A Peek Inside the Elements of Self-Critique


young girl looking down with a braid in black and white

This is an excerpt from my Illuminate Classes workshop, the Elements of Self-Critique.

To find out more details, click here. 


Today I disappointed my mentor.  I missed a step that he felt was very obvious, and it was apparent to me that he was disappointed. He was kind about it, because he is a voice that I trust and he doesn’t take that trust lightly. But it still wasn’t easy to hear, and I immediately felt that burn of shame that comes when I mess something up. I felt the excuses forming in my mouth, and my mind was quickly assembling an inventory of all the reasons why I hadn’t done what I needed to do.

I was too busy. My kids have been sick. I’ve been sick. I’ve been traveling. I’ve been tired - burned out - overwhelmed. I continue to feel like everyone expects everything of me, all at once, and I can’t actually do everything all at once. I have a mountain of laundry I never seem to make progress on, and a pile of dishes in the sink.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. And shame, embarrassment, defensiveness, and anger - those are all the things that came to the surface when one of my flaws was pointed out to me.

But it also drove me to do this thing I needed to do. Almost immediately after ending my phone call with him, I took the steps to fix my mistake. And it helped to propel me to see a few other mistakes I’d made, things I should have done but didn’t, and thanks to his kind honesty and my ability to critique myself, I grew. If he had kept his thoughts to himself, or if I had internalized them and didn’t let myself open up enough to embrace them, I would still be stuck where I was.

I’m sharing this with you so that you understand that I know how you feel. I’m going to be asking so much of you these next few weeks. I’m going to ask that you be vulnerable, that you trust me, and that you open yourself up to the possibilities of what may be. I’m going to ask that you open yourself up to your classmates, too, and embrace what they have to say as well.

I know how very, very hard that is. Even when welcomed, it’s still hard to fight past the voices from within that tell us we aren’t good enough - or the voices within that tell us we are already good enough.

But I am going to be vulnerable with you, also. You are not alone.

So before we go any further, I am going to make a promise to you right now:

I will hold space for you. I will be honest with you. I will help you find what you’re looking for. And I will encourage you to be a positive voice for growth in your own journey.

I know from experience that these are the things you need to grow: a sense worth, a sense of security, a sense of possibility, a sense of ownership, and a sense of positivity. And while I will serve as that positive, encouraging voice over the next few weeks, I want to give you something more. Something that will last long beyond our last interaction.

I want to help you find the honest voice that is inside you. Your internal compass. The thing that will help steer you when you feel alone. The thread of self that will guide you best - because you are the only one who knows the right decisions, the right paths, and the right ways for you to create your best work. Even the most caring, most knowledgeable, most intuitive mentor can only work with what you give them. The most important things you need to steer your own path are already inside you.

I know it’s not easy. When we talk about critiquing our own work, it’s so easy to get bogged down by the “what if’s”, the doubts, and even sometimes the false sense of self-assurances. I can’t promise you that it will get easier…. not exactly. But you can get more comfortable with it, and carry with you the tools that will make you better prepared for when those times of self-doubt come along.

This path is a singular one - even if you have a thriving community of peers who support you and love your work - at the end of the day, it’s still up to you. YOU have to do the work. You have to make decisions about what makes an image “good” or not. You have to decide what to curate, share, and possibly defend. You have to decide what quality of work allows you to hold your head high.

It’s going to be an amazing four weeks, and I am incredibly honored that you are here with me.

 “This was an amazing course! In a subtle way, it touched me deeper than I had expected. I not only learned tools how to better critique my own images; I also walked away with more confidence and trust in my instincts, not only with respect to my photography. Kate is a truly wonderful teacher, and she helped us to open up by opening up herself a lot. It's very clear that she loves to teach and deeply cares about her students.” Caroline Holt

“The Elements of Self-Critique opened my eyes and brought new concepts to my awareness. Kate is insightful, knowledgeable, relatable and I believe her guidance has already helped me to grow as a photographer. I can see myself referring back to the materials over the years and continuing to get more from the class. Definitely time and money well spent!” Ohea Graham

“Kate really dug deep and dissected my images and gave me detailed reviews! It opened my eyes to many elements I was not aware of. It's one thing to create and a whole other thing to critique your own work. Great workshop! I learned so much.” Reem Alshaikh

“This class was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about myself and my art through this process. Kate leads the class on an encouraging journey of self exploration which will result in a paradigm shift. Through this process, I recognized some untruths and unkind tapes I say about my art. Kate encouraged me to let go of these destructive voices resulting in growth in my art. While the skills are presented in the context of photography, these skills will easily carry over to many aspects of life. Not only did I grow in my photography through this journey of exploration, but I also grew in other ares of my life.” Lisa Edney

Registration is currently open!

The next run begins February 12th, and there are still a few active and silent seats available. If you are ready to own your journey and take control of your work, you won't want to miss out. Whether you are still new to the idea of critiquing a photograph, or a seasoned pro looking for more emotional ownership in her work, this class might just be that thing your journey has been looking for.

For more details and to register, click here.