PetaPixel

Why You Shouldn’t Give Too Much Weight to Anonymous Online Critics

Back in 2006, Flickr user André Rabelo submitted the above photograph to the group pool of DeleteMe!, a group whose members vote on photos to weed out any photos that aren’t “incredible pictures, amazing, astonishing, perfect”. Sadly, the photograph was very quickly removed by popular vote.

Here are some of the criticisms the voters had:

When everything is blurred you cannot convey the motion of the bicyclist. On the other hand, if the bicyclist is not the subject– what was?

Why is the staircase so “soft”? Camera shake? Like the angle though.

so small. so blurry. to better show a sense of movement SOMETHING has to be in sharp focus

Nicely composed, but blurry

This looks contrived, which is not a bad thing. If this is a planned shot, it just didn’t come out right. If you can round up Mario, I would do it again. This time put the camera on a tripod and use the smallest aperture possible to get the best DoF. What I would hope for is that the railings are sharp and that mario on the bike shows a blur. Must have the foreground sharp, though. Without that, the image will never fly.

yeah and? grey, blurry, small, odd crop

bit too blurred to be worth a save from me

Fantastic composition, but the tones and the graininess keep the photo from being great.

What’s funny about this story is that Rabelo had the last laugh — the photograph is actually “Hyeres, France, 1932″, a famous photograph by the French photographer and “father of modern photojournalism”, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Made in 1932, the photo sold at auction in 2008 for a whopping $265,000.

This just goes to show that you shouldn’t let anonymous online critics dictate how you photograph. While it’s great to receive feedback and certainly worthwhile to hear things that help you improve your technique, the criticisms you hear online are often from people who don’t know what they’re talking about, so don’t give too much weight to negative comments!


 
 
  • http://twitter.com/simonmeisinger Simon Meisinger

    this delete me! group seems to be a group with it’s own quite narrow rules. no grain, VERY clear (simple?) composition, technical perfection, one single subject.

    therefore it’s totally ok it got voted out. i wouldn’t take this as a general example for online-critics.

  • http://twitter.com/Myrddon Henning Nilsen

    very old photo =/= instantart

    Bresson was a great photographer, but not everything he did was good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504436614 Lee Harris

    Maybe, but this one is definitely good. 

  • http://twitter.com/Klarden Klarden

    Every person with a good camera could do the same photo in 2006. SO yeah, i’m not surprised it was criticized. “Fathers” pioneer what becomes commodity. It was great for 1932, in 2006 it’s just a rather good photo everyone can do.

  • Anonymous

    So were those reviewers uneducated? or unenlightened? I suspect they were just honest. One mans crap is another mans treasure.

  • Anonymous

    So were those reviewers uneducated? or unenlightened? I suspect they were just honest. One mans crap is another mans treasure.

  • Anonymous

    So were those reviewers uneducated? or unenlightened? I suspect they were just honest. One mans crap is another mans treasure.

  • http://twitter.com/simonmeisinger Simon Meisinger

    everyone with an average camera could have restaged this photo in 1976 as well.

    just as everyone with penicil can copy the apple logo. but there was somebody who did it first.

  • Roel

    Which is why it cannot – and should not – be judged outside of that context. That just does not make any sense. So, a funny yet senseless experiment!

  • http://tommorris.org/ Tom Morris

    Nice capture!

  • some guy

    Personally I think it is much worse to receive positive critiques from people who don’t know what they’re talking about than negative critiques. There can be great lessons in being humbled, but having an inflated sense of skill doesn’t teach you anything.

  • Italia rules

    Some stupid people will pay a lot of money because someone famous pressed the shutter. But just because HCB took the shot doesn’t automatically make it a fab shot.

  • Zach Sutton

    So he stole a photo, claimed it as his own, and then brought up how it was some famous photo from the early 1900s?

    Is no one offended that he did this in the first place?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504436614 Lee Harris

    Well, uneducated quite likely, if they claim to be photographers and yet failed to spot a photo that might quite likely appear in a list of the 100 most famous photos of all time. I bet any one of these critics can talk without moving their lips, being that they talk out of their arse. 

  • Guest

    Part of the reason this picture is so good is dependent on it’s historical context. If the commenters on that site don’t know about it’s historical context (perhaps they should, but that is a different matter) then it is partially understandable that they might not see it’s significance or be able to figure out what is so great about it. It’s not just aesthetics. Though I still think it is aesthetically beautiful, that is somewhat subjective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504436614 Lee Harris

    To critique something you really need to have some knowledge of what you talking about, criticising what you don’t understand is just not valid, you may as well slag off a book written in Russian because you can’t speak the language. Maybe it is very Post Modern and ‘relative’ to think otherwise, but liking an image now without knowing the ‘shoulders of the giant’ on which the photographer is standing is sad and lazy and ignorant.

  • photogog

    That’s just it! Bresson was a street photographer and staged nothing.  He was a hunter of the perfect moment. Go ahead and copy it, but like you said, someone did it first.

  • photogog

    “Actually, I’m not all
    that interested in the subject of photography. Once the picture is in
    the box, I’m not all that interested in what happens next. Hunters,
    after all, aren’t cooks.

    Henri Cartier-Bresson

  • PRG

    Not to be a jerk, but that’s just digi-baby ignorance speaking. 

    Cameras could take very sharp photos in this era — and well before. Sharpness and the quest for uber-sharpness was, in fact, a big deal in HCB’s time — that’s why he felt compelled to make the provocative statement “sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. In fact, film’s resolution has only recently been matched by a few very high-end digital sensors. To boot, HCB used the best gear: a Leica with Zeiss-Ikon glass. He could take tack-sharp photos whenever he wanted. 

  • http://tommorris.org/ Tom Morris

    Not at all. The point is that their standard response was to jump to technical criticism of the image without having any sense of the aesthetic, historical or critical dimension of photography as an art form.

  • Asithasbeenwritten

    Holy Fuck Internet. Some of you need to go outside for awhile. 
    Art is subjective, always has been and always will be no matter how much you argue about it. 
    I LIKE IT. IT’S ART TO ME. YOU CAN DISAGREE, I’M OK WITH THAT.

  • http://www.itsmyurls.com/BeckyCortino Becky Cortino

    As always — consider the source, and use the information to best advantage, if it is helpful (relevant) input.

    Great picture! I think it’s fascinating, and the contrasts are nice — my opinion lol Just sayin’ ;)

  • http://miamiartexchange.com Onajide Shabaka

    Historical context is everything here. It also say something about the current aesthetics of amateur, or semi-professional photographers, who are not photojournalists, nor likely photographic artists. I think is says even more about how to actually “read” a photographic image because Cartier-Bresson’s work entered the canon as art, and yes, photography is ubiquitous in most cultures in the world, but not everyone is versed in visual culture.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tamas.kalman Tamas Kalman

    It’s a good composition, but a little blurry.
    =P

  • Guest

    While I agree that you shouldn’t allow critics dictate how you do what you love, using the fact that this photo is famous and worth over $200k is disingenuous. It’s not worth a large sum because it’s a spectacular photo, it’s worth a lot because it’s historic. It’s like saying you shouldn’t criticize Barry Bond’s career because he owns a nice house. 

  • Guest

    While I agree that you shouldn’t allow critics dictate how you do what you love, using the fact that this photo is famous and worth over $200k is disingenuous. It’s not worth a large sum because it’s a spectacular photo, it’s worth a lot because it’s historic. It’s like saying you shouldn’t criticize Barry Bond’s career because he owns a nice house. 

  • Davinciboson

    She sounds hot, I’d love to watch her puke.

  • http://twitter.com/ActorModelPhoto ModelActorPhoto

    Well… just because it is a HCB picture it does not mean that the photos is beyond criticism and certainly it does not de-legitimatize some of the critic about sharpness and such. Certainly it is very valid to critic an HCB image and find it that in it does not meet a person’s subjective standards.

    I certainly think that it is wrong that just because it is a HCB image and that it sold for x amount of money, therefore it is a good image. That is a, IMHO, a faulty equation.

  • http://twitter.com/ActorModelPhoto ModelActorPhoto

    Well… just because it is a HCB picture it does not mean that the photos is beyond criticism and certainly it does not de-legitimatize some of the critic about sharpness and such. Certainly it is very valid to critic an HCB image and find it that in it does not meet a person’s subjective standards.

    I certainly think that it is wrong that just because it is a HCB image and that it sold for x amount of money, therefore it is a good image. That is a, IMHO, a faulty equation.

  • AshL

    The composition is really fantastic. Time and context are everything with art, particularly photography since it is so technology dependent. Everything pointed out as a criticism within the article is valid for a contemporary photograph only.

  • Philip

    As much as I would like to agree that historical context is everything
    in terms of criticizing artwork, I can’t help but to think that it can become quite separatist or elitist from people “who just don’t know”.

    It’s apparent that those who commented at the picture didn’t really know
    that it was captured by HCB. But then again, is it being ignorant or
    “uneducated”? Sounds a little bit too harsh for me. Their points are
    valid, even if it dwells too much on a technical “by the book” aspect.

    Sure, history has a significant part in trying to understand how art is
    evolving, but when it comes to criticizing a photograph posted in a
    website, people would most likely just try to “connect” with the image, regardless of what period it was
    shot in, what school of thought was it inspired from or who shot it (of
    course they can also connect these factors that they base their experiences into, but then again people have different bases for their experiences)

    I think the article just shows the limited grasp of human history and how the sense of aesthetic connectedness is different from time to time based on the people’s technological and social experience. In terms, of letting (or not letting) other people criticize your work, I think the connection or connectedness is what’s most important; now whether you see aesthetic connection as being outward to your viewers, inward to your reflective self, or both, is up to your preference. If you were your artworks, how would you want others to view you? How would you want your creator-self to view you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tony.sleep Tony Sleep

    Ah, the postmodernists have shown up. What clever questions! Utterly incapable of meaningful answers. Unless you consider  “at gunpoint with wallets in hand” and “with loving admiration rather than the usual inchoate self loathing that characterises the human condition” illuminating?

    Life is not indulgent of ignorance, laziness or the unselfconscious need to write rubbish as an expression of egalitarianism. Consequently the opinions of people who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about seldom merit respect. Humiliation by withering logical argument is a recommended corrective. We should be tolerant of blithering idiots, unless they work in Government or the financial sector, which most do.

    So : if you were to respect my stupid opinions on how to perform brain surgery with a chainsaw, you’d soon find out that the qualified surgeon wasn’t just being elitist. But give a man a DSLR and twenty minutes after leaving Jessops he’s on Flickr or DPreview loudly and confidently talking crap.

  • Cmc

    Love it!!! People just think they know everything about photography, they think only they can be right. Photography is a personal thing as much as any form of art/creativity is. You can hit the technical nail on the head but is that what you need each and every time to get an amazing photo? I have seen photos shot out of focus, giving another level to the image does this mean bin it as technically it isn’t in focus.  I wonder if these so called critics know much about the history of photography, or do they just think they invented the whole thing?

  • Cmc

    Love it!!! People just think they know everything about photography, they think only they can be right. Photography is a personal thing as much as any form of art/creativity is. You can hit the technical nail on the head but is that what you need each and every time to get an amazing photo? I have seen photos shot out of focus, giving another level to the image does this mean bin it as technically it isn’t in focus.  I wonder if these so called critics know much about the history of photography, or do they just think they invented the whole thing?

  • Cmc

    Love it!!! People just think they know everything about photography, they think only they can be right. Photography is a personal thing as much as any form of art/creativity is. You can hit the technical nail on the head but is that what you need each and every time to get an amazing photo? I have seen photos shot out of focus, giving another level to the image does this mean bin it as technically it isn’t in focus.  I wonder if these so called critics know much about the history of photography, or do they just think they invented the whole thing?

  • Cmc

    Love it!!! People just think they know everything about photography, they think only they can be right. Photography is a personal thing as much as any form of art/creativity is. You can hit the technical nail on the head but is that what you need each and every time to get an amazing photo? I have seen photos shot out of focus, giving another level to the image does this mean bin it as technically it isn’t in focus.  I wonder if these so called critics know much about the history of photography, or do they just think they invented the whole thing?

  • ruan

    a quick look at the voting rules in that group is all it takes to clear up the mystery.
    the voting guidelines are that the default vote is delete. if there is anything you dont particularly like you HAVE to delete. 99% of everything submitted gets deleted. here is some of it:

    “THE DEFAULT VOTE is DELETE. Saves are for shots that are #####
    brilliant. <Post a comment on the photograph indicating why it sucks.
    Constructive criticism is highly encouraged. So is biting wit. Your
    post might look something like this: "This piece of curdled crap is
    badly cropped, poorly lit, and utterly devoid of redeeming qualities"

    so the rule of thumb is that if there is a "but" then you delete. as in, i like the colours, BUT, the subject is too isolated – delete. what often happens in that group is that people will vote delete, but still add it to their favourites. photos with flaws get "saved" at times, but only if they are really special. and if you look at the "lightbox", a collection of saved images, you'll find that tastes change, and what gets submitted and what people like changes.

    freed from the constraints of having to judge this photo based on the reputation of HCB, the DMU members took an honest look at it and decided whether or not they like it. and more didnt than did.

    a similar thing happened when someone posted egglestone's tricycle. in that group people often use a voting tool that hides everything but the photo. and then they have the option of liking it, or not, based on the photo alone. its very simple. and it is rather arrogant to assume that because its an HCB, or Eggleston, or Winogrand, it HAS to be good and people HAVE to like it, or risk being called ignorant. just like saying because its Beethoven and therefore considered good, you have to love it, even though you prefer jazz, or hip-hop.

    so in my humble opinion, what has happened here is someone was trying to
    prove a point, and that they did. they proved that ignorance afflicts
    us all. and glorious ignorance it is. some were ignorant of the
    historical background of this blurry photo, and others were ignorant of
    how that group operates. and now there is opportunity for much fingerpointing
    and feelings of superiority. a true modern internetian tragedy.

  • ruan

    a quick look at the voting rules in that group is all it takes to clear up the mystery.
    the voting guidelines are that the default vote is delete. if there is anything you dont particularly like you HAVE to delete. 99% of everything submitted gets deleted. here is some of it:

    “THE DEFAULT VOTE is DELETE. Saves are for shots that are #####
    brilliant. <Post a comment on the photograph indicating why it sucks.
    Constructive criticism is highly encouraged. So is biting wit. Your
    post might look something like this: "This piece of curdled crap is
    badly cropped, poorly lit, and utterly devoid of redeeming qualities"

    so the rule of thumb is that if there is a "but" then you delete. as in, i like the colours, BUT, the subject is too isolated – delete. what often happens in that group is that people will vote delete, but still add it to their favourites. photos with flaws get "saved" at times, but only if they are really special. and if you look at the "lightbox", a collection of saved images, you'll find that tastes change, and what gets submitted and what people like changes.

    freed from the constraints of having to judge this photo based on the reputation of HCB, the DMU members took an honest look at it and decided whether or not they like it. and more didnt than did.

    a similar thing happened when someone posted egglestone's tricycle. in that group people often use a voting tool that hides everything but the photo. and then they have the option of liking it, or not, based on the photo alone. its very simple. and it is rather arrogant to assume that because its an HCB, or Eggleston, or Winogrand, it HAS to be good and people HAVE to like it, or risk being called ignorant. just like saying because its Beethoven and therefore considered good, you have to love it, even though you prefer jazz, or hip-hop.

    so in my humble opinion, what has happened here is someone was trying to
    prove a point, and that they did. they proved that ignorance afflicts
    us all. and glorious ignorance it is. some were ignorant of the
    historical background of this blurry photo, and others were ignorant of
    how that group operates. and now there is opportunity for much fingerpointing
    and feelings of superiority. a true modern internetian tragedy.

  • ruan

    Tony, did you just compare photography to brain surgery?
    really?
    :)

  • ruan

    Tony, did you just compare photography to brain surgery?
    really?
    :)

  • ruan

    Tony, did you just compare photography to brain surgery?
    really?
    :)

  • http://www.jeffsinon.com/ Jsinon

    I think it is a good photograph, but do agree with a lot of the points expressed above. Flickr is full of possers, as well as some very good photogs. I also thine someone paid as much for the name of the photographer as they did for the print. I bet if I took the same exact shot I couldn’t give it away. That particular mentality is why I have such a hard time pricing my photographs. No matter how good I’m told they are, I know some people wouldn’t spend $40 for a print with my name on it. But put Ansel Adams’ on the same exact print and they would pay $40,000.

  • http://www.jeffsinon.com/ Jsinon

    I think it is a good photograph, but do agree with a lot of the points expressed above. Flickr is full of possers, as well as some very good photogs. I also thine someone paid as much for the name of the photographer as they did for the print. I bet if I took the same exact shot I couldn’t give it away. That particular mentality is why I have such a hard time pricing my photographs. No matter how good I’m told they are, I know some people wouldn’t spend $40 for a print with my name on it. But put Ansel Adams’ on the same exact print and they would pay $40,000.

  • http://www.jeffsinon.com/ Jsinon

    I think it is a good photograph, but do agree with a lot of the points expressed above. Flickr is full of possers, as well as some very good photogs. I also thine someone paid as much for the name of the photographer as they did for the print. I bet if I took the same exact shot I couldn’t give it away. That particular mentality is why I have such a hard time pricing my photographs. No matter how good I’m told they are, I know some people wouldn’t spend $40 for a print with my name on it. But put Ansel Adams’ on the same exact print and they would pay $40,000.