Home    Search    Gallery    How-To    Books    Links    Workshops    About    Contact

Ritz Camera


Bad Reviews are Good
© 2006 KenRockwell.com

Please help KenRockwell..com

I get my goodies at Ritz, Amazon and Adorama.
It helps me publish this site when you get yours from those links, too.

See also Be Yourself and How to Make Great Photos.

Also in English, Italian, Romanian and Russian.


To be memorable, work must be unique. No one else has done it before, and no one else ever will duplicate it. If your work is great, people will try to duplicate it, but never succeed. Be yourself and be great, or be like everyone else and be forgotten.

Because great work is unique it won't be like anything anyone has ever seen before. Because it will be unfamiliar, almost everyone will hate it. That why you need to be true to yourself and ignore the critics.

Emperor Joseph II told Mozart that The Marriage of Figaro had "too many notes." Today with 192 audio channels and 256 MIDI tracks on Pro Tools we have music with more notes each minute than Mozart ever wrote in his lifetime, and we take it for granted.

When Beethoven's 9th symphony was first performed in London, reviewers wrote things like "elegance, purity and measure are gradually surrendering to a new, frivolous and pompous style adopted by the superficial talents of our time." People didn't get it. They thought Beethoven was crazy. What was he thinking? What a cacophony!

Did Beethoven care what they said? Of course not - he was stone deaf! Greatness ignores its handicaps. Yet this deaf old guy wrote music that still sells over a hundred years later. Can even Madonna or the Beatles beat that? We'll see.

Cut to modern day. Remember the new Ford Taurus of 1986? It was the first rounded car in modern history. Everything else in 1986 was boxy with sharp edges and flat panels. The Taurus looked like a potato! Everyone hated it! My friends with degrees in art hated it - violently! Everyone said it looked like it was melted, or worse. Ten years later every car was rounded just like the Taurus.

Jack Telnack designed that Taurus. He graduated from Art Center. He designed everything from the hubcaps of the 1965 Mustang to the latest Thunderbirds. He knew if people were comfortable with a design that it was already old. Likewise, he knew if a design was genuinely new that people have to hate it when it comes out. It's like the weird BMW butts that came out a few years ago and are now copied on everything from Hyundai to Mercedes. Chris Bangle of BMW observes that since everyone else has copied it, that this BMW design "is now mature" and it's time to do something else.

Not that any of these designs are bad or good. It's all about what you like. Know that if you get bad reviews that you may be on to something really groundbreaking. Jesus got himself crucified purely because he became a PR nightmare, and he never even claimed he was The Messiah!

Bad reviews are good. If you're not getting bad reviews you're doing the same old thing. Not that the same old thing is bad - if you love it. Do what you want, and do it well.

Sometimes bad reviews are on target. For a while Ansel Adams liked to print dark. Reviewers thought these prints were awful. Ansel then realized he was printing too dark. They were awful!

Innovative new work, by definition, has to be different than all that has gone before. However, all because something is different doesn't make it creative. Read any advertising industry magazine and you'll see tons of ad companies ads that are different, but not particularly creative or memorable.


If you find this as helpful as some lame motivational workshop you'd be too embarrassed to admit attending or a book you might have had to buy, feel free to help me write more with a donation. It also helps me add to this site when you get your goodies through these links to Ritz, Amazon and Adorama. I use them and recommend them personally .

Thanks for reading!


Home    Search    Gallery    How-To    Books    Links    Workshops    About    Contact