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.
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