Protect yourself - know the tricks

If you minded reading some of the other posts on this blog, you might naturally be quite surprised that this one is written in (a somewhat broken) English. A first reason for this is because what I am going to write here is linked to what has been written few days ago by another blogger, with whom I share some views about photography. I believe this person deserves that I make the effort to express myself in his own language, so that people reading here in English will get the chance to read what he initially wrote there in English as well.

Another reason is that this blogger wrote things that have been acting as a catalyzer, helping me to be conscious of few things that were present in my mind - sometimes for a long time - but that did not crystallize and take shape before I read his words. So it is a way to acknowledge his contribution too. 

I won’t comment directly on what has been written there. It’s crystal-clear. I will thus just start from there and try to present some new material that, hopefully, may help some poor guys out there that suffered from inappropriate attitudes from their pairs (as most of us probably did at some point). If you are used to see pictures that were openly submitted for critique (in photography forums, in photoclubs, etc.) or if you submit your own pictures that way too, you know that sometimes the discussion can take a wrong turn. A very wrong one. You disagree with what people say and you make it clear. Too clear, apparently. The fight is on. 

What I will present are commonly accepted beliefs that are brandished as universal justifications for treating people in a (sometimes very) rough way, and even taking as granted that one can feel good when doing so. Most of these beliefs are just coming from misunderstood or abusively used postulates. They take the shape of « gotcha » sentences that are so frequently encountered (mainly but not only) on photography forums that you cannot fail to read them. They are so repeatedly used as tricks that it is a pity to see people still enduring the abuse. Among a long list, hereafter are some of the most classical ones. 

"If we do not get what you mean from your picture, it’s because your picture
is a poor expression of what you want to say."

I bet with you that a person writing this did not even bother to ask any information about the picture before. Do not expect this person to show the slighest interest about your goal either, not even mentioning your work in general. This is the typical self-centered expression of judgment, taking as granted that you (the author who presents a picture) are in duty of taking care in priority about what they (the public) are able to grasp from the very first sight. It heavily relies too on the widely accepted fallacy that the picture should be self-contained, with an obvious (lack of) message (*). According to these views, failing to get immediately the message from the picture or having difficulties to simply get the message (which could be contained somewhere else, like e.g. in another part of your work) means that your picture is just a failure. How subtle and generous this approach is. Do we really need to comment more on that ? 

"So you see, I told you, I am not the only one to say these bad things about your picture.
Thanks James/Jack/Paul/Helen/…. for agreeing with me, you understand my point
as this guy should by now."

You have to realize that idiots are accustomed to live in pack, with a natural tendency to protect each other against people that are perceived as external threats, because they feel mentally insecure (translate as : they get asked to think harder than what they are willing to, as their beliefs might be shaking from the ground). Clever people do not need to rely on relatives for supporting their argumentation. They can see and explain things by their own, without the need for mates who agree with them as a backup. (**) So if non associated people are telling you the same consistent thing about your picture, you should wonder. But if a pack of people behaving as if they were a single individual is telling you something really bad while referencing each other, by no way it should deserve any real credit. 

"If you argue about all the bad things what we are saying here about your picture, 
it’s because you can’t stand the critiques ; you will make no progress if you don’t listen (to us)"

Yes, you surely argued about the bad things that were written, and probably not because they were bad things per se, but because you might consider them as unjustified and you were trying to explain why you think that. Because you have the right to express yourself, instead of just listening in a passive way. So comes the « gotcha » sentence as the ultimate (but devoid of any meaning) decisive argument, sweeping away any previous considerations with the delicacy of a hurricane. You are now accused of being a non-consenting victim, which is of course the equivalent of being a guilty offender. Do you really want to be put on trial from these grounds ? I believe you deserve a bit better than that, right ? Don’t consider such an idiot sentence. Don’t even mind answering it. 

"You have to stand the critiques, even the worse ones. That’s part of the learning process, 
and it’s your responsability to stand them. Don’t be a chicken." 

That’s probably the most tricky of all the « gotcha » sentences, as it is normal to acknowledge that there are parts of truth in it. You will meet people that won’t like what you are doing: that’s perfectly fine and even beneficial for diversity. You will meet people that will say that you did something wrong: that’s fine and indeed it’s quite possible that you did it wrong. You will learn from what others say about your pictures : of course, you are expected to learn from others, what’s the point ? What is not fine at all is the way people use this sentence as soon as an argument shows up: by no means it is a valid justification for being brutal, for hurting people, for discrediting people’s work, or for being just a dick on purpose. No one deserves to be treated roughly. This is not the army. We are not engaged in a war. Nobody is entitled with the right of shooting at you when you submit a picture for critique. You don't have the responsability to stand this.

As a conclusion

People who are honest about themselves and who wants to go higher are also eager to get comments from others about their work. Doing so, they have the right to expect that these comments reach the minimum standards of quality. They are eager to listen, but they should also be given a chance to speak when needed. So, if you were tricked by the past, don’t get anymore with these ready-to-use sentences. And if you are among those who use these tricks, just think how bad it can be for you and for others. Take the time to think hard about it. The only risk is to become more respectful and possibly more clever human beings. And that’s a risk anyone can take.

 (*) In the case there is no message at all, this should again be made obvious from the picture to make these people comfortable.
 (**) If you were ironic, you could say that Mother Nature did well her job, as isolate clever people are harder to spot and less subject to accidental extinction than a grouped pack of idiots, thus offering some positive guarantee for the perennity of human species.

4 commentaires:

  1. I really don't know what to add here except I'm glad you wrote this.

    Hope some of "those" people will read this and maybe actually made some effort to open their eyes.

    Glad to see you write in English

  2. I don't know how specific this behavior is to one specific forum, but I find myself very annoyed by the idea that explaining oneself is "arguing with the critique" and that arguing with the critique is the single most terrible thing a person can do. I left because I got sick of being called a bad person by people who did not read my remarks, only saw that I had written something, and became furious that I would reply with anything other than humble thanks.

    It's the behavior of a religious cult: you disagree, but we are correct, and therefore you are wrong, and since you are wrong, your disagreement is actually proof of our correctness. Disagreement is met with fury, and the insistence that you MUST CHANGE and you MUST AGREE.

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog post!

  3. Thanks amolitor for your words. What I can confirm from experience is that this behaviour is not specific at all to a specific forum. It is generalized. I have seen the same sentences written in different languages and over a time span of several years. This is the reason why I spent some time writing this stuff.

    It won't surely change that, but it can may be help people that went through that, just telling them that they don't have to feel bad. I left forums largely for these reasons. It was just a loss of time. Indeed, most people barely read what you write and the only goal for most is to be the winner of an argument, whatever it would cost them in terms of intelligence.

    Yes, you can view this as a religious cult, indeed. It is a real alienation of the mind. That's why I left forums as well.