Evaluating a Photograph.
I’m as big a fan of anyone when it comes to evaluating an image based on its artistic and technical qualities. There are so many angles to view an image and ultimately arrive at a full appreciation of its merits.
The questions are legion: Does it appeal to your emotions? Is the image evocative? Does it invite you to engage your imagination, to dream? Does it resonate as true and realistic? Does the image fit within the photographer’s body of work? Is it art, or is it something less? Is the work original or is it simply derivative? Does it create in you a response? Does it move you? Is there a high degree of pictorial quality? Does the image have a strong story telling value? Is there an appearance of depth and does the lighting convey a 3 dimensional reality? What are the contrast levels between the black point and the white point? Are there details in the blacks, or are the blacks muddy? Are the mid-tones dynamic? Are there details and vibrancy in the whites? Is there a dynamic range within the contrast, the densities and the colors? Does it communicate a mood, a feeling or an idea? Is the image memorable? Was it worth doing at all?
And yet, among all these questions and ways of looking at an image… one or two questions—in my mind—stand head and shoulders above the rest and in images like these, a few questions are more telling than ever. The questions are: “What is the quality of the eye contact? And does the look in the eye enchant?” For in a portrait especially, all other considerations fall away. For the eyes are more than “a window to the soul.” They tell others who we are and tell of our relationships to one another and how we are connected. And perhaps more importantly, they communicate that one magical emotion that no amount of words can convey: desire. It is desire, more than any other emotion that connects us and binds us to one another. This is the essence of our humanity, of our divine brotherhood and our sacred sisterhood. It is our interest and our desire for one another, our connection with one another, our thirst for life and our ceaseless hunger for more that defines us more than anything else. And it is the one thing above all else that I look for in a great photograph.