The Online Photographer

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Great Photographers on the Internet

Irving Penn

Hi Irv, I don't know what you were thinking here dude! You got a pretty model (altho kind of old), but you have caught her with her eyes cloes in a not very good pose. Biggest problem is YOU NEED CROP to a vertical!!!!! Backdrop is too small and there is not enough of a sweep so you can see the crease. If you send me a file I can fix it in Photoshop and I can give you my suggested crop. If you don't care aboout your PROFESSIONALISM you are never going to get work as a pro believe me!!! Hope I am not being too harsh. Oh well best regards anyway, M.H.

Sam Abell

Sam, GORGEOUS scene I luv it! Too bad u couldn't get a little more color in sky area. Blues should be a little more saturated. Also the rule is u need to have either sky or land (lake?) dominate, not just split right down the middle. Try to move the camera after u focus. A great shot though please see my entries and leave your comments. Ted.

Garry Winogrand

Hi Garry. You caught some nice poses here. Biggest problem is I can tell the horizon isn't straight. It doesn't look like a hill. Man at right needs to be cropped out. Sometimes I find if I shout right before I take the picture I can get people's attentions. If you had done so we would have been able to see more of their faces. George MacWilken.

Bill Brandt

Bill, your problem here is the shadow detail. Some lenses give more shadow detail & contrast than others. The Leica lenses are best for this. There are several types, the Elmarit, Summicron, and Summilux that I know of. I don't know which type has the highest shadow detail but I will ask and I'm sure you will get some answers. Need to see both eyes to get a sense of depth. What lens did you use for this pic? Also highlight detail seems lacking, esp. the arm. Adrian from NSW

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Bonjour Henri, assuming you are French, or at least understand it. This is a great capture, I love the composition and the dog. We had a dog that looked kind of like that one once. Your problem here is that your AF has focused on the wrong place—the man is actually kind of soft! The camera has mistakenly focused on the people in the doorway, creating a distracting softness in the man. Usually it is best to focus on the closest object and most times the camera will choose the closest large object to focus on, but unfortunately not here. But it is still an amazing capture. Cordially, Edwin

Keith Carter

Keith: Nice Try Focus is on Wrong End of horse obviously!! The square is hard to compose in, dont fell too bad. Sometimes we Fotographers have to take what we get. Bob

William Eggleston

This is just a snapshot. I would not even have considered showing this. If you ware going to post pictures you need to make sure it is of something unusual or with a personal vision. Otherwise you are going to loose the interest of your audience. George Spelvin [Nikon D200, Nikon D70s backup, 17-35 f/2.8, 80-200 f/2.8, 4GB Microdrive (2), Photoshop CS, Epson 2200]

Ralph Gibson

Ralph, this is a nice idea and I think you had a nice idea. But the shadow is very distractin, you should have taken one step to the left. If that had let in more distracting background then I think you could have stepped one step closer. Great try, better luck next time. —pitcherman

Edward Steichen

Much too dark exposure and not sharp. I suppose you may say that you tried to make it unsharp but what the hell's the point in that. I like things sharp. Maybe you should study some other peoples' photographs here on this forum and get an idea of what a good photograph should look like. **

Alex Webb

Hi Alex, I don't really see a clear composition to this photograph and your shadow detail's are all lost you need to get a camera with a bigger dynamic range perhaps you could try Fuji S3 I here it has biggest dynamic range of all but uoi need to know how to use it. Fill flash would have helped also. Only two thumbs up But I like some of your other work please vote for mine too al


*satire alert.
**thanks to Andy Frazer for this one.


Blogger Andy Frazer said...

This is one of the funniest things I've ever read on the internet!

"Maybe you should study some other peoples' photographs here on this forum and get an idea of what a good photograph should look like." -My Contribution


11:14 AM  
Blogger christer3805 said...

This made me feel GOOD

12:30 PM  
Blogger Mads said...

If these comments were real, there are some tragically narrow-minded people out there.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Max said...

I think that picture of Picasso on the beach with this woman I don't remember the name could have looked good in this lineup, but that would make it a litle bit awkward for criticism.
I have no idea, but I bet these are all famous pictures by famous photographers, aren't they? I'd give an arm to have shot one of these.

1:29 PM  
Blogger Ernest Theisen said...

You have a remarkable sense of humor. What worries me is that I agree with all your sa comments and suggestions on how to improve those images and how to make those folks become better at their trade.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Matthew Robertson said...

I like where you're going with this article, but you need to work on your composition. Try the article again, but focus on a single centre of interest, and crop on the left.

2:16 PM  
Blogger John Roberts said...

It has been said that for something to be funny, there has to be an element of truth to it. I guess that's why this made me laugh. Where else but the internet can you get so many "expert" opinions?

2:21 PM  
Blogger RG said...

You forgot the all-important criterion photos should be judged by: "sharpness!"

Where it not for the issue of copyright infringement, I had many times entertained the prospect of posting a lesser known master work just to see what criticism it would receive from the peanut gallery of internet experts.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Yis, big laffs all around, will done.

Although Mike, I think you are missing the right target here, the big problem is that you will get the SAME comments in the photo magazines from those guys reviewing readers' pictures, and those guys are supposed to know what they are talking about.

3:35 PM  
Blogger Joe Reifer said...

Hey dude. I really like your blog. You need to pick some better photographers to talk about though. I've seen way cooler stuff on flickr.


3:40 PM  
Blogger Lightcatcher said...

Absolutely hilarious. Satire is such a wonderful form of commentary.

This should be a recurring feature of the blog.


3:46 PM  
Blogger eric kellerman said...

I once gave a class on Satire the task of critiquing Weston's boringly iconic 1936 coy nude in doorway and sunlight in the style of members enjoying a worthy evening at the local photo club commenting on each others' photos.

That Weston fellow got a proper hammering - my favourite 'comment' was the one suggesting that the photographer should not slavishly ape what has been done thousands of times already, but intead search for an individual voice/eye.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Peter Mead said...

Dear Mike, Sorry dude, A + for effort but you missed the b.o.a.t. on those snapshots you were offering help with. Not once did you mention PS filters. Duh-ah! Especially craquelure or glass. Nuff said. In fact, I used to ask people, "Hey, if you were going to New Jersey for a week and you could take only one lens, which one would it be?" but now it doesn't matter. Know why? Have you ever seen how much the "glowing edges" filter improves any picture? That's right!

4:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There are two reasons why I don't participate much on the nature photography critique websites lately. The first is a little thing called a dissertation. The other you've cleverly pointed out here.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Max said...

One thing I believe makes a world of difference. If I knew I was looking at a master's work, I would have no doubt that that cropping that annoys me is exactly what the author intended, and that annoyment (though “tension” would probably be what the author was thinking of) is the desired result. But combine all our educated prejudices and a lot of amateur artwork being displayed for criticism these days, we get this, the eager need to make "corrections". I'm just an amateur photographer, but I noticed that when I asked for critics online for pictures I liked a lot, when I got them I found the whole thing pointless, because I had already thought about all that was being said and I still intended the photo to look exactly as it did. May be it sounds awfully arrogant, but if you love your art as it is, don't go asking for critics unless you have a carbon copy of yourself to do it.

5:29 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

Camera club/internet expert criticism - so lame when applied to anything worth looking at.

5:39 PM  
Blogger Nikolai Sklobovsky said...

This is sooo true :-) LOL!
Thank you for making my day 3 f/stops bighter :-)

5:49 PM  
Blogger expiring_frog said...

LMAO. You know, if you changed the names and posted those on the forums you'd REALLY get the same comments.

Uh... maybe you wouldn't even need to change the names... :D

6:37 PM  
Blogger Fazal Majid said...

Such comments don't always come from photography clubs. Here's HCB commenting about Weston's photos of bell peppers:

"les poncifs académiques de Weston..." ("""Weston's academic platitudes""").

7:59 PM  
Blogger chaski said...

To play devil's advocate:

The post is wickedly funny, and stylistic touches (spellings, backhanded `compliments' &c.) go a long way toward making it so.

That said, the underlying theme seems to be: 'Famous photographer means good picture'. Which to me is just as silly as 'Camera brand X means good picture' or 'Breaking rule Y means bad picture' (both sentiments lampooned in the text itself). Brandt and Gibson may be household names (in some households), and both have made wonderful images. But those facts don't make a snapshot of a tricycle or a contrasty pic of a hairdo interesting -- and they don't render critical advice, however clumsily offered, inherently invalid.

I know that the message isn't such an extreme dismissal of `the public critique', but just figured I'd sound a note in defense of people taking an interest -- hopefully more helpful than hostile -- in others' work, regardless of the name beside the pic.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Eric Hancock said...

Fantastic post. Those comments made me cringe because they are so real. The "dynamic range" one sounds particularly familiar.

Also love that Brandt photo; wonderful. Don't remember seeing that one before.

10:11 PM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

Hilarity amplified, as Ernest, John and others noted, because there are elements of valid criticism in the satirical comments.

The bald fact of the matter is that, at least during the latter half of the 20th century, one of the distinguishing factors between "famous" and "who cares" was representation in New York galleries and publishers.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Brilliant! Thanks.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Ade said...

True comment I once got on a Holga shot:

This is generally a nice shot, but it looks blurred in some areas. Was it raining? Do you have others you can post of this scene?

Hilarious article but sadly, it falls short of the reality. ;-)

3:35 AM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

LOL! Fantastic!
The online critic I hate more is "crop it". People has an alergy to enviroment, they just want an isolated subject, it seems.
What Chaski said here about Eggleston is so true too, the key word maybe "legitimation", and it's what "high art" critics do for a living, to decide what's going to be hyped and what's going to be denyed.

10:07 AM  
Blogger Howard Cornelsen said...

As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"


4:06 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

What's really funny is you've lampooned not only the critics, but the artists as well.

Oh wait, you really think all those lame photos are any good?

8:29 PM  
Blogger Alfonso said...

Taking about "sharpness", you probably have one of the sharpest tongues (or pencil, btw) of the internet. Not to mention about the brains.

2:59 AM  
Blogger nol said...

Cool post, this photos are still sux tho.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Hepzibah The Watchman said...

Hello -

Photography is an art form and as art forms, each is a product of the artist's tastes and imagination.

So, as a writer, I will refrain from commenting on your grammar, spelling and syntax.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Arnewoodman said...

A great lampoon for sure, and a nice inversion of the old trick of taking childrens' paintings, accidental daubs made by animals or bike tyres, and tricking art critics into enthusing over them when told they are by a famous artist.

But it is worth occasionally taking the accepted icons down from their pedestals and re-examining them. I don't suppose any of the well known photographers featured were arrogant enough to think everything they did was flawless, in fact usually the greater the talent the greater the capacity for self doubt.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Gary Gladstone said...

I snorted my morning coffee up my nose laughing at this.

Wonderful satire. There's a little bit of all of us in this piece.


(Do I smell Hazelnut?)

12:04 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"So, as a writer, I will refrain from commenting on your grammar, spelling and syntax."

...As long as you realize that the grammar, spelling, and syntax are part of the parody....


1:36 PM  
Blogger Me and my camera said...


Thanks, Mike, for a good laugh.

Tell me the truth, any inspiration here from your days on PDML? Some of the "critiques" look vaguely familiar.


1:48 PM  
Blogger Yo said...

thank you. you have made me laugh.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Juan Buhler said...

I'm coming late to this thread.

Here is a real life example of the kind of criticism Mike is mocking here. The "deleteme" group on Flickr is just that--people make comments and vote to keep or delete a picture from the group pool. This lends itself to art by committee, with hilarious results such as this one:

Mario's Bike on Flickr

3:11 PM  
Blogger csgzs said...

How true! A great idea, very well executed. And it raises an important point, actually: it is _very_ hard to post a relevant comment. (an occasional reader of yours, jumping here from LL)

3:52 PM  
Blogger Our House said...

very funny, love the camera tips. We all know it's the camera that makes the photographer!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Rod Begbie said...

Picture 4 would also have about fifteen posts informing Mr Brandt that this was an "Official FlickrBabe of the Day".

7:22 PM  
Blogger qsteve said...

Absolutely brilliant. You nailed the photography forumspeak with this.

8:04 PM  
Blogger Gabriel M.A. said...

This is magnificent. Thank you.

I found the use of more than one photograph distracting ;)

What is it with all these easily-distracted viewers? I'd hate to see their music collection, no polyphony there.

8:12 PM  
Blogger The Management said...

Bravo, homeslice.

Panasonic FZ20, Sunpak 383 flash, 512 MB SD , 2400 mAH Maha Powerex AAs, T-CON17 teleconverter.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Vikas said...

Now I know why people never understood my photographs! If I was Brenson they would have ignored if my main subject was not in focus :-)

Makes me feel .. as Christer said .. GOOD :D

Nice blog!

8:11 AM  
Blogger Allen Sullivan said...

This has set the tone for the rest of my's hilarious!! Funnily, and sadly, too close to reality. Your blog layout needs some help though. Try a left to right instead of top to bottom. That would be in line with how people read.

9:39 AM  
Blogger john said...

well done!

10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant stuff. It is, in one post, everything I hate about photo sites.

10:25 AM  
Blogger Blork said...

This is totally brilliant, and it would be equally funny if it weren't so true-to-life. It's trueness makes it downright depressing!

11:59 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Wonderful post. Undregrad History of Photography 211 meets flickr.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Stace said...

Brilliant example of "How the Internet knows best."

12:57 PM  
Blogger John M. Setzler, Jr. said...

Don't forget this one:

This is unoriginal. I have seen something like this somewhere else before!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love the 'too bad' comments. Those have been thorns in my side for a long time.


2:40 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Sheer genius. I was just complaining about the "experts" on Flikr on my own blog and my brother sent this link. You nailed it right on the head.

6:40 PM  
Blogger Mark Stagi said...

Hillarious post, have you been at our local print comps? Some of those comments sound familiar :)

7:20 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I think I pulled a muscle laughing. I think I probably said some similar things myself. oh, boy...

7:37 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Amazing satire. Highlighting what is possibly the worst of flickr, but then flickr is just people... so maybe it's not flickr's fault. I paid attention to this type of behavior for a while when i was curious "why?", but have since lost interest in that question and have moved on. I wish I could convince all the rollychair experts to do the same.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

This made my day, thanks for the laughs!

11:04 PM  
Blogger darkling said...

*laughs appreciatively*

i'm glad matthias posted the link to this thread... this is so ironically brilliant and funny as hell... well done!


1:01 AM  
Blogger Alba said...

"4GB Microdrive (2)"

painfully funny.

1:02 AM  
Blogger J. Lane said...


7:11 AM  
Blogger Meki said...

Wonderful satire, it gets even better if one can outright see these are masterworks of art and not just technical photographs.
At first I thought the comments were made by blogger himself, but nobody couldnt write so shockingly and differently all the way. So this is simply hilarious example of how common people with expensive camera can only see technical faults and are unable to catch the perfection of results.

7:58 AM  
Blogger rich said...

I believe that you have succeeded. Congratulations you made your audience think and reflect for that I applaud you.
George Spelvin? I must ask were does the satire end?

12:39 PM  
Blogger Frisbee Girl said...

Fantastically funny post that was made that much better by this comment:

Wonderful post. Undregrad History of Photography 211 meets flickr.

Thanks so much for the belly laugh.

12:50 PM  
Blogger obie said...

Reminds me of my collage photo reviews, I always wondered how they would critique famous photos and now I do. Great stuff.

1:01 PM  
Blogger dasil003 said...

I think shallow critiques and the techno-geek approach to photography are perfectly applicable to beginners. These are the sort of things you're supposed to learn in art school. Once you have some real experience and a bit of technical skill then you've outgrown the usefulness of 99% of critiques. If you know what you're doing and you like it, then what's the point of critiques anyway? If the critic is professional and can offer some insight beyond what you already know then great. But in the case of democratic critiques, it seems hardly useful for serious photographers whether they are highly esteemed or totally unknown.

2:05 PM  
Blogger dawn said...

Excellent. You missed one important critique that people are always throwing out: too much noise.

Heck, there is a lot of noise here...and it's good. I love it! :-)

Well done!

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, satire cuts to the heart of the matter so perfectly. Though, it's depressing to see how many in your own comment thread don't "get" what you're saying (and inadvertently play a role in the satire itself). - Ugh

1:01 PM  
Blogger Ole Blue The Heretic said...

Very funny I enjoyed the post

1:40 PM  
Blogger Grizkey said...

Sad thing is...I know people in school who make alarmingly similar comments.
Then again, they tend to spew from the kids who take photography because it's "an easy A" (and then thay fail for parroting the teacher)
The captions were hilarious :)

6:39 PM  
Blogger ben said...

this is an instant classic! wonderful. it's sad, however, that the humor exists because it is all too true.

7:32 PM  
Blogger j_ro said...

This is hilarious. Very well done. This also spread like wildfire across the web. I saw it in at least 4 places today alone :)

9:47 PM  
Blogger The Amusing Uterus said...

Love it. blogged it. so great. you so perfectly captured the narrowly-focused (or self-focused?) ideas some people espouse on photo-sharing sites. One of the best ones I ever saw: "I just don't care for photos with borders." Regardless of what is inside there...*sigh* but thanks for a great piece!

9:58 AM  
Blogger jvelez said...

Thank you very much for this opportunity for laughing about ourselves!

6:22 PM  
Blogger Kevin Backs said...

Sorry, but I don't get it... why didn't anyone talk about bokeh? I mean, that's the most important thing in any photo, isn't it?

10:06 PM  
Blogger stefan lubo said...

You are always a good read, but this time you excelled yourself. Both amateur and professional critics fall into the trap of "golden rules", but they do serve a purpose in getting one strated learning a craft. First you learn the "rules" then you learn when to break them and when to ignore them all together.
In this case humour is a good teacher! and thanks a lot for it.

8:19 AM  
Blogger phil said...

Too easy: you obviously chose weak pictures to serve your point...
Really, this is excellent: I experimented this sort of comments in photo contests. Only one conclusion for me: don't respect the rules!

11:17 PM  
Blogger klausesser said...


9:24 AM  
Blogger ronfstop said...

This is very funny (and so are some of the comments). The tongue-in-cheek critiques are perfect examples to illustrate the Arnold Newman statement: "Composition is making the picture work. There are lots of books with lots of rules and formulas about composition. Did you ever see a great photograph or painting made by these formulas? I haven’t. After you say ‘It works.’ then you can talk about details."

2:11 PM  
Blogger aadams said...

everything said about each of these great pictures has been said about mine at the camera club. Does this mean my pictures were really great? U Bet.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Dr Molly Black: The Philosophical Epicurian said...

I definitely enjoyed this. It made me smile in so many ways. I've been having a rough photography week and needed a pick me up.

This, I think, really did it for me.

1:56 PM  
Blogger D said...

This is almost as wonderful as the critique site of which I am a proud member. (I believe you must be talented enough to own a Nikon to be critiqued there. No Canons allowed unless you are trashing one.) Sharpness, cropping is covered, but nobody has mentioned saturation. Also, there are no photo details. How can we tell you how to make your picture more perfect if we do not know the camera, the lens, the shutter speed, the ISO, the f-stop, white balance, CCD type, number of megapixels etc? Also, we need ot know if your monitor is calibrated correctly. Did you use RAW? If so, which converter did you use?

At the site of which I am a proud member, the most wonderful advice I ever heard was the suggestion to reverse the picture to improve it. I always do that to mine now.

As a reader and writer on photographing forums, I will agree that you do need to work on your grammer though.

Mr. Saturatedlite: Nikonian, Nikon D70s 6.1 megapix, 50mm 1.4. 70-300g, 18-70g, Nikon neckstrap with yellow letters, black camera bag, SB600, Infrared remote, Gizmo pod, Cokin ND4, Hoya CP filter, Uv filter, MC filter, black Nikon cap, Nikon photo vest (olive green) Nikon lens caps, Kodak lens paper, Lowepro camera bag strap (with the extra padding.)

Beautiful 8x10 photos of mine can be seen all over my house.Let me know if you want to buy one.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I loved reading this Mike. A very fitting review of what's going wrong with photography - everyone wants to be such a great critic they rarely even see the photograph.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Roz said...

HAhahah.... how awesome. A perfect example of some of the brilliant minds on the interweb ;P

9:27 AM  
Blogger derfinne said...

thanks!!! you made my day!

2:10 PM  
Blogger Dr Hiding Pup said...

This is great fun and throws down the gauntlet for a new challenge: a series of pictures that would throw those satirised about into raptures but are, actually, quite, quite dull...

10:51 AM  
Blogger dewitte said...

That was terrific - I loved your "Just a Snapshot" note. Just think how many famous pictures we'd never see if some reviewer had shot them down.

10:56 AM  
Blogger Lainer said...

Funny! Sad part is you have teachers who say stuff like this to kids growing up, and it kills many budding artists.

10:17 AM  
Blogger antithesis said...

Fortunately most kids forget what their teachers tell them...I know I did! and mine do!

12:06 AM  
Blogger Diego Sevilla said...

Haha! So funny!

I really liked the touch of the D200, D70s backup, etc, etc. haha. Really nice article.


6:58 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Absolutely priceless! Took me a while to get it before I couldn't stop laughing. =)

1:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! This is absolutely completely made my day. The sad part is that I see things like this ALL THE TIME on a forum that I frequent.

8:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Génial ! Cette lecture devrait être obligatoire avant d'autoriser quelqu'un à poster des commentaires sur les photos d'autrui ! Jouissif !

12:18 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

This is hilarious! I especially like the misspellings. Very typical. And the listing of the equipment used in the comment. Brilliant!

10:00 AM  
Blogger dingbat said...

"should have cropped to a vertical" - it seems somebody chose exactly those words to knock Alec Soth's work on DPReview:


5:12 AM  
Blogger Lou said...

oooh yes nice dof

(damned original and funny)

3:16 PM  
Blogger annulla said...


5:50 AM  
Blogger sunny said...

A very interesting photographer on the Internet

7:11 PM  
Blogger ... said...

Superb photos.

12:56 AM  
Blogger Callystia said...

Hmmm...have you seen the movie "Interstate 60"? This reminded me of a bit that's set in the Museum of Art Fraud. If you haven't watched it, do rent it (it's available through Netflix), because it seems right up your alley. ;)

Brilliant idea! My husband and I laughed like mad.

2:25 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Good stuff. I especially like how you captured the AOL speak.

Criticism is always a mixed bag. I myself thrive on it -- I think a strong opinion (positive or negative) of my photographs is always preferrable to disinterest, such as when I spend hours tweaking the tone of a shot until it's just about perfect, and my wife says "meh, it's a boat."

I have a friend who feels the need to apply a critical sledgehammer to everything I do, even if I'm taking shots on line at B&H, trying to get a feel for the sharpness of a given lens. "You need to learn the rule of thirds, blah blah, shot's too washed out, this area's not in focus." Then I look at his shots -- all made with a 50mm prime, the only lens he will use -- and realize I would NEVER want to have my name attached to any of these photos. That his sense of aesthetic is, to MY sense of aesthetic, broken. And thus anything he tells me will probably have to go in the NO pile.

The internet has a VERY big NO pile.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Wolfeye said...

I tend to agree with the comment that these are weak pictures to begin with. I suppose that makes me one of the internet experts you Lampoon. Art exists only in your own eye and heart, not New York city fashion salons.

Call someone an artist and presto, they are.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Curtis Clegg said...

These reviews are all bogus dude! They spelled lense wrong a bunch of times... I dunno why some people insist on drooping the e at the end.

9:07 PM  
Blogger tobyloc said...

Curtis, I think you can spell lens both ways and I'm pretty sure 'dropping' has one 'o' and two p's!

This thread is silly though, all these photos were posted on sites where people ask for help/criticism to help them become better photographers. Most of the time it's rubbish agreed but you can't ask someone for help and expect them to say "no, sorry, it's perfect"

Some of the photos you've put up are excellent but some are, in my opinion, quite average compared to a lot of amateur stuff I've seen. You've chosen a few mediocre photos from some great photographers, maybe you should've chosen some undeniably excellent photos and see what the responses are. A photo isn't great because someone great took it and there are probably a couple of grains of truth in some of those comments.

5:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope all those photographers whose work you so generously and expertly critiqued were suitably grateful.

2:32 AM  
Blogger Patrick Mallette said...

"Decision (in this case, critique) by committee results in mediocrity." - someone famous whose name I can't remember

9:38 AM  
Blogger phototakeouter said...

One of the funniest thing I've read all year (all 11 days of it)!
...Talk about stumbling into the party a bit late

11:07 PM  
Blogger cymagen said...

Very funny. This is why you shouldn't give very much weight to the usually scientific and usually rule-heavy feedback from others.

Great satire!

8:57 PM  
Blogger said...

this is a pretty good collection of really dumb things, but if you want my opinion you should have posted some people not understanding mapplethorpe and/or peter-witkin. those guys are REALLY out there!!! in all a pretty good try to be hilarious, i give it two thumbs up. Please rate me too! thanks. ward

3:04 PM  
Blogger The Great Unwashed said...

Hilarious satire, indeed. Very true observations. I am one of those guys with no clue who dares to express opinions about other people's artistic endeavours. So, I laughed at myself - at first - until I realised that the target of this satire is not necessarily the person who gives a critique. Rather, the laugh is about the whole situation where millions of camera neophytes are proudly showing off their first (or second) work of their digital "art" on Internet - for the whole world to see. And they are honestly convinced that what they show is real art.

It is very easy to declare this article as just a satire on critics. But think about it for a moment. If you knew that the creator was a great photographer, you would look at his/her photo with a totally different attitude than if you knew that you were dealing with a newbie. And not necessarily because you are a hypocrite. Great majority of newbies are totally ignorant about basics of photography and therefore they need and deserve to get basic instructions. They break the rules because of their ignorance and not because of their artistic non-conformism. Masters, on the other hand, break rules for a reason and they need completely different kind of insight in comments. But where do you find masters in the online photo-critiques among millions of ignorant beginners?

That said, I agree with one of the posters who concluded that if you value your photographic tastes and skills, you shouldn't post your photographs for a critique on an on-line forum. After all, great pictures sometimes come from totally unknown photographers (and great photographers sometimes are ashamed to show some of their works).

I also agree with others, who suggest that a big name not always belongs to a great artist. Fame works in mysterious ways...

6:27 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I ended a pretty crappy day with one of the most brilliant things online and the most funny. Thank you thank you! I've been waiting for this. I wish I would of thought of it first.

8:39 PM  
Blogger A Glimpse of the World said...

This is fantastic. Reminds me of the Flickr rate-me groups where ordinary photographers with a superficial grasp of technical issues slam other people's work in the guise of constructive criticism.

All the funnier because I'm just from a fantastic exhibition, now showing in Shanghai, where the Winogrand and Brandt images are on display - along with the works of many other masters (Doisneau, HCB, Robert Frank, Edward Weston, Man Ray, Brassai, Myerowitz, etc., etc.)

2:16 AM  
Blogger Ira Crummey said...

It is quite an interesting can of worms you have opened here Mike. What you have achieved here is to create a discussion of considerable depth with many questions.

- Why do so many people comment on photographs when they do not even understand the concepts employed?

- Has the ability to comment publicly on the internet become a source of empowerment for some people? (Much as radio call in shows once were)

- Does fame and reputation imply quality?

- Should "genuine art" (i.e. accepted through art circles) be immune to criticism?

- Have we reached an unfortunate point in art where critics and art dealers decide who should be in vogue? The outspoken Tom Stoppard's views on art have been quoted on this site and similarly view much current art as being somewhat wacking in skill or substance.

- Since art is such a personal thing should we dispense with all calls for criticism? (Merely echoing previous posts here)

- Viewers with no true artistic "vision" will sometimes gravitate to photography because it appears to them to be a way to create art. They learn all of the rules and conventions of composition. They study the technical skills and master them. Finally they create consistent, predictable photographs that make for great family portraits and wonderful wall art but are generally uninspiring. These people, armed with an impressive array of textbook perfect analysis tools, then become critics.

I have posted many images for criticism, and I have offered comment on the work of others, guilty as charged. I do not see a problem with this as long as the amateur critic follows two simple rules:
1- If you don't know then don't comment. Stay away from details you are not familiar with.
2- Do not take an authoratative tone in your comments. Even if you are an established photographer you do not have the right to authority on the works of others. Get over yourself.

Great post Mike, wonderful discussion.


8:53 AM  
Blogger Asher Kelman said...

The satire is brilliant and entertaining. The truth is self evident.

We all have been offended when original work is dismissed for not obeying some imagined basic rule.

Online experts are such huge and easy and delightful targets.

However, one thing that is not addressed is that often the very success of some important images is the work against convention.

All we can do when looking at an image is react and feel and think.

The satire using acclaimed works of art is briliant but facile. These departures from the expected have been filtered through thousands of hours of dedicated toil.

The masters do what they do based on their own esthetic sense which is far beyond most anyone else.

For the rest of us to think that repeating all their "transgressions" yields "art" is at best naive and at worse a conceit and delusional.

I posted images of a photographer who, by choice, used slow shutter speeds to great effect. We had a struggle at first for anyone to accept that such a choice can be creative and carve a form that carries added emotions and implies feelings not otherwise easily evoked.

If the forum is open and vibrant, then self-important critique will be counterbalanced quickly.

So while the parody is hilarious, the collection of images really celebrates brilliance of a few photographers.

Meanwhile for the rest of us, critique can be a useful.

Best is when one has enough insight to develop one's own capabilities based on one's own feelings and skill to embed this in the physical form of the image. Then other people get or not and be dammned if they don't.

In the end, this report is entertaining, as satire must be, deflates and exposes the pompous, but is not necessarily applicable.

Art for oneself is and must be the standard by which work starts. No one can say my standards are wrong only that they do or do not like it, understand it or want to look at it again!

They can however share these feelings if that is what I requested.

The job for the artist then is to have some internal compass to steer away from ideas that degrade their own intent.

So yes, this satire is wonderful. However, it doesn't necessarily apply. In fact, loss of critique would in some cases switch off the exposure of new artists to wider audiences.

My take home from this satire is to have insight to one's own limitations and be humble and gentle with the work of others.

3:02 PM  
Blogger alan1250 said...

A well-known photographer and darkroom printer was once giving a seminar at our club. When someone mentioned that they liked the way he had bleached to bring out the details in the shadows he took one look and ripped up the photograph! He made such a dramatic gesture to make the point that many experts employ a range of techniques to arrive at great works. But if the techniques are obvious then the goal is lost.

The same should be said of the "rules" used to judge art. Just looking at a piece of work, it's hard to judge whether the maker was aware of the issue or employed it for effect.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Roger B. said...

Spot on!

4:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog and so true to certain archetypes (see below). I guess a few people get muddled about what each of us see and hpw we see it.

Keep it up.


p.s. received this in my inbox today - maybe it kind of fits in with your thinking?


Letting the opinions of others dampen your enthusiasm, restrain your joy, and stifle your creativity, Stephen, is often exactly what they were after.

Pity for them, huh?

Let's rock -
The Universe

end quote

4:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This is excellent stuff. I'm still laughing!

The good thing is that I'm a working commercial photographer and when marketing often receive critiques from prospective clients, that can be harsh.

It cheers me that even the greats can have fault or subjective suggestions levelled at them, and that I shouldn't take it so seriously!

Top stuff, really. Are we allowed to post links here?

7:39 AM  
Blogger RoG said...

I luv this page, but you need to show some better pix. the comments are really true.


6:31 PM  
Blogger timdesuyo said...

That was very entertaining. I'm willing to believe(in truth, I totally assumed) that the errors in-post were intentional, but some of the comments made me want to draw on my monitor with red pen.

And just as we've all gotten terrible criticism, we've all gotten great criticism too. it's kind of one of those even-handed things. The trick, I guess, is knowing which criticism to believe, and which to laugh at.

That said, this post rawk'd.

3:33 AM  
Blogger Allen Maestas said...

This is a great thread, and it seems that most who have commented here are very level headed and experienced with giving and receiving criticisms.

I really liked this quote;

"- Viewers with no true artistic "vision" will sometimes gravitate to photography because it appears to them to be a way to create art. They learn all of the rules and conventions of composition. They study the technical skills and master them. Finally they create consistent, predictable photographs that make for great family portraits and wonderful wall art but are generally uninspiring. These people, armed with an impressive array of textbook perfect analysis tools, then become critics."

That says it all for me, and should be at the top of every forum on the net.


8:15 AM  
Blogger Anthony Artol V.E. said...

I like very much your friendliness and patience toward photographers, even if they did not deserve that. It is very encouraging. Also I learned a lot from you, how to look at the photograph. Since then I think twice, before I push the button. Sometimes even more than twice.
The only thing what bothers me, is feeling, that I have seen some subjects of your critique somewhere else. Are you aware of imitations?

4:41 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

No, but I guess I would just consider it the sincerest form of flattery!

All best,


6:06 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Loved your text! Just brilliant your comments of these famous pictures.
Very ironic! :D

10:24 AM  
Blogger Zana said...

LOL! Loved your text and your satirical comments!!

10:32 AM  
Blogger kamarul said...

hahhaa..what a great picture..

3:55 AM  
Blogger Photography Olof Wessels said...

Absolutely hilarious, you've made my day m8 :)))

4:35 PM  
Blogger Zensurfer said...

I was ROFL with this article :D It would be a good prank to post images such as these on some photog sites and then sit back and watch the comments roll it ;P

10:45 PM  
Blogger Green Rose said...

I am happy to find your blog... It is so helpful...
p.s. please take a look at my blog:

4:51 AM  
Blogger Ganiyu Pierre Gasper said...

Great blog i will check in more often.
Have a look at mine as and when...

5:55 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

fantastic! Thanks for the laugh.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The sad part is, anyone who sees this as satire doesn't realize that they themselves are the joke. Just because someone is famous or a "pro" doesn't mean they are any good. I knew Ansel Adams and I told him to his face that he was nothing more than a talentless hack who lucked out in being at the right place a few times, his only real talent was self-promotion. Picasso too was also nothing more than an overpriced attention-whore in my book. In most of these cases the critiques were correct. Fame <> talent. Fame = mindless followers and spineless admirers.

8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! Thank you.

6:07 PM  
Blogger ChristerArt said...

Hilarious - right down to the speling...=*^)


11:05 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I love the photographs you really have some talent. Keep up the good work.

1:31 AM  
Blogger Blackpool Hotels said...

Well I paid attention to this type of behavior for a while when i was curious "why?", but have since lost interest in that question and have moved on. I wish I could convince all the rollychair experts to do the same

As long as you realize that the grammar, spelling, and syntax are part of the parody

Posted By Blackpool Hotels
Date: 19th September 2007

2:51 AM  
Blogger Blackpool Hotels said...

Try the article again, but focus on a single centre of interest, and crop on the left. but that would make it a litle bit awkward for criticism.

I have no idea, but I bet these are all famous pictures by famous photographers, aren't they? I'd give an arm to have shot one of these.

Posted By Blackpool Hotels / Hotels Blackpool Guide UK

2:26 AM  
Blogger MP said...

hahaha I'm bookmarking this one. One thought though ... maybe if you did not identify the owners of the pics ... what sort of reaction would you get?

I notice that many people look at the name before they frame their comment

6:52 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

completely amazing and funny.
I love it.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Milo said...


8:08 AM  
Blogger Arhangel said...

very, very, very nice ....

12:19 PM  
Blogger Stephen Macken Photography said...

I laughed and laughed and laughed... brilliant!

3:29 AM  
Blogger Morrie Portnoff said...

Puts the judges comments and scores in perspective when entering competitions.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

HAHAHAHAH hilarious. makes me feel better about all my work that rejects HAHA thanks man

8:22 PM  
Blogger David Bowman said...


12:57 PM  
Blogger g said...

i laughed so hard i almost cried. hahahaha.

i especially loved the comment below the Eggleston, you know, listing all his camera equipment after his username.

6:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mike, nice post. I would have tossed in an Ansel Adams or Mapplethorpe. A good blog should speak to as wide an audience as possible and if you ever hope to be successful in the blog biz, a few of those little links to Digg or Reddit would be wise.*

All kidding aside, this was truly a great piece.

11:46 PM  
Blogger smallerdemon said...

These are grand. There's nothing like an "internet community" to offer up a collection of inane yammering that is pretending to be useful and important.

12:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

things like that make me die a little bit. like last night, when i showed some of my best photos to my new photo teacher, he pointed to a lith print i had made and said, "THE HIGHLIGHTS ARE TOO SOFT! THE SHADOWS ARE TOO GRAINY! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO THIS? IT'S COMPLETELY UNTRADITIONAL!!!"

I collected my photos, bowed to him and said, "Shove it."

*cries for the future of photography*

2:55 PM  
Blogger Don said...

I keep coming back again and again... OMG... you nailed it. I laughed and that is rare. Usually I just make a little snorting growl. Well, not really a growl - more like a snickerish growl. A snickrgrowlish sound. Like... ssssnnnikrrrrgrowl... and sometimes I just have this little 'eep' sound right at the end. It just comes out of nowhere and I... oh dang, I just embarrassed myself didn't I... sorry.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

I ran across this post from (gasp!) Ken Rockwell's site. Saw the link to "Mario's Bicycle" on Flickr (first time I've been there in years), and it just reinforces my belief that...

Those who can, do...and those who can't, criticize. Or teach...

Excellent post.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Bai said...

This is funny

3:18 AM  
Blogger . said...

wow! this is so crazy! someone on the flickr site pointed me to this blog. this is such a great idea... so many of these people only thin about technical stuff.. it makes me crazy... others are just not thinking at all, saying the camera made a mistake on the focus! what an insult, like it is the "camera" that is "taking" the picture.. too funny!

2:10 PM  
Blogger Dwayne Tucker said...

I am looking for people to post great photography to my blog about photography, photoshop and advertising.

P.S nice site with great photographers on the internet like it :)

12:25 PM  
Blogger 123aquabot said...

i like that boat photo of Sam Abell
this pretty cool...

6:51 PM  
Blogger Jerry Deese said...

LOL, one of the most awesome posts. Thanks for the smile! :)

12:47 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

I was completely had and totally scandalized by these comments. Not until I reached the end did I realize that this was not a site for rude amatures. You got me. Now I'm the idiot. LOL

I love the guy who said that he would never have included the Eggleston because it was "just a snapshot". Or telling Bresson where to focus his camera. Genuis.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Marie-Aude said...

A friend went me this link as I was complaining about some stupid critics.
I brought me to tears so much I laughed !

I'd love to make it available in French. Would you authorize me to translate it and post it on my blog ? With a link to the source, of course !

8:17 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Okay, as long as you include the byline "Par Mike Johnston" and a link to (my current site).

All best,


11:50 AM  
Blogger Joseph N. Hall said...

Dear God this is funny.

2:51 PM  
Blogger Chris Walter Photography said...

your honest critiques remind me of Simon cowell :D

8:11 PM  
Blogger KLPhotography said...

Great Job, it really shows how different people look at a photography and what one person may think is beautiful another thinks is hideous. Great satirical comments as well, made for fun reading.

8:52 PM  
Blogger asmo said...

good job :) you made me cry with laughter :)

4:43 PM  
Blogger Jayden said...

A very creative mind that you have.



4:22 PM  
Blogger johnfalky said...

I just got through reading a critique of an image by an expert who cannot show any of his own pictures...I had to come back and read this again just for laughs.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Chian said...

Lol, i agree. There are some really funny comments from people who have no idea what they are looking at. Some of the photographs actually were in Sotheby's auction and went for hundreds of thousands of dollars. These images were created by masters, only to have internet photography noobs criticise the images...

Good work on posting them as your own pictures, i get what you are trying to convey.


2:53 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

I don't really understand why this is funny. I understand the photographs are all supposed to be great art, and I personally think they look good, but if someone else doesn't, well-- that's their opinion isn't it? Good art isn't defined by the masses but by the individual.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Phuket web design said...

These all photographs are look great and unique.Its nice see again classic pictures.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Sarah K Davis Photography said...

Wow, I don't think I've ever seen this many comments - saw this on DPS and wanted to check it out. Very funny, I love what the pro's said about other pro's not knowing it!

10:21 AM  
Blogger said...

So true...

5:17 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

nearly all the comments on these photos are DEAD WRONG

Whoever commented on Henri Cartier Bresson's photo of the man in overalls I don't have much to say to you except that Cartier-Bresson shot with a Leica manual focus camera and a 50mm f1.8 most of his life, so he didn't "get the AF wrong" he HAD NO AUTOFOCUS, my advice, learn a bit of history next time before embarrassing yourself...

9:35 PM  
Blogger Joseph N. Hall said...

^^ Another customer served! LOL!

12:43 AM  
Blogger E said...

I think what is even funnier than the original post is the people who don't understand it's a joke. Great job on the article - keep up the good work

10:40 PM  
Blogger said...

Absolutely spot on. So many people I work with bash the hell out of photos because they are engineers who look at a photo merely for its technicial perfection and not for the actual artistic object that it really is. This leaves people dishartened and some great photos disappear into the darkness or never get shown for fear of not being good enough.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well no... it was not a matter of "we all know it's the camera that makes the photographer" back in those days that the majority of these photographs were captured- unlike today's convenience of the digital generation; which could quite easily allow anyone of you shallow commentators to produce images like a "pro".

These photographers simply, I can assure you, were more into thought provoking substance then what lens they may have had readily available back then.

Lets see anyone of you become as well recognized for you're craft as anyone of these masters THEN you are valid enough to comment in such a way.
So who are you again...?

2:32 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

It's satire. It's even *labeled* as satire. As in, not serious. Meant to be humorous.

Don't be alarmed!


2:57 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Regarding you coment on Sam Abell's photo, rules are meant to be broken. This is one of those times where the rule of thirds doesn't apply...

4:53 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

It was ever thus. Years ago, when I was in college in Boston, I used to wait on the "rush line" Saturday afternoons on the steps of Symphony Hall. You could get really cheap seats that way. There were some very opinionated people on that line, who would declare loudly and long that world-Class Artist X couldn't play his way out of a paper bag, World-Class Artist Y was a talentless fraud, and blah blah blah ad infinitum. The worst were the first and second-year New England Conservatory students (who knew *everything*), and the anti-Leonard Bernstein crowd. Now such people are on the Internet, where there comments are amplified beyond all proportion. Eye-rolling satire is the only appropriate response--thank you, Mike!

8:04 PM  
Blogger Mike Foster said...

'Tis funny.

12:13 AM  
Blogger i-love-polka-dots said...

Ha ha ha, so true!

2:14 PM  
Blogger AT said...

Year after year I keep coming pack to this, link it, send to people by e-mail, reread it. "Bonjour Henri" is my favorite.

Thank you for this!

3:33 PM  
Blogger Shilpa Gavane said...

hahaha.. coundn't stop laughing!! the satire seems to have continued in many of the comments.

1:59 AM  
Blogger Lacey Hess said...

I have a comment about your post on Irving Penn. First I have to ask how long you have been interested in Photography. My reason for asking is because of the fact that you honestly have no idea who Irving Penn is. He is not just an ameture photographer, he is a well known artist that has made a successfull career with his unique vision and style. He will not send you a file for you to "fix" in photoshop for two reasons. First, he was already a world renound photographer when you posted your comment in 2006. He had worked for several magazines and newspapers for almost 50 years before he died in 2009. The second reason is because he wanted the awkward appearance and deep shadows in the shot (as well as the edges of the backdrop). He used mainly a natural light source coming from one direction. He became well known for his powerful images and unique style. So before you even think about commenting on someone else's work, or offer to "fix" it for them when it doesn't need to be fixed, you need to reasearch who the photographer is and whether or not they are admired for their style. You have made yourself look like a fool, in my opinion, with just one post.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Nyanman said...

What really amuses me is just how many people seem to have missed the fact that this is satirical.
great article, i almost fell off my chair from laughing.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Sad thing is, there is a large element of truth behind the gentle pillorying of this article. Many photographs are famous and admired only because they were taken by an already famous photographer. Had they been taken by me or some other unknown the same critics that praise them would enjoy themselves by pointing out all their faults.

3:08 AM  

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