No one likes to have their work critiqued. It is sometimes tough to hear somewhat negative things about your work. But the difference between a critique and out-right criticism is that a critique is designed to improve you or your work. The picture of Micah was not perfect and the pro did have some suggestions on how to improve the contrast which would build on the strength of the picture. I learned a valuable lesson in that meeting. The critique might be a little nerve-wracking, but the uneasy feeling of putting your work out on the table is worth it when you learn and grow from it. I have one photographer friend who likes to enter some of the more competitive competitions in our general area for the same reason. He never expects his work to receive any of the prizes, but he feels he learns so much from the critiques the judges give as they go through the entries. I’m not as brave or bold as he is, but I admire his desire to grow and improve as a photographer.
The process of a critique is not an easy one. It involves both scrutiny and discernment. It is not something that comes easily nor is it something that involves little time and effort. It’s work. Therefore, if we know our work might be critiqued it’s important we put the research behind it so that it stands up to the test. As Christians move more and more into the “experiential” realm of their faith, this idea of examining what we see and what we read is less and less popular and because of that there is less and less scholarship in the material that is produced and digested by Christians at large. The trouble with this trend is that it removes us from any form of critique. And without critique we might be missing something very important.
Jesus told a story illustrating one very important moment of critique. It takes place before the throne of God where all humankind has been gathered to be assessed- the Final Critique. The Son of Man is the judge and He separates those gathered into two groups. Some are designated as sheep and others goats. The detail which divides them is how they recognized and responded to the less fortunate in life. Did they help those in need, feed those who were hungry, assist the downtrodden? All of these actions were rooted in the commands of the Law and discussed by the prophets (Lev. 19:10; Dt. 15:11; Jer. 22:16; Mic. 6:6-8). The sheep have done all of these things as second nature. They never really analyzed why they did these good deeds, they just knew they needed to be done and did them. Their response to the forthcoming eternal blessing is one of surprise. The goats however feel compelled to argue their case. They did not think that anything needed to be done for “those people” and are surprised that they will not enter the eternal kingdom with the others. But it’s too late. They should have known better (Mt. 25:31-46).
The art of seeing how to improve your photography, whether it is on the technical or the artistic side, involves looking at your work with a discerning eye, understanding the nuances of composition or editing skills that will improve the overall look of your photo, and putting them into practice. The art of seeing how to improve your walk of faith involves looking at the measuring stick of God's Word and seeing how we stand up to it- not how you’ve experienced it. I have come to understand that although I may not like the process of a critique or even the assessment, I do like the growth it causes in me. Whether the critique is applied to my art or my heart, the process is a necessary one if I wish to be the best that I can be.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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