CRITICISM – 2. DEFINING DESCRIPTION

In this article, we will concentrate description concept, and continue with the kinds of description on the following articles.

Vedat Konyali - Rodeo Parade, Houston - 2008

Vedat Konyali – Rodeo Parade, Houston – 2008

When we criticize a piece of art work we perform one or more of the following tasks:

1. describing the work of art,
2. interpreting it,
3. evaluating it, and
4. theorizing about it.

These tasks also constitute the essential components of criticism which critics try to accomplish for the readers. In this article, we will start with analysing the describing the work of art. We will go over and cover the following subheadings:

1. Defining Description
2. Describing Subject Matter
3. Describing Form
4. Describing Medium
5. Describing Style
6. Comparing and Contrasting
7. The Importance of Description to Readers

DEFINING DESCRIPTION

Basically, in this context, description is a data-gathering process and a listing of facts which answers to the following questions for any given

Robert Mapplehorpe - Leatherman II - 1970

Robert Mapplehorpe – Leatherman II – 1970

photograph:
• What is this place?
• What am I looking at?
• What do I know with certainty about this image?

Some of these questions are clear for one viewer may not be so obvious to another. Critics comment on them because they know that what is obvious to one viewer might not be clear to another.
More specifically, descriptive information includes statements about the photograph’s:
• subject matter,
• medium, and
• form,
and more generally, about the photograph’s causal environment, including information about :

• the photographer who made it,
• the times during which it was made, and

Joel Meyerowitz - The White Road, Tuscany - 2002

Joel Meyerowitz – The White Road, Tuscany – 2002

• the social setting from which it emerged.

Descriptive information can be true / false, accurate / inaccurate, factual / contrary to fact.
Descriptive statements are verifiable by observation and an appeal to factual evidence.
Critics obtain descriptive information from two sources – internal and external.
• Internal sources include just looking into the photograph.
• External sources include libraries, the artists who made the images, and press releases.

When we perform the task of describing, we generally tend to judge. There is nothing inherently wrong with judging first as long as judgments are

Joel Meyerowitz - Blind Man, Spain - 1967

Joel Meyerowitz – Blind Man, Spain – 1967

informed and relevant information is descriptively accurate. Whether we judge first and then revise a judgment based on description, or describe and interpret first and then judge, is a matter of choice. The starting point is not crucial, but accurate description is an essential part of holding defensible critical positions. Interpretations and judgments that omit facts or are contrary to fact are seriously flawed.

Related Articles:

 

Resources:

Barrett, Terry (2006). Criticizing photographs: an introduction to understanding images. Mayfield Publishing Company, California, U.S.A.

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