At one of the Ipernity groups, a somewhat lively debate has developed. How it will evolve remains to be seen.

On one side of the discussion is the notion that people’s commenting on others’ photos is excessive and essentially not very constructive. There is also the complaint that some of the photos receiving comments are “far-from-perfect.” Of course, if perfection is truly the standard required for one to express appreciation for another’s works, there is probably no danger that people will ever express such appreciation. Then, perfect silence will persist endlessly. I guess that’s one way to bring about perfection, but it most definitely is not my preference. It goes without saying that I fall squarely on the other side. Ipernity’s blogging feature provides me the opportunity to elaborate on my position in this debate.

The criticism advanced in the discussion is really a variant of the recurrent criticism aimed at limiting expression that has existed as far back as the human record extends in time. It is a quest for conformity, structure, and iron-clad order. Toward that end, arguments have been made that such expression is not tasteful, is inconsistent with prevailing thought, is incorrect, or even dangerous. The reality is that if all expression—oral, written, artistic, and musical—were, in fact, structured and limited, the world would essentially be a sterile place. There would be no place for that “weed” named creativity that has transformed the world time and again. The yearning for new knowledge would have been suffocated, taking with it exploration and science. Innovation and progress would have been unfamiliar concepts. Humanity would have imprisoned itself in a perpetual (or at least as long as the earth can sustain life) Dark Ages-type situation where survival was always difficult, each day brought existential threats, differing peoples were automatically viewed as hostile or worse, lifespans were brutally short, and the "quality of life" was an oxymoron. Fortunately, that’s not the world we inhabit in the still early years of the 21st century.

Thanks to a growing appreciation of the value of free expression, humanity was able to break free of any such bottleneck. Art, and photography is one example of art, is a creative exercise. Creativity is unstructured and unlimited. It pushes boundaries. It transcends perspectives. It gives viewers the opportunity to see things and perceive them through unlimited angles. Different people have different tastes. Hence, one person might love a particular photo. Another might prefer something else. There is no problem in such differences. The problem arises when one tries to impose one’s preferences on another. Then, what one is really doing, is stripping the other person of his/her own originality. To do so is to essentially dehumanize the other person as it is the uniqueness that gives each person his or her own identity.

Moreover, when it comes to creative expression, there is no “one-size-fits-all” rule of what is good and what isn’t. Creative expression is not a fixed equation that can only lead to the same answer every time. Furthermore, perceptions through which creative expression is evaluated are not static.

If one has some sense of art history, one need only look back to the late 19th Century when painters such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, among others burst onto the scene with works that featured distinct brush strokes and outdoor scenes often highlighting nuances in lighting brought about by the time of day or season. Many viewed their work, to put it in contemporary parlance, as little more than trash. Their mortal sin in the eyes of their critics was that they dared break out of the then dominant mold of still-life, in-studio painting. Even during their lifetime, tastes changed. Today, the once-reviled Impressionist paintings are among the most widely-viewed and appreciated masterpieces all across the world.

The above commentary concerns artistic expression, but what about the comments? Are they really necessary or even desirable? They certainly are not compulsory.

The starting point for any kind of relationship—friendship or romantic—is mutual respect. Without that seed, no relationship can grow, much less flourish then survive the test of time. On a site such as Ipernity, a simple comment provides the first opportunity to demonstrate mutual respect. The combination of mutual respect and regular interaction allows people to cultivate an ability to tolerate one another’s differences and appreciate one another’s similarities. Differences exist because each person is unique. Commonalities exist because different people can find interest, appeal, or even passion in the same experiences or endeavors. Over time, the regular interactions demonstrate reliability. Reliability is the cornerstone of trust. Trust is the special substance that gives relationships of all kinds the capacity to endure, even as people change and they are impacted by a continual stream of events and experiences while time sweeps by.

To be sure, not every person appreciates that Ipernity is a site that is simultaneously about hosting/sharing photos and fostering a sense of community, one comprised of persons from all parts of the world. For many, myself included, the photos are enriching, but the sense of community is what makes it a lively, dynamic, and exciting place. That Ipernity has a first-rate team that values its users’ experience adds to the overall experience.

Not everyone shares my appreciation for what Ipernity is, nor do I expect them to do so. Some undoubtedly crave a quieter place, a sort of museum where people glimpse works then move on. For them, rather than tilting at windmills to try to transform Ipernity into something it is not and can never become, perhaps a site that is strictly about photo sharing sans social community might offer a more satisfying venue.

Finally, no matter where one falls in this debate, my single suggestion is for each person to try to be true to himself or herself. The Internet is a vast and still rapidly expanding place. If one looks, one is almost certain to find what one seeks.