It seems you're getting a lot of negative feedback yet no one can articulate exactly what it is about this picture that they don't like. The problem with the art field is that many will argue that art is subjective in order to defend mediocrity. But what separates an artist from any fool with a camera or paint brush does in many ways have to do with skill.
Any subject matter can be art, but not everyone can be an artist. So here's Photography 101.
People are getting a sense of porn from this because of your approach, which sorry to say, wasn't very well done no matter what your intentions were. This could be a picture of a vase or a statue and the composition would still be mediocre.
Let's start with the pose. No matter which way you cut it, the focus of this image is her crotch and not the overall pose, which is awkward and forced rather than natural and beautiful. It's obvious she's being told to spread her legs rather than having any sense of grace. Even when an image is trying to be edgy it should still be done with some sense of naturalness to it.
The composition is next and one of my biggest issues. You argued earlier that the image would look just as beautiful cropped from the naval up so then the original image should look just as nice...No. This is why we crop images. It tightens them up and discards the unnecessary to direct our focus. In this case, her legs and the slant of the photo are causing a huge problem with balance because after everyone's got a good look at her unmentionables they're leading the eye right off the image instead of causing it to bounce around the photo continuously. That's why the main focus appears to be just he crotch and not her. There's no rhythm and the eye is getting trapped in places like the bottom and upper right corner and the left side of the photo is overpowered by the right. Her legs are cutting the picture right in half to a definitive right and left side. I'll bet no one could tell you how her right arm is posed without looking at the photo again. The reason why the person on the first page called this trite is because any red blooded guy (or porn site) with access to a camera and naked girl would probably make this their first pose. I noticed in your albums most of your shot have the model dead center and frankly that composition in many cases is boring. Different angles and use of the rule of thirds would have made a world of difference.
Quote from you: I simply ask myself "If she was wearing clothes, would it still be a good image?" In this case you should have said no for all the reasons I mentioned above.
Color and lighting wise, there's warms and cools in the photo, but they aren't taken full advantage of. The overhead lighting is okay. The blue lit drapery is following the same direction as her leg right off the page, and even if it was used to lead the eye back onto the photo it goes, you guessed it, right back to her crotch again. Everything in this picture makes the eye want fall to the right.
Here's a quote from you. "As a result, having people criticize my work and being under a critical eye constantly is a daily thing for me, and an unfortunate side effect of my chosen field"
NO. Criticism makes us better and is not unfortunate. Any true artist welcomes it because it gives them a perspective on their work they may not have seen otherwise. The beauty is artists get to choose what criticism to keep and what to throw away so it's never bad to hear. If all you get all the time is "Wow, great job!" then you'll always stick to the same formula and improve very little.
Another quote from you "You shouldn't be convinced to see things as art. Art is art to whoever appreciates it"
Once again you're talking about subject matter, not skill as an artist. If this were true Rembrandt would be no more famous or skilled than a 4-year-old doing a finger painting. What separates an artist from an everyday Joe is how they implement their ideas. If you want to try convincing everybody that all art is equal in quality then you're robbing yourself and all artists of saying art takes any talent, which so many have worked so hard to achieve.
And you're right, the audience shouldn't be convinced. I guarantee you if you put this photo on a table in a room and asked random people to come in and say what it is they would think porn first. If you have to tell them it's art then you've missed your subject matter. There's tons of nude photos that people could tell right away are meant as art and this isn't one of them. You wouldn't be hard pressed to find a hi-res image like this on a porn site and if you put them side by side no one's going to notice your composition over the other. There's nothing about this photo that's noticeably more artistic or different than a pornographic photo. If there is, then please point it out. But you said it yourself you shouldn't have to explain it.
As for the people trying to peg all the negative feedback as the viewers being offended rather than underwhelmed, here's some insight...we already know the female body is beautiful, that doesn't mean everyone that photographs it is automatically an artist.
In my overall critique of this photo, it may not be intended as smut, but it's not a great picture either.
Wow! Thank you. Finally someone who can articulate their gripes in a formal and concise manner. Someone who actually took the time to not only read the other comments, but also gave me the benefit of the doubt and actually bothered to check out the rest of my works. For that I thank you.
Now then, onto the feedback... I do agree in many senses on what you're saying about the picture, and if this was an isolated image meant to stand out in a gallery I'd most likely agree with you. But what most people haven't even bothered to see (present company excluded of course) is that this image is part of a series. The awkward posing was purposely done, and while this particular image may not illustrate the particular claustrophobic setting of the piece, she was actually laying in a small bar, between 2 columns and bar lights not 2 feet on top of her. When we were shooting I wasn't really telling her to spread your legs and lets get a good view, her leg is actually propped up one the lights with her literally almost hanging off the bar. We were experimenting with posing, angles, shadows, lights, and overall composition. And even though this is illustrated more effectively in the rest of the series, the ironic hypocrisy is that this one stands out the most out of the whole series BECAUSE she shows crotch. It's easy to depreciate it by that simple fact alone, and it's easy to deconstruct the posing, the angles and such when viewing this this as a stand alone image, but in the end, this was nothing more than the middle image of a set, or series if you will. I hope this allows you to at least understand better where my artistic mindset lied when shooting this.
"As a result, having people criticize my work and being under a critical eye constantly is a daily thing for me, and an unfortunate side effect of my chosen field"
Don't get me wrong here, I'm not against criticism, in fact I revel in it for all the reasons you so eloquently stated. But as you have noticed and even made an observation on, that's not what I've been getting. There's a difference between being critiqued, which is what you've done so well, and simply being attacked by narrow minded self righteous douches who can't even word what exactly they don't like about this piece without having their flawed sensibilities come into play. I'm not looking to piss people off with my work, but if that's what it does then I'll take it. As an artist if your work makes you feel something, whether it's a tingle in your pants or a rage driven fire in your heart then mission accomplished as far as I'm concerned. But this piece is a couple of years old now and I've learned since then to take everything that comes my way with a grain of salt. This was part of my evolution as an artist, and frankly I think my more recent work is better than this, but there'll always be a special place for this image, if anything because of the sheer controversy it ignited, and I'm ok with that.
Another thing to consider is this... people seem to like to label things, and especially in the nude photography field, they love to pigeonhole things as "porn", but to this I say... so? What's wrong with that? Can't pornography be artistic? I have personally seen many an example to justify that it can. But I also know that this is a difficult road to travel in mainly due to the fact that it's hard for people to view pornography with an artistic eye simply because the first reaction they usually get is that tingle in their pants. But from Zazel, to Herge, to even Playboy back when Playboy meant something, there is allot of artistic potential in pornography, when and if it's done right. I personally don't consider what I do pornography, because in my own sensibilities and standards, it's not porn unless there's penetration, and even then I've seen some beautifully works that involve penetration. This is why I say that this will always be a road paved in controversy, because it will always be hard for people to find beauty in what is considered tabu.
You are right in your last point, everyone that photographs female beauty isn't automatically an artist, I think this whole website is a testament to that statement. But I personally strive to improve my eye so that I can capture that beauty the best way that I can. I love nude photography, I love the connection you make with the subject, I love that the subject is a woman willing to share herself in a way few get to see, and I love that I can explore those sides in nude photography, even the raw aspects of it when I'm lucky enough to work with someone that will allow me to do so. And it is in that approach that I set myself apart from the rest of the "porn mongers", because to me it's art, and to me it means something. Technique and a more developed photographers eye, that will come in time and practice, but I won't compromise in my passion, much less be intimidated by it.
Thank you for your critique, I appreciate the time you spent not only in writing it but in actually researching me before doing so. You've made some good points and I'll definitely consider them, so thank you!
I'm glad you took my comment as a critique rather than an attack since I believe one of the things that sets an artist apart is how they take and give negative feedback. And I always feel a debate can be won with a good point before an insult.
The basic idea I was trying to drive home was that sometimes an artist's intentions doesn't necessarily define what the end product will portray. The audience is always the end user whether they're educated in art or not, so if they get a vibe different than what we intended there's no way to argue them into changing their initial assessment even if you can change their perspective on it later. And that initial assessment is very important since most other people will reach the same conclusion.
In other words, if someone randomly sees this photo on a table an thinks it looks like porn when you meant for it to be art then that's the reaction it conveys even if you can change their mind later. It's the same as someone watching a horror movie that wasn't very scary. Sure, the creators may have labeled it as horror because that's what they intended and it's the closest thing it resembles, but if it's not scary then it's either not a horror movie or a poor iteration of a horror movie. The product produces the label, not the other way around.
That's the way I critiqued this image. It may have been meant as art, but due to the decisions in composition and pose the end product didn't match the intention. Therefore, my initial reaction is what matters because you will not always be around to explain it to every one of your viewers. Your work has to nail the intention you had for it so when people walk by it they see exactly what you wanted them to see. If your goal was to have the audience make their own interpretation of what it means then it's still an intended reaction rather than accidentally missing your statement because you meant for them to draw their own conclusions.
I never labeled it as art, I always called it "captured beauty". It was when the attacks started to come out that I felt I needed to defend the piece and my art as a whole (something I admittedly shouldn't have done in the first place). My goal in this site is to simply share my works with the world, let the interpretations come as they may. I think your horror analogy is right on the money here, because it plays on what I've been trying to say all along, peoples individual sensibilities. I could go to watch Hostel, and my own gore hound sensibilities would have me laughing my ass off thinking it was a fun film, but at the same time I can see people leaving the theaters early because they felt they were gonna be sick. You can't go around life trying to please the masses as a whole, it's just not gonna happen, and the quest for acceptance and recognition has driven many an artist to the brink of madness, poverty, or even worse, selling out.
I'm just a humble little photographer originally from Puerto Rico who just wanted to share my works. If they happen to bring about acclaim, great!! If they happen to bring dislike, then that's fine too. In the end, I can sit here and let the negativity this image has generated from few influence my artistic integrity and make me compromise myself, or I can also appreciate the many that have come forward praising this piece, saying that they get what I'm trying to do here, and understand that it's not about pleasing the masses, the critics, the art experts or the common layman... it's about just being happy with yourself, your art and your process.
After all, how bad can this image really be? At the end of the day it's my highest viewed piece. Success can be measured in many forms. Transformers 2 was an abortion of a film, it still didn't stop it from being a box office smash. The same can be said about most of Spielbergs works, does that make him a bad director?
Quality can't be measured by attention or hype. Sadly enough, the masses are attracted to low culture like Jackass and reality TV over high culture like classical music and fine literature, but that doesn't make it better. So it isn't surprising the masses would be attracted to a picture of a beautiful girl bearing all.
A recent example of irony in quality would be the Twilight sequels opening weekend beat The Dark Knight's records. However, while The Dark Knight received a lot of praise for all it's film making successes the Twilight series has always had low review scores and still has a bigger audience. While a Twilight fan might try to argue that non Twilight fans may not appreciate what the series is trying to do it doesn't mean it can't be critiqued by the same standards all film is reviewed with. Such categories would include acting, story-telling, cinematography, editing, etc. When you simplistically describe both story's plots each sounds equally ridiculous. A guy in a bat suit fights crime in a corrupt city of super villains vs. A girl is trapped in a love triangle between a vegetarian vampire and a werewolf. However, evidence proves it isn't what you say, but how you say it.
Fine art, like drawing and photography, is much the same. No, it's not bad for you to receive acclaim, but you should still hope it's from the qualities that make a great piece of art and display your skills as an artist rather than from people's indulgences. It's what separates smut from art. You may have produced this picture for the right reasons, but it's been getting misinterpreted because your execution leaves the viewer confused as to what your purpose actually was. Fixing her pose, composition, camera angle, etc are all things that could make this picture better. It isn't the fact that there's a naked girl in this picture which is making people call it smut; it's the approach.
Well, that's my point, if in the end people are gonna perceive whatever they want out of this piece, then it makes no sense arguing semantics about it. I have a gallery full of images that are far superior to this one, and yet people still gravitate towards this one. Now you may say it's because it nothing more than masturbatory fodder, and maybe you're right, but so what? None of my other more quality driven works seem to garnish any acclaim, so there in lies the hypocrisy of the audience. Besides, I've learned that when people like something, they'll just fave it, or say something simple to the likes of "nice" or "great job", but when people don't like something they love to raise a stink, go off on a 4 paragraph rant on how much they hate it, hate you, and wish you were dead, and take it upon themselves to act like the internet police and threaten to report it and have you banned. Well, you know what, after all that, it's still here, there still bitching, and I gotta take it like this... if the ones that hate it voiced their opinions, then that would mean that less than a hundred people hated it, while those who like it are almost up to 70,000. At the end of the day I'll take those odds anytime. It's the nature of the beast, as you stated before, it's marketing 101, and giving the people what they want. Don't take my word for it... go around the site and watch the galleries of more famous and more professional photographers, I will guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt that no matter how great their views and fave numbers are for their works, they will never compare to the numbers they get whenever they post a nude. As an artist you can be repulsed by this fact, or you can embrace it and say "oh well". I don't fear nudity, I don't fear smut, if that's what they wanna call it, then I'll just have to make sure to create the best smut I possibly can. After all, it's not my problem peoples hypocritical sensibilities have them clamoring for the ban of such works with one hand while jerking themselves off with the other. And as far as whether or not this piece passes for pornography, the moderatos here at DA seem to disagree, and that's good enough for me.