. Although I love to photograph, my photography has become an adjunct item for my writing. I really like to write, too. That's where I love to see the comments. There are so many different ways to comment about an article. Most people, it seems, just give a cursory glance at a photo, say something polite, then move on. Some of the comments that I've gotten have been very well thought out, profound, and have given pause on occasion.

  5. Just so you'll know, Anita, you do have a silent, lurking audience of at least one (me, but probably more). When time is precious, writing comments is a luxury -- especially given the number of blogs I try to frequent. But be assured that your images and writing are much appreciated by those of us who lurk.


  6. Talk about bad timing. I post about how interesting it is to give and receive comments then disappear and leave all these comments in the queue. We took a whirlwind trip to Bear Valley to deliver more things and now that I am home, my brain is total mush. Soon, we will have internet in place up there, and I can check on what's happening on the web.

    Mark and Amy, you are so right about the luxury of time for comments. With all the sites that I can't resist visiting, I would be on the Internet all day if I wrote every comment that comes to mind. By the way, Amy, thanks for saying "Hi". I had no idea you were there. I'm delighted to hear from you. Mark, thanks for the thumbs up on my statement about the value that I get from commenting. Still, it is that investment of time, isn't it.

    Paul, it's intersting that you see your photography as an adjunct item to your writing. I have been thinking about that balance lately and how it plays out on various blogs.

    So much more to think about now.


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