Weekly Post Challenge: “Minimalist”

The Mystery

The Mystery

Yes, it’s been months since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been up to my neck in a creativity and art marketing explosion, and while it’s still going on I thought that I’d pop my head up just to say hello and thank everyone who wrote me asking how Kim and I are doing. I greatly appreciate all of your concern and interest. Thank you all so much for hanging in there.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. While I continue to be busy puttering around, I’m going to leave this post up so that you can enjoy an opportunity to be the art jury of two of my most recent street shots that fit into WordPress’ minimalist photo non-challenge; a matter that is near and dear to my heart. Which one does everyone prefer the most?

Judge them by whatever standards you want. BE CRITICAL! Tell me what you like and don’t like, and certainly ask me questions if you feel you need to know something before making your decision (I may not be posting much for a while but believe me I am fully engaged with my e-mail these days)! I will; however, offer my own evaluation criteria for your use. For many years, this is how I have been assessing all of my art, and sometimes others’, whether it’s a painting, drawing, photo or whatever. Please excuse me if my explanation seems too involved.

It is assumed that all images have reasonable artistic value, therefore; in giving the benefit of the doubt an image is automatically given a score of 3 points (I try to make images that earn a perfect 10, and I have never succeeded – it is not a simple task – although I may like my work, I am still highly critical of it). It is the careful and strict consideration of the pros and cons of the image that will determine if those initial points are kept or lost. Each pro is worth 1 point just as each con is a 1 point deduction. While pros are always counted at 3 points or more, cons are only subtracted at 3 or less points (e.g., if an image earns points for unique style but hadn’t acquired points for impact or originality, then its score increases from 3 to 4, not from 3 to 1; however, if the image had not received any points above the initial 3, then its score would decrease to 1).

• Criteria – Impact (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image makes an impact (usually and preferably an emotional one); creates a strong first impression that holds the attention of the viewer regardless if the image is pleasing (e.g., the Mona Lisa) or disturbing and controversial (e.g., a starving child in Sudan).

Con – the image has little or no impact or imagination.

• Criteria – Originality (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image shows originality, causing the observer to feel certain that they’ve never seen anything like it before. Such uniqueness comes as a result of the photographer, illustrator or designer thinking creatively while using as much technical skill as they can muster. This may include drawing upon inspiration from other art or phenomena but even better when the artist draws solely from one’s own imagination.

Con – the image is not necessarily an original one, causing the observer to feel as though they’ve seen something similar to it before. Although relying on as much technical skill as they could muster, the photographer, illustrator or designer did not truly think creatively enough. He/she were either too inspired by other art or phenomena or unfortunately had the same idea as someone else.

• Criteria – Unique Style (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image shows an individual style; a look that sets the work of the creator apart from those of others, even if all the artists of reference produce work in the same movement or genre (e.g., all fantasy art by Boris Vallejo has a look that differs from all fantasy art produced by Chris Achilleos but it is still clear that both artists are producing fantasy art).

Con – the image doesn’t really show an individual style; it’s too similar to those of others.

• Criteria – Composition (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image is well composed. The subject and all other elements are illustrated, photographed or designed in a way that ensures a harmony between each other (e.g., complimentary colour hues or an attractive range of black, white and grey tones are selected; colours or tones are placed to be in stark contrast to each other or to appear soft; proper exposure or obviously intentional over/underexposure is applied; sharp focus or obviously intentional blurriness is applied; portrait or field cropping is used to perpetuate a certain feeling; the subject fills a sufficient amount of the image area between the edges of the illustration or photograph, and the subject is rendered to dominate the image even if it appears small amongst bigger, broader or more vibrant features, a good choice or acceptance of an incidental camera angle; an excellent selection of modelling figure or object, etc.).

Con – the image is poorly composed. The subject and all other elements are illustrated, photographed or designed in a way that fails to create harmony between each other.

• Criteria – Lighting (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image shows excellent use of natural, studio or illustrated lighting which reinforces the impact, originality, individual style and composition. The image accurately interprets or communicates the established or sought connotation, message, theme or relationship.

Con – the image shows poor to average use of natural, studio or illustrated lighting which fails to create impact, originality, individual style or admirable composition.

• Criteria – Statement Making (worth 1 point):

Pro – the image accurately interprets or communicates the established or sought connotation, message, theme or relationship.

Con – the image is not relevant to the established connotation, message, theme or relationship.

• Criteria – Risk Management (worth 1 BONUS point):

Pro – The image shows that the artist has taken a risk of some magnitude (major, mediocre, minor) in order to compose the image and/or communicate the connotation, message, theme or relationship to the observer. Taking a risk is strictly a bonus in artistry. Not every great image is made through risk taking, and some images are worthless due to too large of a risk being taken. The image created through effective risk management, nevertheless, is guaranteed to be outstanding.

Con – Non-applicable.

Score Values

• Below average: “0” to “3”

• Average: “4” or “5”

• Above average: “6” or “7”

• Outstanding: “8″ or “9”

• “Perfect 10″



The first shot has a working title of “The Mystery”. That name could be changed, perhaps depending on the feedback I get. The untitled image was made second after “The Mystery”. I’d really like to hear everyone’s thoughts on a possible name.

The one, and only one, that ticks the most boxes for the majority of respondents will be included in Hammer Home. I think they’re pretty even, so I don’t expect the draw to be made easily. In any case, let’s have fun with this.


19 thoughts on “Weekly Post Challenge: “Minimalist”

  1. It’s great to hear you’ve been so busy with creative work and I appreciate the update here. I’ve been thinking of you! Your evaluation criteria process above is wonderfully thorough and I think a “must read” read for all of us. I’m having a hard time choosing a favorite between the two photos because they each so different. For me the first is a classic street shot with an element of mystery while the second is a beautiful portrait of a man showing his years in a quick moment.

  2. 🙂 Are you sure? 😉 I like them both, but I will have to come back when I am in a more refreshed mood to do my evaluation. It is great to see you posting Allan. I don’t feel comfortable rating your work – to me your work has always been 10 or 9,5

        • Oh no, you never said anything wrong, not at all. I’m so sorry if I gave that impression.

          Often, when I ask people to criticize my work they ask me if I’m sure that I want them to do that, and they usually still don’t even after I insist. I guess that they have a fear that I’m insincere in my request.

          I’m not looking for brutal honesty, just honesty. I want to know if my art is important. If I execute it well enough that it may enrich others lives as well as my own.

          So please, when you are ready come on back, give me some constructive criticism and let me know which shot stands out more in your mind, and why.

          I swear that you did not offend me in anyway. In fact, you’re one of my most interactive followers. Your opinions count volumes to me.

  3. Pingback: Photo Challenge: Little Bear Fire | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  4. I prefer the first photo mainly because of the mystery factor like NW Frame mentioned. The person standing in the background adds something to the story, plus she’s also absorbing most of the light that comes out as a burnt out spot in the second photo.

  5. A fantastic premise Alan and so good to see you back! With so many good points to ponder I have to say that in the first shot I can almost see, and definitely feel, the look on the man’s face even though his head is turned away. The subtle lighting and shading points to curiosity, with a certain twinkle in the eye, he was young once with good memories of being so. The blurred silhouette fills that light space to the right of frame, we get to see through his eyes, is she coming or going?

    Had I seen the second one in isolation i might have so much more to say but the first one informs me, with so much to ponder, than the second which tells me what happened next. Or what happened before. I don’t know which order they were taken in!

    Well done Alan for putting the “challenge” into the pot!

    • I was indeed worried that putting both pictures together in the same post may interfere with viewers ability to judge each shot individually but I decided to let whatever happens happen anyway.

      I do agree that the dark silhouette of the easily recognizable female figure adds the right amount of detail and drama to the negative space in “The Mystery”. I think the abundance of visual elements may be what drives that picture into the fore.

      I’m not ready to make that a conclusion though. I’m quite curious to see just how far each shot will actually go.

  6. I too prefer the first shot because there is an implied connection between the elements -light and dark; woman and man. The picture lends itself to all kinds of interpretations from idle to intimate to perverted, so it is stronger than the second pic which offers more of a chiaroscuro portrait of an old man reading but with a lot of extraneous, overexposed detail in the background. And there’s no purpose served by the strongly tilted camera POV.
    BTW, my eyes glazed over at your attempt to quantify the photos with number ratings. Sorry, I’ve judged too many Photo Club sessions that used this sterile way of awarding prizes — perhaps necessary in their context, but I prefer responding from an emotional feeling of connection to the specific image – it works, or doesn’t work, not that it is 53 percent successful. Know what I mean? Keep up the great work. G

    • Very much appreciated Gunter.

      One of my objectives in Hammer Home is to deliberately photograph some people who aren’t facing the camera directly; challenging observers’ dependency on making emotional connections through seeing the features of faces in detail. I like to periodically check to see if I’m on the right track in the project, and I’m happy to say that a lot of people seem to welcome the method. Many viewers do not have to see a portrait in which a face is clearly shown.

      Ensuring other elements in shots, that the person in the image is somehow focused on or interacting with, is often crucial in ensuring that the image is still satisfactory.

      Thanks again! Very valuable input.

    • I think it is for street photography. Although photojournalism and SP are both documentary photography, SP is the genre with the broader creative envelope. A shot like “The Mystery” can’t be legitimately succeed in photojournalism. In SP, the drama of life is usually best expressed in a more theatrical way whereas in the other life is reflected in a blunt, matter of fact manner.

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