About a week ago I started a discussion with people on our company photography listserv. I work for a technology company, so most of the email that goes back and forth on the list is about gear. There are some people that know quite a lot about lenses and stuff (one guy used to be an engineer for Sigma) but on the whole it rarely excites me very much.
I wanted to generate the same kind of discussion as on the now-defunct Hardcore Street Photography "Image critique thread." That thread eventually got out of hand, but while it was around it was a great place to post an image and have it picked apart. (I never did it myself.)
I posted the Kisekae image of the boy at the Golden Gate Bridge vista point to start the thread off, and as it progressed I got a really good response off-list:
[Yours is] a picture of something that is beautiful/meaningful within a particular context (where context is time, location, meaning, movement, detail). A very generic thing that I think about when I am trying to improve is: if my picture needs context, what are the things I need to have had in it to reduce the amount of extra context I need to add to make it interesting?
This comment reminds me of something that I used to see on the Hardcore Street Photography thread, "your image doesn't tell a story." Or, it does not answer the question, "what am I looking at?" Or, in more Brechtian terms, the image does not "speak for itself."
I like this picture better than most other things I've done recently, and there were even some things about it where I got lucky: there are no people in the middle ground, and the people in the background are turned away.
But I think it's true, it does not explain itself well enough. I know what I was experiencing when I took it, but there's not enough in the frame to explain what's happening here.
Not that it's a terrible image. Let's call it a good failure.