Tuesday, September 1, 2015

DigPhotog: Intro to Photography: Critiquing Photos (W2/W3-P2) Fa15

Photography Criticism

When learning how to critique photographs, a good place to start is with Barrett's book, Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images.

According to Barret:
  • “Criticism is informed discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art.”
  • “Criticism is not a coldly intellectual endeavor.”

Barrett's Approach to Critiquing Photographs
  • Describe what you see - just the facts, be objective
  • Consider the subject matter
  • Consider how form relates to subject matter.
    • Subject matter + form (focus, contrast, etc.) = content.
  • Let interpretation be communal.
    • Who determines the meaning?  Photographer? Critic?
  • Suggest photographer be silent.
  • Interpret the photograph by questions it raises.
  • Avoid hasty judgments - don't jump to judgement
  • Consider presentational environments.
    • Subject + form + context = content
  • Ask how the photograph would be judged.
  • Consider assumptions/theories - why did the photography do what they did?
  • What are the photographer’s theories about the way the world works?
  • Be honest and open.

Barrett's approach can be summarized as the DIET way of critiquing a photograph.
  1. Describe - just the facts, be objective
  2. Interpret - what does it mean?
  3. Evaluate - is it good or bad, rate it, pass careful judgement
  4. Theorize - why did the photographer take the photo? 

Below is a photo to critique using Barrett's approach.  Start with describe and then...

File:Gordon Parks - American Gothic.jpg
Gordon ParksAmerican Gothic. Portrait of government cleaning
woman Ella Watson. August 1942. (Public domain photo)

If you like, you can post below your critique of American Gothic using Barrett's approach.

American Gothic, that sounds familiar.  What was Parks' inspiration for the title of his photo?

For some background on the American Gothic photograph see the clip below starting at about 19:00.

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See more about me at my web site WilliamHartPhD.com.

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