Those of you who visited me last week may have enjoyed my Dumb Flickr Users Get Punk'd post, wherein I celebrated critiques by flickr users of a classic Cartier-Bresson photo. I just ran across The Online Photographer, a photography blog by Mike Johnson. In a complimentary post, he posted unattributed photos by photographers like Irving Penn, Edward Steichen and Alex Webb, along with comments from photosite visitors. For example, check out the comments this William Eggleston photo got:
This is just a snapshot. I would not even have considered showing this. If you ware going to post pictures you need to make sure it is of something unusual or with a personal vision. Otherwise you are going to loose the interest of your audience. George Spelvin [Nikon D200, Nikon D70s backup, 17-35 f/2.8, 80-200 f/2.8, 4GB Microdrive (2), Photoshop CS, Epson 2200]
In a follow-up post, Mike writes that his "Great Photographers on the Internet" post provoked a lot of comments along the line of "you've got to know the rules before you can break them." In more thoughts along this line, Mike listed some rules of the photography canon (ie, "A fine B&W print must have a full range of tones from pure black to pure white"; "Always flatter your subject"; "Observe the rule of thirds"), along with fantastic photos that break each rule.
I think there's a lot to be said for knowing 'the rules' - but also a lot to be said for not letting them constrain you or your eye. As someone who is trying to figure out rules of thumb for what makes a good picture, while also trying to stay creative and attuned to that 'yes' moment that makes me know I've got a good picture, Mike's posts are thought-provoking reading.
Check it: The Online Photographer