Whenever someone asks you to write about work that you haven't picked yourself there is a sense of anticipation. This is kind of positive and negative but levels out to be neither. When you wait for the link to load and you see the first photograph on the homepage you know if it is a good or bad idea. In the editorial context it is unprofessional to turn it down and say 'no, I don't like this' and even when you do not stand for the work on show you still have a job to do. Even when there is no money involved.
Photography is subjective, that goes without saying, and it is near impossible to like everything - especially in the vast world of photographic taste. It is a bit like eating a sandwich and not realising it has pickle in it, you pull that face. You know the face.
Through my experience working with organisations and writing for them I have come across a handful of work I dislike but I've had to write about it. Its a bit like your girlfriend asking you to take the bins out when you first stay over her parents house - it is something you are obliged to do for the good of the future. Incidentally I have never been in that scenario which makes me a bit sad.
The first thing, or the first temptation is to write up your honest opinion. Write that and then save it in a folder saying 'the truth' or something of that description. Forget you wrote that and then get on with the bullshit. Unfortunately there is a lot of bullshit involved when you have to muster up good points about work that you have no emotional or, well, any connection too. It is a real struggle. Make sure you use very vague points as your main discussion - talking about the openness of a pink background and a tub of margarine and ponder on the options (no matter how painful that might feel). Think about the longevity of your pursued career. It will be worth it in the long run. It will be worth it in the end.
The next step is to pick up on an aesthetic quality that rings throughout the work and make that the core timeline for the written piece. Make sure it links back to aesthetic at any given moment. Aesthetics are a safe zone as this will beef up your word count and will not offend people or the artist as they discover the article online or when the email comes through.
It is imperative you pick an edit that you like and just discuss those, only those. If you have a small edit of photographs you kind of like you are more likely to come up with something with a brown nosed quality without going the whole way. The organisation will be happy and so will you. It is important to really state the point that the work is very open and could lead to a host of opportunities and photographic questions about life.
Here is one I made earlier...
"Although the pictures, described, may seem free of human hand, we carry a partial role in the pictures’ content and we are the enigmatic spark for the pictures’ existence. For without the people involved the pictures do not exist – if humans did not exist, we would have no use for photographs – Thus leaving the pictures hanging in the balance of the meaning of photography and an attempted meaning of existence. Although, saying this, the pictures are open to interpretation and we have no other option but to use our gathered knowledge and personal interests when looking at the work."
If you notice with the above extract I have managed to say absolutely nothing, but made people believe they have gained something from the article. Please do not feel guilt at this point as you are giving them what they want. Exactly what they were after.
The main thing to consider when the article is written is remember its purely a test for your own skills as a writer and it does not mean your full of shit, in fact the opposite, you just have a really dirty skill to take on into the art world until you can write about work you like for a living. After all, and it pains me to admit it, most people aren't going to read all of it, and further more they will not remember it. That is the beauty of writing, unless it is interesting enough to distract us from our Facebook feeds or our partner's face then your in real trouble. But don't stress, there is plenty of chances to write about what you love. It is only a phase as you start.
When the organisations are happy they allow you a bit more slack. They trust your judgment and take on work you like, only if you play it right. Slip into the email to them, 'This work fits in with your aesthetic' - they might just say yes and there you are. At this point people will not need to read your bullshit but your true opinions and feelings about a piece of work.
There is hope so hold on pulling your hair our or jumping on your proud horse. Do the dirty jobs, clean those toilets because one day you will be relaxing in the hotel, drinking orange juice and enjoying the hell out of a great journey that developed you in more ways than one.
I know when I finally get writing 9 till 5 it will feel like I have won the lottery and I'd have the winnings in 8 hour shifts with an hour lunch break, and lets not forget the minimum wage. For now, it is rewarding to know that you are adaptable and can morph into any kind of writer they want. Remember bullshit is a skill for life, keep at it.
I took and made the example image myself