Never Criticize Other People’s Work
I was recently on an Internet forum where people usually post their own photos. There, somebody had commented on a photo that somebody else had shared and the entirety of their comment was “Truly horrible.” That's what they wrote, literally.
Reading such comments never fails to upset me and, whenever you tell those people that their comments are out of place, they invariably retort that they have a right to their opinions and that if somebody publishes a photo, they willingly expose themselves to critique and even to harsh criticism even if such criticism is not constructive in any way.
It's not the first time I've been discussing this topic online, but now I want to share my own thoughts on my podcast.
I resolved some time ago to never criticize other people's work. I never even critique them, unless I've been explicitly asked to give a critique, like “What do you think of the composition or the colors here?”. Then I might give some advice, but I don't think of that as a critique. I would never criticize anyone, if not solicited.
This episode reminded me of a quote I once read in Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, a great book, so I'm just going to put that quote here, because I think it is very much relevant to what I am discussing.
“If you find yourself criticizing other people, you're probably doing it out of Resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own. Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement. Watch yourself. Of all the manifestations of Resistance, most only harm ourselves. Criticism and cruelty harm others as well.”
– Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”
I would also like to present another quote, with which I agree wholeheartedly. This one is by Rick Sammon.
“When I hear someone needlessly criticizing the work of others, I think about what my mother used to tell me: If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything.”
– Rick Sammon
This is why I have resolved, as I wrote above, never to criticize anyone's work. If you catch me doing that, please slap me on my wrist, because it's just wrong. I think that criticizing somebody else's work only reflects badly on the person extending the criticism.
I know this can be a contentious subject and that many think that, with their critique or criticism, they are helping others grow. I personally don't believe that's really possible, unless it's done in a very specific and controlled setting, like a portfolio review by a master. Then I would accept it, but it's been requested.
Were you ever criticized, when posting photos online, in a way that made you feel uncomfortable? Share your experience in the comments below.