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One Of The Greats Critiques Your Photos (Not For The Faint)| ‘Take It Or Leave It’ With Bruce Gilden

By Kishore Sawh on September 26th 2014


Anyone can take a picture, maybe even a pretty picture, and yet it’s not so easy to take a ‘good’ one, correct? But how do you bridge that gap between taking a decent pretty picture, and one that means something – one that would be deemed ‘good’ by a world renowned, Guggenheim Fellow photographer like Bruce Gilden? Frankly, I haven’t a clue.

Ok that’s not entirely true, as I do spend a fair amount of time really looking at a lot of photographic work, and trying to understand what really makes a photo great, and of course what makes a photographer great. I could sit here and write a saga on the topic and I very well may do in the near future, but the good folks at Vice have managed to get Gilden to give a few minutes of his time to critique some user submitted work -and it’s absolutely brilliant because he doesn’t hold back.

[REWIND: Why Your Photos Get No Likes, And Why Ones Much Worse Do Much Better]


Gilden, who actually shot a feature for Vice, is one of the iconic street photographers of our time. I do not say this lightly. So many photographer’s works are influenced by his style and the man himself. Even if you’re not familiar with the name I’d be willing to bet the camera on my desk that you’d recognize his work. Famous for his street photography work where he usually shoots 35mm film in black and white and with a portable flash gun, his style is visceral, and real. Though his subjects are so common that they are devoid of any classical beauty, his images bring a beauty to them.



Take It Or Leave It is a little project between Gilden and Vice where Bruce is shown submitted work and then gives his true feelings on each, and reasons why. If you’re not one to take criticism well, then I’d suggest you don’t submit to Gilden for review, because he is direct and honest in his views. It’s an interesting watch not just for the sheer humor, but if you really listen, you get an inkling as to what you may be able to do to make your photographs mean something, and not be lost within the masses.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to really ‘think’ about the photos you’re taking. There’s no way to grow and become something special and influential without it. Too much of what I see is just the same thing over and over again. There is this tendency among too many to focus on getting down a particular trend – the Brenizer Method comes to mind – and people get so caught up in seeing if they could they only infrequently stop to think if they should. The more imagery you look at, and the more criticism you take and think about, the more you’ll begin to expect more from yourself, and want to be able to put out more meaningful work.

I know many reading this shoot to pay their mortgage and you may argue that the masses want standard looks. I would beg to differ. I would say they may want that, perhaps because you’ve not shown them anything different. And if they do want the standards, in your personal time, for self fulfillment, maybe do things a little differently. I believe it was Mark Twain who is quoted (yet often misquoted) as saying, “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Totally applicable to us as photographers.

Source: Vice, Images are screen captures from featured Vice video

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Derek Grant

    pretty harsh – he leaves little space for anything but his own very biased opinion.

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  2. Misael Reyes

    I just went over to this guy’s Web page, he has the audacity to call some else’s work “shit”.

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  3. Enzo Scorziello

    The guy is full of hot air, granted this is his opinion, which is kinda the whole point of the video. To me art, in any form, is all about perspective. Different things are beautiful to different people. I love when people critique my work constructively but to just sit there and say something is S*** just because of your personal point of view is wrong. If you want to offer criticism do it constructively, all he is doing is perpetrating the idea that if your images and art dont conform to some obscure standard that those that have been “accredited” deem “correct”.

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  4. Gareth Roughley

    Really interesting, particularly your conclusion and last quote from Mark Twain. My wife always says be better in life… I’ll try

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  5. Shawn Conrad

    Man, you gotta LOVE autoplaying videos. I just spent 10 minutes trying to find this damn video in Feedly just to mute the thing.

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  6. Chuck Eggen

    I don’t know how to comment on this. I’ll give him this, he is entertaining.

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