I Just Do Not Understand How Bad Photography Can Be Good!


A close friend of mine and I had taken up photography two years ago. Our interests have differed from the begining, but now, it seems as though I just cannot understand her pictures. I just feel awkward when I am asked for an opinion because I feel they are average, or worse. In fact, even some of the legendary masters that are generally regarded as brilliant, also seem very ordinary to me! Why am I not able to appreciate them? Am I so obtuse that I don’t understand the nuances? Rohan Trivedi, New Delhi

There is absolutely nothing to feel obtuse about. Think of this… some of the greatest legends in music and painting did not get a shred of recognition during their own lifetimes. But we marvel at their efforts today, and even study them as some of the most important works of art ever made.

Similarly, there are many brilliant photographers whose works have gotten them ridiculed and even ostracised from the societies that they lived in, but who are now regarded as masters. Sometimes, it takes time to understand or get used to a certain way of seeing.

Yet, you are certainly on your way to this understanding. The first step in arriving at an answer is to ask the right questions. Since you mentioned that your friend is close to you, perhaps you could simply ask for an explanation as to why she likes some of the images she shot. Get into a discussion on some of works of the great photographers that she happens to enjoy. This might help you appreciate her work more. Likewise, attending talks, photography exhibitions, reading books and interviews, conversing with other acomplished photographers will all help.

That said, too much analysis can also destroy the charm of photography. Study any image deeply enough, and you will find something to like or dislike about it! Having a personal sense of perception and opinion is also just as important as your attempt at appreciation.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Better Photography.