#1161. Happy New Year (& plans for DS in 2022)

By pascaljappy | News

Jan 02

Here’s wishing you all much happiness, creativity and fulfilment for 2022 πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ And here’s how we hope to contribute in however tiny proportions!

Goodnight 2021

2021 has been a very odd year. A triumph for science, a disaster for leadership and intelligent collaboration. Great riches for some, personal tragedy for others. Nothing new, really, but rarely has it been so publicized and obvious in what we considered to be civilised countries. Covid was to blame for much of this, of course, but our attitude towards the pandemic, even more so than the pandemic itself.

Will this change next year? Of course not. The same people are leading our countries and our collective psyche hasn’t changed with the passing of an annual digit. We can expect much of the same for the coming months, and possibly years. If we get out of this mess, it will either be because of more scientific triumph, or out of sheer dumb luck, if one variant becomes far more contaminant and far less dangerous than the ones it replaces.

But we’re also learning to live with the situation, to find happiness in different things and to adopt new attitudes. So it still feels right and realistic to wish all readers a Very Happy 2022. I hope the coming year brings you great prosperity, financial or otherwise, good health and fulfilment in whatever endeavor & adventure you embark on.

Better together πŸ™‚

Plans for DS in 2022 πŸ™‚

DearSusan was created to be a collaborative blog from day one. I’ve always wanted it to become a meeting place for people wanting to discuss a common passion. And, in its own minor way, the blog has succeeded in that.

Now, more than ever, I want DS to be a place where everyone feels welcome and encouraged to share photographs, ideas and points of views, to find friends across the world when they feel like it or need encouragement. So, sincere posts from everyone will always be welcome (I do refuse a lot of product placement posts, hence the “sincerity” clause πŸ˜‰ )

But I also realise that a community doesn’t imply that all participants share the same needs or goals, so a few amendments will be made, starting in January. Those have already been discussed briefly in recent posts and will be presented in more detail shortly. Let’s recap.

Lost horizon

Basics and Critique

It has been brought to my attention that some readers would love to leave feedback on some photographs beyond the usual congratulations and words of enjoyment most often profered in response to published posts. And, others like me, would also like to get assistance and suggestions from peers when a photograph somehow doesn’t meet expectations we had while making it.

My response to this is a double whammy suggestion of reaffirming the basics and providing feedback to those who seek it.

Critique shouldn’t be understood in the French sense of criticism, but in the more constructive acceptation of the word: evaluation and suggestions. Critique is the easy part of the duo : only readers who wish to see their photographs analysed will send some in for review. A group of seasoned photographers will look at them and share ideas which will be published with the photographs. And whoever wishes to can volunteer more help in the comments.

Inviting nature

Basics is far more challenging to organise.

When I discussed the idea with him, Philippe rightly pointed out that any kind of structured “education” can normalise how those who follow it create photographs. And that many Vivian Maiers of this world have probably been weeded out of our photographic hall of fame by rigid rules and guidance.

So, Basics will never be a set of rules. Hardly a surprise for those who have read my regular rants against predefined, out of context, rules such as the rule of thirds or golden spiral. It won’t even be a set of guidelines or anything that could orient how someone photographs. Instead, I just want to provide an understanding of how our eyes and brain read and understand images, so as to provide a framework for evaluating one’s work, after the shoot. Even that is too much of a goal for myself, as my knowledge of this only extends to topics that interest me such as composition and PP. So I’m hoping the whole set of chapters will be a radically new approach and truly collaborative in nature. We’ll soon know πŸ™‚

Safe harbour

Personal orientation: Nature

This is just me. All topics will be welcome as usual. But my usual thirst for nature has only grown even bigger this year. I’ve lost interest for much of life’s luxuries and few things please me more than being surrounded with silence and trees. Of course, this will be reflected in my photography.

No limit

It’s also a topic worth focusing on a bit more, beyond my personal work. I find that nature is the perfect antidote to Instagram and the toxic culture of perfect fakeness. Nature is wonderfully imperfect, so finding fragments of beauty where they as, as they are, makes us work harder from a creative standpoint and puts us in tune with out surroundings far more than going to the few famous hotspots everyone and their aunt seem to place in a compulsory bucket list πŸ™‚

Road to nowhere


I sure hope so, but … so did I, last year at the same period. Video takes time, far more so than photography. And time is not a luxury on my side at the moment. However, I have ordered a new high-spec MacBook Pro, with video processing in mind.

So, … on that front, it’s wait & see πŸ˜‰


The year of the NFT ?

NFT was one of the 2021 words of the year. I wrote about them early on, because the promise is quite exciting. Since then, a few hilarious discussions with gallery owners in London have convinced me that NFTs will – for a long time to come – stay a speculative curiosity of very limited artistic value.

However, the Blockchain still fascinates me, with its immense possibilities, and the idea of certified digital work has so many applications that none of those discussions have quite cured me of the desire to experiment.

Bio Vrac CafΓ© ThΓ©

I’ve never really tried to sell my personal work. Some stock images, some commissions, yes. More creative work? Never. NFTs with a twist seem like a good way to go about that. Readers regularly ask me how they can support the website, I’m guessing NFT sales could be a way forward, as well as an interesting experiment to describe for all others who might be interested.

Beauty in all shapes and sizes

In the mean time, let me once again wish you, and you families, a very happy new year πŸ™‚

2022 probably won’t see us back to normal. We’ll again have to adapt and live differently from what we used to consider to be ideal. But like the spider web above, beauty and happiness can be found where we don’t necessarily expect it. Let’s find those ways, let’s share them with others, and let’s have the best possible time together πŸ™‚

Be seeing you.


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    I think I’m going to blame my skills on the keyboard, or something – you write far better english than I do! – and I was raised & educated in an english speaking country!

    “Critique vs criticism” – I never realised french suffers from the same problem – “yes” to one, “no” to the other.I have a similar view on “discussion” vs “argument”. I regard both “criticism” and “argument” as the products of immature minds, and I am uninterested in them both.

    An early example in my life was “film reviews”. These generally took the form of “criticism”, during my teen years, and reading them, I discovered something very interesting. Almost always, the ruder they were about a fim, the better the film was! If the film critics of that era had any merit, the opposite should have been the case – but it seemed to me that they entirely misunderstood their function and the purpose of their film “criticisms”.

    And nothing much has changed over the years – “food critics” are mostly just as bad – so much so, that I often wonder whether the only restaurants that get a rave review of “buddies” of the critic – or dropping money in the critic’s pocket.

    When it gets down to criticism that has a damaging impact on someone’s business, it infuriates me. The critic might “think” he’s being smart or clever. But businesses have shareholders, whose lives can be damaged or wrecked by the fallout from vitriolic criticisms – they have other stakeholders, too, like employees who might lose their jobs as a results of vituperative criticisms of te business – and the suppliers to the business can also be badly affected. But “critics” never take that into account – they just value their sarcastic comments more highly than anything else.

    And even though there’s less of that, amongst photographers, it still happens – and it still has a very damaging effect, a totally counterproductive effect, on its victims.

    So – after all that! – “yes” to “critique”, and “no” to “criticism”.

    Much the same goes for “basics”. We ALL start in that paddock. A few gifted people “make it” on their own – quite spontaneously – because they are blessed with some form of genius. While the rest of us struggle and labour on, constantly trying to hit the target with our own efforts. Creating a definite need for “basics”, to rev up the pace of change and improvement in our work.

    But – as you point out, with your reference to the dangeers of “rules” – with an inherent risk – of making those aspiring to “better” simply land in a mindset where they “conform” rather than “create”.

    When I was young, I stumbled upon a book on “composition” in photography, which catapulted my photography to a much higher level. But being the kind of “difficult” or “impossible” child that I was, I soon lost interest – because I found that the so-called “rules” of composition were stultifying “creativity”. So I went off on a path of my own.

    And I suspect that a lot of what your “‘basics” aims to achieve is to hep peope through that phase in their work. Even luminaries like Picasso went through it The whole idea of an “artist” going to an “art school” is to catapult people through “basics” into their more creative years. Same with photography schools – cine schools. Universities!

    “Basics” provide each of us with answers to “how”. But it’s a bit like a degree in medicine – it might qualify someone to start to practice as a doctor, but what it CANNOT do is to make them into a “good” doctor – that is something they have to do for themselves (and their patients!), after they receive their qualification.

    And “basics” for an aspiring photographer will only let them through the door, into another, better phase in their development – but THEY will have to add “creativitiy”, as they move forward from them. “Teaching creativity” – is that possible? – or is the phrase itself just an oxymoron? At least in the field of photography, I’d “yes”, you can – but really, all you can do is to open people’s minds, open their eyes – because THEY are the ones who have to do the “creative” bit and the bet that any outsider can do for them, in that regard, is to “launch” them into that space – not to “guide” them through it. Because the process of “guiding” them would actually take creativity away from them and back to the “guide”.

    Or – if you prefer – one is a “necessary condition”, a condition that must be satisfied in order to get started – the other, a “sufficient condition” – a condition that must be satisfied in order to get the job completed.

    BTW Pascal – I loved this selection of photos – a bit light on, as far a forests are concerned, but they highlight the gloom of winter and, I suspect, the restrictions that coping with CVID has placed on all our lives. If you think your winter is tough, spare a thought for my friend in California – he’s just had twenty feet of snow!

    • pascaljappy says:

      The problem with most critics is that they have an agenda. Sometimes a personal one. Most often, financial. In a clickbait world, almost everyone is trying to use content to make money, not share knowledge. So it’s really hard to find anyone you can trust. And even the review websites such as tripadvisor provide very little help, because of their selection bias. If you want to find a nice restaurant in a new town, you’ll often notice that the top selection is really not that great, at least not to your tastes. Pizza lovers give highest marks to pizzerias. If you’re an Asian food lover, that pizza recommendation isn’t going to be very useful.

      Teaching creativity is indeed very difficult. Because it essentially amounts to teaching someone to be themselves … On a planet with such normative education and where social media turn the old pareto 80/20 into a 99/1 or worse, being ourselves is seriously hard.

      That’s why I think we can only give clues as how the brain works and understand images, on the one side, and help evaluate one’s work, on the other. I strongly believe in cycle theories such as Kaizen and think that education only ever works well when it uses those principles : learn (from the past cycle), experiment, evaluate. Only that can create the sort of intuition that results in creativity.

      20 feet of snow! Wow πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰ I hope your friend is OK.

      Thanks for the kind words and kudos for the astute judgement of those photographs. I tried to provide a selection that contains both dull and exciting colours. All to suggest that it’s really up to us to decide how we react to external factors. We can try to be happy in most conditions. Prisoners in concentration camps created art, surely we can be happy with masks on under a few clouds πŸ™‚

    • Lad Sessions says:


      I always enjoy your comments; there is much to think about here. I just wanted to make a few comments about “critique” and “criticism,” coming from my academic philosophical background.

      Kant is one of my philosophical idols, and as is well-known he wrote three momentous “Critiques,” on knowledge, morality, teleology and art. “Critique” for Kant meant roughly searching for the necessary conditions for the possibility of something important. He was perhaps too sanguine about achieving finality in these areas, yet his views are deep and still worthy of attention. His line of thinking became known as “critical philosophy” and to deploy it was called “criticism.”

      More generally, a major part of academic philosophy is criticism, not in Kant’s sense but in the sense of examining a view or system and trying to find flaws or errors of reasoning, evidence, conception. Sometimes this degenerates into nit-picking, or settling personal scores, but mostly it’s an effort to get things right, and in doing so open up other ways of thinking. I confess that my own Ph.D. dissertation was entitled “A Critical Examination of Dipolar Panentheism,” an extensive exposition and threadbare criticism of Charles Hartshorne’s philosophical system. “Criticism” isn’t a negative term in philosophy, but only a necessary part of discerning the truth. Locating where Philosopher X has gone astray (and they all do; they’re human) is essential to trying to do better.

      So, philosophers are inevitably critics, criticizing other philosophers, and while this has a destructive (deconstructive?) side, it’s essential to getting a better view.

      • pascaljappy says:

        That’s fascinating, Lad.

        I think the main difference here is context. Philosophers are “professionals” who attempt to change the way we – globally – think about life and truth. That carries a lot of responsibility. Here at DS, readers are trying to get better at expressing themselves through photography. I think Pete, like me, worries about two undesirable aspects of criticism. One is that a lot of it is based on bias and opinion, not a search of the truth. The second is that, as a direct consequence, the person being criticised might feel more judged and violated than helped along. The focus here will be on identifying what was attempted with a specific goal in mind, what worked and what could be suggested to make it better.

        But now, you understand how precious your inpuut can be and why I invited you to the juy πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  • Lad Sessions says:


    One of your sterling–and endearing–qualities is a restless imagination, conjuring new possibilities to lure others onward. DS is already a tremendous success, IMHO, yet you aren’t content to rest on your laurels. CRITIQUE sounds excellent, with the right people; I’m not confident that my images merit sustained critical scrutiny (at least not yet), though I am confident I lack the appropriate skills of critical photographic analysis. BASICS again sounds very promising; I’m always interested in reading something new, presented more as suggestion than as rules or authoritative instruction. VIDEO and NFTs are far from my interests.

    But NATURE! Yes, yes and yes! Wandering about human artifacts never interests so much as rambling in various natural ecosystems. Saturday I went into the hills for over two hours on a misty morning and was entranced. Quite apart from the mist-ical scenes I struggled to image, I found the “forest bathing” deeply soul-soothing. Exploring life on earth takes us beyond petty human struggles to more profound matters, hard to verbalize but vitally important. In my posts for DS I have been trying to encourage others to explore and enjoy nature by focusing on various life-forms and features, but there are many other paths into the woods.

    So, strength to your ventures!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you so much Lad.

      First things first. If you don’t think you photogaphs ae wothy of sustained attention, it might come as a shock that I want to invite you to the juy πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ Please say yes!

      Video is a poblem. The storytelling possibilities that come with it are so much greater than what we can muster with photography that it’s always on my mind. But it’s also more directive and time consuming. There’s a reason I never succombed. But the hope is still here …

      NFTs are an amusing symptom of our greedy society. But they also open up many interesting ideas and experiments. Let’s see where they lead us πŸ˜‰

      Nature … I can’t thank you enough for your previous posts as those provided the inspiration for quite a few of my recent photographs. Yesterday, in a local forest, I focused on “spiral” trees, that grow in a spiral rather than straight (although the trunk is still straight). Your posts bridged the gap between visual attraction and intellectual understanting. They made me look closer. Which, in turn, lead to many failed photographs because I’m not used to trying to incorporate those “scientific” aspects and go beyond mere shapes. Hence a lot of learning and fun πŸ™‚

      Strength to your own ventures. I hope to view them soon πŸ™‚

      • Lad Sessions says:


        I think this is an invitation to join your panel of “critics”–or at least I think that’s what “joy” (=jury?) means. I’m flattered and honored. And I accept, pledging to try to say something helpful, mindful of my limitations.


  • Pascal Ravach says:

    Thanks for the warm words, Pascal… as usual πŸ™‚
    DS is always one of those good antidotes to recessing to a lethargic state of mind… keep going on, please πŸ™‚
    Wish you and the team the best 2022 possible!

  • PaulB says:


    I have a question for you related to image critiques, though it may influence articles related to Basics as well. The question is, β€œAre there any restrictions or conditions on photos of people or containing people?”

    Dear Susan, in general, has shown travel related images that have emphasized the place over the people. Though, in offering critiques to an international audience, I foresee receiving images where people are included, if not the main subject. Also, since France has different laws related to photographing people than other countries, will that play a role?

    If there will be conditions on photos of people, we should be stating that up front to inform possible contributors.


    • pascaljappy says:

      That’s a good question Paul! I don’t have an answer but will try to find out quickly. The issue is that the publication (hence me) is reponsible for the content. Of course that applies to small websites showing innocent photographs of people, and not to Facebook who peddles lies as a business model, but I have to abide to those laws. But, maybe there’s no issue if the photograph was made in a country where that’s not an issue. Could become a nightmare to check though. I’ll try to find out quickly. Cheers.

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