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My almost daily occupation with the criticism of photographs produced by young photographers has proved that certain errors are repeated persistently and with great frequency. A brief summary of these follows:

Quality should not be pursued, it should occur as a natural result: Henri Cartier-Bresson said that when taking a photograph we keep one eye open to see the world outside and the other closed to see our inner world. Most photographers do not look at either but focus rather on the final result. In other words, they try to organise their knowledge and abilities in order to produce a good photograph. However, in contrast, they should first justify to themselves why they take photographs (general) and then justify why they have selected this particular theme. Good results are the inevitable product of a correct and honest process. What maintains the suspense is that we never know how right and how honest the process was.

The ‘what’ and the ‘how’ should not be decided without thought: The ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ of photography are interrelated. The choice of subject is not the final content of the photographic work, but pre-supposes the interest of the photographer and some form of handling. The closed eye of the photographer should provide the open eye with the photographer’s opinions on two things. First of all, on the world and secondly, on the photograph. The choice of subject should help the photographer to express his emotions about the world in which he lives and the photograph he is using. The how is the manner in which he clothes the what, which is defined by the theme itself and by the relationship of the photographer both to the world and to the photograph. The ‘whats’ and the ‘hows’ are not inconsequent logical and aesthetic choices, as unfortunately is the case with most photographers.

Communication must not be the major objective: Communication is a fundamental element of artistic creation. However, no-one should create in order merely to communicate. One should always create with the hope of or the eventuality of communication. This communication is not just a meeting of kindred souls but the emancipation of the work far from the protection provided by prejudiced parental judgement. For this reason the attempts to publish artistic work are not acts of vanity or narcissism but form part of the creative process through time. From potential result, communication has transformed into a main objective. Most photographers work in order to be able to exhibit and do not make a living from exhibiting their work.

One’s biographical note should not precede life itself: The life of the artist has been reduced to their biographical notes. The more one strives to create the latter, the less time one has to live and create. One has the feeling that for the modern artist each New Year is an empty line to be filled and not another section of time to be justified against oneself. However, no biography exists without a complete and finished form. Only thus can it be evaluated and this is not something the artist will ever live to experience.

A photograph should not be a composition of many smaller photographs: Photographs can consist of a plethora of details, but finally should only focus on one point, a single trace, a unique suggestion. For this reason, photographs should be absolute, convincing and compact. The many details should co-exist and combine, one inside the other. Most photographs contain an excess of detail which could belong to more than one photograph, photographs with different themes and approaches. This is obviously because the photographer has attempted to construct a photo rather than uncover it.

A thematic subject should not justify mediocre photography: It is a fact that many photographs by the same photographer on the same theme and with the same content give us a better idea of his identity and reinforce the final result. However, a thematic unit should consist of a collection of individually good photographs. Usually however collections consist mainly of mediocre quality photographs which attempt to draw their justification from their juxtaposition with a few good photos. What eventually happens is that the force of the mediocrity absorbs quality.

The idea which sparked off the photograph should not replace it: From the minute the work of art sees the light it should be left to its fate. Any attempt to support it with crutches will only detract. If the work is better than the description of the idea which created it then it will be buried by it. If the work is worse than the idea its stark nature will be revealed. In any case, accompanying text is dangerous, as in its single purposedness it has a greater apparent force and will engulf the work.

The form of a photograph cannot supplant its content: Photographs are images, not objects. What frames them is more important than their surface. Their perfect appearance, correct printing, specific colouring and most suitable sizing should facilitate viewers’ approach to its contents and cannot themselves be part of the latter. This insistence on the importance of the surface smacks of poor content.

Innovation should not be an end in itself: Tremendous competition is driving photographers to innovation at any cost. The results are rarely truly innovative and are usually hopelessly monotonous. Innovation comes necessarily from tradition. The ignorance of the former excludes any innovation. Once again innovation should occur naturally rather than be pursued.