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Four Functions of the Photographer as Critic

These four functions of the photographer as critic appear in the essay, The Photographer as Critic from Strant VOL 003; ISS 005 and have been adapted from W.H. Auden’s “Six Functions of a Critic” which appeared in his collection of essays The Dyer’s Hand. 

1. Introduce me to [photographers] of which I was hitherto unaware.

Given the platform of the internet and the recent boom in self-publishing, this one is pretty accessible and has been thus far, a focus of this essay.

2. Give a “reading” of [the photography] which increases my understanding of it.

This function should go hand in hand with introducing work. Unfortunately thoughtful consideration of work has been exchanged for a mill-churn style of pumping out work to be seen and liked by way of social media. This is almost an exploitation of the photographer, using her unknown status to promote not just the work, but the publication itself. In this form, the act of discovery takes precedence over any consideration of these newly discovered talents. We should give deserved thought to photography if we intend to introduce it to a new audience, which leads to numbers three and four…

3. Throw light upon the [photographic] process.

How a photographer arrived at the photograph or body of photographs should be taken into consideration. This is not an opportunity for a biopic understanding of the photographer, but rather how the relationship of creation and created serves as a framework to understand the work.

4. Throw light upon the relation of [photography] to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.

Most any art is a response, be it out of disgust or celebration, of some form of our existence. If we understand the photography in context to when or where it was created we can apply meaning (even if varied) to the work.

Read the full essay, The Photographer as Critic from Strant VOL 003; ISS 005 here.