I recently posted some photos onto a (somewhat) anonymous critique site known as ARS. The first set of photos I posted received nothing but negative votes and some critiques that were not exactly helpful. In a few cases, the people offering the critiques did not seem to understand things about the photographs that seemed to be obvious to me. In one case, for example, a viewer kept talking about the “subject” being too dark and had clearly misunderstood that the object in the center of the frame was not really the subject of the photo. The actual subject of the photo was exposed fine. That critique mentioned that the exposure was, and I quote, “HORRIBLE” (in all caps).
After a few days of that, I took those photos down and decided to try something. I uploaded photos that were completely different. These new photos fared much better with viewers. They have received several “keep” votes (as opposed to “ditch” votes) and some even received 100% keep votes. There were critical comments about composition and color in a few cases, as well as comments regarding the interest of the subject matter on some of them. There were also photos that received nothing but “ditch” votes with critical comments.
I think the old saying holds true, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
I also had one photographer request a more detailed critique from me on several photographs. He called me a “demented sh**” and other unfortunate names because he did not like my commentary on his photographs. How precious to us are those things we have created with our own hands, so precious that we will defend them even to the detriment of others.
Photographers need to be open to criticism. We need to be open to learning. However, we do not need to be open to crass, banal, and negative criticism for the sake of bashing someone else. If you are faced with this sort of thing, my recommendation would be to simply let it go and keep taking pictures. Do not let anyone or anything stop you from pursuing your passion for photography.
Also, photograph what you want to photograph, the way you want to photograph it. Do not let anyone else tell you what you should or should not be photographing. That is your decision (within the bounds of the laws of your region and also within the bounds of ethical behavior, of course).
So, for example, let’s say you take a photograph of an interesting building or other structure, and the street is empty. Someone criticizes the photo saying that there is no representation of humanity in the photograph because there are no people present. While they may have a point about photographs including people can often be more interesting due to the presence of human action, emotion, etc., they do not have a monopoly on how properly to take photographs. They have absolutely no authority over you to dictate what you should be photographing. If you find interest in something, and want to photograph it, then do so. Receive constructive criticism with an open mind, but never allow someone to dissuade you from the path along which your photographic senses are leading you.