CritiqueMe: “Beautiful Silence” by Irwin Lewis and The Importance of Editing

Beautiful silence

Eric’s NoteCritiqueMe is an on-going street photography critique series by Ollie Gapper, a photography student and street photographer based in the UK. 

Ollie Gapper: So this week I thought I’d try and do something different with the CritiqueMe series, where, instead of trying to offer a full critique to a photographers work, I wanted to shape the critique around one particular aspect I feel the featured photographer and community in general may find useful.

This weeks photographs were sent in by Irwin Lewis, a San Francisco based student photographer, who is currently studying photography with a particular interest and concentration on documentary.

When I first saw Irwins series ‘Beautiful Silence‘ from Japan I was very intrigued. This was a style that I had begun appreciating quite recently, ever since seeing Jing Huangs ‘Pure of Sight’ project. Some of Irwins work had a similar kind of purity and clarity to them that drew me to Huangs work in the first place, with the achingly beautiful exposures and earthy grain that grounded each image wonderfully. I must emphasise that it was some of these images that made me feel like this, which brings me to this weeks topic of critique and consideration – Editing.

Now I’m sure some of you are now thinking this is going to be an article on Lightroom or Photoshop – it isn’t. What I mean by editing, in this context, is the selection process of choosing which images make the final cut and which do not, something many refer to nowadays as filtering.

Before I go any further I just want to stress that you should all visit Irwins page for this series here, so you may see the original edit, straight from his head and that yes I do indeed understand the images and their relationships to one another – the subtle visual rhymes and thematic links that draw the images together – its very clever, but it doesn’t quite work for me.

I have a deep rooted and adamant theory embedded in my mind that photography and art should be beautiful first and meaningful second. This is an ideology I know many will disagree with, but I’m of the thinking that if an image doesn’t grab me first, it cannot communicate any ideas with me – I wont be looking for them. This is probably a large contributing factor to why I dont appreciate the work of Martin Parr.

These are the images I would have personally chosen so far from the series, and I think they highlight the kind of style and subject matter I would opt to pursue in further photographs.

This isn’t to say I dont like or appreciate the other images, I just don’t feel they are as strong visually, nor as subtle in their meanings as the ones I have selected here. I love this kind of non-specific documentation, whereby the way in which the places and things being documented i just as important, (if not, more) as the the subjects themselves. I would suggest looking into Huangs work, if you haven’t already done so, as I feel it could work to be quite a big influence and inspiration to you and your work, and may help you in refining your editing process.

Now I would just like to express the importance, to both Irwin and the community as a whole, of editing constantly – whether you’re shooting very generally on the street or more specifically for a project, the process of reviewing and printing your images can really help in refining not just the images you have already taken, but the images you are going to take. This is something I have covered before in my post “Why you Should Print Your Photos” 


Let me know what you think about this kind of critique, where I concentrate on one key aspect, rather than many. If its generally preferred than I shall continue this style for the rest of the CritiqueMe series.

Thanks for all your support, please don’t forget to add your critique of todays featured work below and I’m sorry for the late post, University has been piling it on!

If you would like your images to be considered for CritiqueMe, check out how to submit here.

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  • Verdoux

    I agree that photography should be beautiful first and meaningful second (there’s of course always exceptions to that rule). I don’t want to wade through a bunch of bad photos just because the subject is important.

  • Deberoo2

    Thank you for this. In this day of “instagram, hipstamatic,pinterest, etc” restraint and curated collections are, refreshing. Thoughtful composition is still needed both in the viewfinder and the gallery.

  • manni

    I too have to agree here with what you said. I faced it too when I would know that my photo has a great story to tell but it lacked the initial appeal for people to even look at it and understand what I am trying to show.

    Also, this approach of picking up one aspect and basing the critique on it definitely looks like a approach

    Thanks !

  • Wilfredo

    Amazingly done article! I do agree with that element of editing. I think we are too saturated with random uploads on flickr. So I only follow people who actually send out their best work. Anyways, great article an I learned a lot.

  • MelJez

    Great article. I like the that photography/ART should be beautiful first then meaningful second. I’m new to photography and your article help me understand more especially on the area of editing.

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