What makes a good photograph?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by erica_scourti, Oct 11, 2014.

  1. Hi everyone...big question, I know!
    I'm asking because I'm an artist and writer who's been asked to write a piece on what makes a good photo. I thought it would be more interesting to get the views of other people via photography communities- so, my apologies if I'm posting in the wrong place or if this is off-topic!
    Anyway- what, in your your own opinion makes a good photo, one you are happy with, a successful photo?
    For example...what response do you aim for in your audience, how important is equipment and skill over theme and subject etc. Any ideas or thoughts very gratefully received- and I'll post responses in the piece itself, which will be posted on Photoworks UK site later this month, with links to your if you supply one.
    Thanks in advance
    Erica
     
  2. For me, a good photograph is one that pleases me, or if I'm selling it, one that pleases the person buying it. Quite frankly, I don't really care if someone else says "meh", it's not for them.

    Having said that, what pleases me is surprise. I shoot mainly film, so I rarely see the "results" until after I've left the scene. Below is one of my favorite photographs taken by me. I have no doubt that some will say "meh", some will hate it, and a few will say well done. But they don't have to tell me, and it's ok if they don't like it.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhowardphoto/3778928863/in/set-72157619297235019
    It doesn't hurt to have a great subject. But there have to be a billion pictures taken every year of Stonehenge. This one surprised me because I didn't notice the crows when I took it. This particular series was taken with my trusty Konica Autoreflex TC, 135/3.2 Hexanon, on my very last roll of APX 25.
    One last note: I am a firm believer in the philosophy that if a picture doesn't "do it" for you, you weren't close enough. When taking pictures of any scene, I don't worry much about the big picture. I prefer to pick out details, and let the very (me, most of the time) put together the scene for themselves.
     
  3. If only I'd knew.... I'd be a good photographer myself.
    It's hard to pin down, and it isn't one thing in specific that makes a photo good to me, or not. A landscape photo has different requirements than a street photo, and is served with a different look and treatment often, that would be detrimental for the other. A documentary photo is usually part of a series, a portrait more often stands on its own. So, it's hard to point at a specific technical or compositional aspect that makes the difference.
    For the photos I make myself, what makes me happy with one if it comes out the way I envisioned it - communicating the atmosphere I tried to capture, communicate the emotion that spawned it - so to a certain level, it has to feel personal and really mine. It sounds a like a bar set pretty low, but it's not often I'm really happy with what comes out. There is always something left that could have been done better. I call it successful if people feed back to me they are somehow moved by it, that it touched them; that certainly helps feel better about a photo, though I might still be unhappy about it myself.
    In viewing photos of others, I care about the communication most. A lot of photos show beautiful scenes, objects, people, and that's it. They're an image of something, and do not go beyond that. That can be fine and even the aim, but they're not the photos that will stick with me, inspire me or wow me. Also technical competence (or excellence) is really just a very tiny part of it; composition and placement of elements much more. Seeing how light and shadow can play is to me a key quality; managing to translate that and use light clever makes all the difference. What I rate good photos are either narrative, more about a certain atmosphere than a object, ambiguous, inviting to let fantasy fill the gaps in the story, photos of the unremarkable and mundane, rather than the special and magnificent. Photos that aren't obvious or a statement ("showing a thing"), but those that require me to be an active part of the 'viewing experience', and that allow me sufficient room to project myself into that role.
    I'm quite sure my description is very vague, but as said, it's not that easy to pin down :)
     
  4. For me it is simple, and much like the criteria of a good painting - communiucation.
    A technically excellent painting, sculpture or photograph is nice, but what I think each of these needs to be to be elevated to good (I interpret you to mean this word as aesthetically accomplished, successful or excellent) is the quality of the approach and result by the artist photographer.
    Does the photograph communicate something the viewer may not have expected or is charmed by the result - that is, an emotional and/or aesthetic statement that is unique or exceptional? The perception of a subject matter by the photographer that results in an image that is beyond what might be considered as a normal view of the subject matter, one that allows the artist and viewer to see the subject matter in two dimensions and in a new or different light, emotionally and aesthetically (symbolism, composition, light, the use of point,line and forms).
     
  5. >>> Anyway- what, in your your own opinion makes a good photo, one you are happy with, a successful photo? For example...what response do you aim for in your audience...
    For me, a good photograph stimulates a viewer's imagination by withholding information and poses questions, rather than supplying a complete set of answers - thus letting the viewer conjure a narrative. It makes little difference if that narrative is accurate or what I had in mind when making the photograph. Withholding information can occur through choices made at capture time, using shadow, light, composition, ambiguity, mystery, etc.
    >>> ... how important is equipment and skill over theme and subject etc.
    Equipment, again for me, is not very important (within bounds, of course) - for example, the photo below was made with my cell phone camera.. Making good photographs is about seeing and using one's imagination contemplating what's in front of the lens, and then constructing a composition that stirs a viewers mind.
    .
    [​IMG]
    Stanford, CA • ©Brad Evans 2014
    .
     
  6. SCL

    SCL

    Selfishly - if it appeals to me, it is a good photograph. It may rank low on technical merits, theme, composition, color, or any other attributes...it the best answer I can give is its personal appeal.
     
  7. "what, in your your own opinion makes a good photo, one you are happy with, a successful photo?"
    A very generic question that I suspect will result in generalized answers in broad strokes.
    It's akin to asking what makes good music; a virtually impossible question to answer without narrowing to a specific genre that will invariably result in identifying attributes which are not shared by music from another genre.
    For example, what makes a good landscape photo, a wedding photo, a street photo, an astrophoto, might share common attributes, but they will only account for a tiny fraction of their individual dissection of desirable characteristics.
     
  8. A good photo...
    ... is one that makes you smile.
    ...is one that makes you feel at one with the universe.
    ...is one that disturbs you and makes you edgy.
    ...is one that answers a question.
    ...is one that makes you feel in love.
     
  9. A good photograph is like any piece of art. It's one that, for the viewer, works on emotional, aesthetic, and intellect levels
    of perception.
     
  10. A good photo is different from a photo I like.
    Ansel Adams, IMO, makes good (even great) photos. I don't much like them.
    Goodness to me is more objective than subjective. So a good photo has agreed-upon characteristics among overlapping groups of people. There's no science of goodness but neither do I think it's purely subjective.
    Often, a good photo, IMO, will achieve its expression or purpose. But that doesn't mean I have to like, agree with, or think too much of the expression or purpose.
     
  11. To paraphrase myself quoting John Berendt quoting Jim Williams, good photography pisses off all the right people.
     
  12. Semantics aside, a good/effective photograph to me is one that stimulates an emotional reaction in the viewer. It can be any emotion, but it causes a "ripple" in the emotional system of the viewer. Because we are all different, this can vary a lot from person to person. Some works of art and photographs trigger emotions in a wide range of people, or a large group of people, or sometimes just a small group of people (like art gallery curators, for example).
     
  13. I can't decide from hour to hour what makes a good photo. I like some in the morning, come back in the afternoon and wonder WTF? Like music - a tune will grab me sometimes and annoy me other times.
    In order for any photo to elicit a reaction from a viewer, it has to be noticed among all the images we are flooded with. That takes a hook of some sort. but cheap visual tricks don't have staying power.
    Some critics and/or coaches say that you have to have something to say, and know what it is before you start. I dunno. Brad prefers questions; is that different? I don't know, but I sure like his photos.
    Fred says there are good photos he doesn't like. That implies there is some standard by which they are good, doesn't it?
    I came to this thread hoping to sort out some of my confusion, and it's not working! Is this some sort of cruel joke just to confuse me? I don't know why --- there's no challenge in confusing me.
    I recently read a quote by a photography blogger (can't remember which one) of a musician who said roughly : "there's a lot of ways to start making a song, from a rhythm, a guitar riff, bit of melody, lyric, etc. .. and it really doesn't matter much where you start." Same goes for photos was the implication of the quoter.
    Maybe the question is a fool's errand like 'tree falling in deserted forest making any sound?' that just doesn't matter.
    Then there are family photos that are records of people and occaisions that are meaningless to others, but are more important to some than any other photos in the world just because they exist as records.
     
  14. I've often come across high end commercial photographers showing landscape photos that are simply atrocious. Similarly, extremely competent landscape photographers will show photos revealing their ignorance in the rudiments of portrait lighting.
    In music, everything is specialized and an expert domain in itself. A competent classical violinist will have little clue as to what makes a great jazz drummer. I suspect there is an equivalent in photography even if we can objectively get past our own biases and preferences.
    There are simply too many variables to extract common attributes which will determine what constitutes "good". "Popular", perhaps, but "good" would be a stretch.
     
  15. Fred says there are good photos he doesn't like. That implies there is some standard by which they are good, doesn't it?​
    Yes. It's not always the same standard(s). Those standards are often agreed upon by a group among whom the photo is or isn't considered good. One of Ansel Adams's standards for good, and a lot of people who follow and/or respect him, was tonal range. For Stieglitz later in his career and those who accompanied him past the earlier days of photography, the pictorial approach became seen as bad. For me, good and bad have little to do with the emotional or expressive aspects of the photo. I tend to use much different words to describe those sorts of things. As I said, I use good and bad for more objective aspects of the craft. When it comes to the art and/or the aesthetics of it, more poetic or metaphoric descriptions often seem in order to me and judgments like good or bad don't necessarily cut it.
     
  16. Photos are experiences that are made by others for our consumption. But a photo owes me nothing, so if I'm not enjoying the experience of viewing it, should the negative attribution be directed toward some identifiable failing of the photo? or is it simply my inability to appreciate its attributes?
     
  17. I don't believe there are objectively good photographs at all. If you don't like Adams' photographs, Fred, they are not good.<br>Achieving a level of technical accomplishment (craft) may make a photograph a technically accomplished one. But unless that is all you are looking for (and too many people for my liking are. "Fine arts", celebrating technical accomplishment and no more, is not art. Aesthetics-by-number is not beauty.) there is no way you can call such a thing "good". It lacks in whatever else you hope to see, and that, simply, is not good.<br>I think you are deflating the word "good" and the word doesn't deserve that. It is a judgement, and you and your particular criteria decide what does or does not deserve to be called good. According to you. Not according to some group's technical-aesthetics-manifesto or rule book you can't accept as the begin all end all of what constitues a good photograph. That they too find things good, in their judgement, is perfectly fine. There is no law saying that the criteria have to be the same, that we have to like the same things for the same reasons. There is no problem burried in there, requiring a reduction of a word's meaning to what a particular manifesto says it means.<br>I'm curious: could you tell what words you use to describe a 'good' photograph that is also a good photograph, and why the word "good" can't do justice to what you think a poetically good photograph is? Why you think the word "good" isn't good enough for that?
     
  18. For me, its I wish I had been there and seen that, I wish I had tken that picture and hung it on my wall.
     
  19. If you don't like Adams' photographs, Fred, they are not good.​
    Q.G., You think I've reduced the word "good". I think you have. You have reduced "good" to "I like." I think "good" is more objective than the more subjective phrase "I like." I think it's important to have a more subjective phrase like "I like" to address taste and a more objective term like "good" to address quality.

    Merriam Webster's first three definitions of good:

    of high quality;
    of somewhat high but not excellent quality;
    correct or proper


    Another definition offered is:
    that can be relied on
    This latter definition comes close to the sense I talked about in one of my above posts about fulfilling the intended purpose, which is a good thing but not necessarily a quality I will like. Riefenstahl's photos made good propaganda. Whether I like them or not is a different matter. Some will hate them precisely because they're such good vehicles of the ubermensch mindset.
    _________________________________________________
    Speaking of reduction, I have a hard time reducing my like for photos to a bunch of listed criteria here. Each time I try, I realize I've left something out. It more depends on the circumstances of the photo and the combination of the the content, form, and style. Sometimes I like photos that communicate. Sometimes I like photos that picture something significant without really "communicating" much at all. Sometimes it has a lot to do with what the photographer or photo is saying to me or doing and sometimes it has little to do with that and my like for a photo simply has to do with the subject matter presented (for example pictures of my grandmother). But, of course, subject matter is hardly a guiding principle for why I like a photo. The one thing I can hope for about my own sense of what I like is that it will keep changing. Except the pictures of Grandma. I hope I always like them.
     
  20. Anyway- what, in your your own opinion makes a good photo, one you are happy with, a successful photo?
    For example...what response do you aim for in your audience...​
    I have no audience, nor am I aiming my photos to one. A good photo is the one that satisfies me. I take photos like others talk to themselves or sing while taking a shower.
     
  21. Might as well ask what makes a good book. The elements that go into it--plot, characterization, descriptions, theme--can't determine whether it's "good" or "successful." Those qualities are determined by the interaction between the author (photographer) and reader (viewer) each of whom brings his/her own experiences to the reading (viewing).

    That said, I have different standards for my own photographs from those of others. I view my pictures knowing what went into them, what I was trying for, what I wanted. In that sense, "success" is how well I accomplished that to my satisfaction. Sometimes I succeed, usually I don't, rarely I surpass them.

    Equipment enters into the equation only insofar as I get the picture I want. In decades of exhibits, no one has ever asked what camera I used for any photo. The same with skill: the skill to take the picture that you want is what matters.

    As for my audience, I usually find that the pictures I like best are the ones viewers like. However, it's personal. A photo, such as the one below, that I consider "good" and "successful" a friend considers "depressing." So, it depends. And thank goodness for that!

    --Sally
    00csyo-551774084.jpg
     
  22. Sally, interesting thoughts and picture. I think we often like depressing things. Think of all the tear-jerker movies people like (and that are also good—in that they're well made). And yet, some people would prefer not to be depressed by a movie or photo (which is their right), so while recognizing your photo is a very good one, they simply might not like it.
    Speaking of which, Q.G., I'm thinking of all the times I've heard people say, "That was a bad movie but I liked it anyway." I go to bad movies and watch some pretty bad TV shows I wind up liking. Guilty pleasures!
     
  23. The best definition of "good" (or rather: our best use of the word, as in "fit for its intended purpose" ;-) ) indeed goes along the lines of "fit for its purpose". Indeed fully in line with your "fullfilling the intended purpose", Fred.<br>Pretty obvious stuff, but i'm going to say it anyway: something can be good, and bad, according to what aspect of it you're adressing. A bad film can be not good because it is cheaply made, not adheres to cinematic convention of technical excellence, etc. and be good because it was an enjoyable pastime. There is no single criterium. That is where your reduction starts: the intended purpose is not one set in stone, or fixed in an unmutable universal nature of a thing. It is whatever we want it to be.<br>So/and even less than "there is no" is there an objective criterium. No absolute and/or definite good. A knife is supposed to be sharp, and taking that as an objective criterium you could say that a blunt knife is not a good knife. But what is sharp, when is it sharp enough, does it have to be as sharp as shapr can be? There is no absolute: a blunt knife can be sharp enough for what i need it for. A sharper knife isn't necessarily a more good, a better knife, nor does it reduce the good but blunt knife i have to less than good. "Its intended purpose", whatever that is.<br>A reduction of the word good to something in the vein of adhering to a definite and particular criterium is indeed a reduction. We do not need other words. "Good" is good enough, if you allow it to.<br><br>So when is a photograph good? Depends on what you expect it to be (or 'do').
     
  24. A good photograph is one which fulfils its intended purpose. Period. Everything else is secondary (by a very long way).
     
  25. A good photograph is the sound of one hand clapping.
     
  26. The same as the sound of two hands clapping, David? Never seen a photograph that was anything like that...
     
  27. Then I suggest you open your eyes and look around.
     
  28. A good photo, the money shot for the pro, the photo you want to print and hang on your wall or share with your friends for the amateur. The photo that brings a smile or other emotion, that photo that makes us think or tells a story for the photo journalist. As photographers, we try to learn the rules of composition, light and exposure, the science of photography, lenses, focus, depth of field, sharpness, bokeh. But we also break the rules too.
    What helps make a good photo? An interesting subject, an interesting perspective, the simplest things sometimes play with light and shadow, color combinations that compliment and contrast. Probably one of the most important things is the artistic eye of a photographer seeing the shot to make or how to edit the shot in post production. Sometimes it is skill and talent, sometimes it is luck. There are formulas that can be followed and expensive cameras and lenses, but none of this will guarantee a good photo, there are many good photos taken with inexpensive cameras and photographers breaking the rules.
    So what makes a good photo. The photo that makes a connection to the viewer that accomplishes an intended reaction or purpose.
     
  29. Thanks everyone for your responses, considering how broad and generic the question is, as Sally (“Might as well ask what makes a good book.”) and others pointed out; and as many others picked up, it ends up becoming a question of what do even mean by ‘good’, and whether is there any objective definition of good to work by, and so on.
    Also I found it interesting to see that for some people, the photo is deemed good, or successful, if they themselves liked it- “I have no audience, nor am I aiming my photos to one. A good photo is the one that satisfies me.” (Thomas K.) For others, it’s to do with the audience, or viewer response- “a good/effective photograph to me is one that stimulates an emotional reaction in the viewer” (Steve) or even “good photography pisses off all the right people.” (Lex) For others the two are inter-related- communication was mentioned a few times (Wouter, Arthur) which for me is very much about the photographers connection to their audience.
    Like Wayne, I tend to think that, whatever their supposed ‘quality’ or formal attributes, some photos “are more important to some than any other photos in the world just because they exist as records.” But then this negates all the attention and care given by photographers to capture an image that matters to them, since the importance resides with the moment being captured, and the time/ people/ experiences it evokes- rather than it’s representation in a specific photograph.
     
  30. Erica, just to understand a bit better: which direction would you see this going for the research/investigation you do?
    I think that the notion "are more important to some than any other photos in the world just because they exist as records" is probably quite true for many, but in no way brings you closer to an answer to your question. I think the semantics of what "good" means brought out a good split: "good" as in personal preference, "good" as in ranking high against the medium standard, "good" as fit to purpose (with a clearly defined purpose, else everything is). Your notion is just "good" in the sense of a personal preference. Might be enough, but was that really what was meant?
    And the "existing to be a record" is a tricky one too; because it means you do not like the photo because of its quality as a photo, but rather of whatever it is an image of. Does that make it a good photo, or a good subject?

    And following that reasoning, is there such thing as a bad photo, and what makes it a bad photo then? There are technically highly incompetent photos of subjects not worth mentioning with compositions that were a mere afterthought, if at all, and yet.... they work, somehow, in a quirky way, they work. Along all lines, they ought to be bad, but for somebody, it may just be that one photo that matters. Is it a good photo, or do some people just have a weird taste?
    There are more people favouring the Ansel Adams' landscapes, Brassaï's photos, Anne Geddes' babies or Avedon's portaits, rather than, say, yours or mine. Is that just sheep following the herd? Or is it fair to say that these photos have something that makes them good to a lot of people, and hence "more generically considered good"? I don't think there is a solid and clear-cut answer, but if I'd be looking at what makes good photos, I'd be looking at those which draw an audience for a considerable while - and see what they've got in common, in one way or another.
    But (and hence I asked), it depends on where you'd want to take your investigation.
     
  31. Thanks everyone for your responses, considering how broad and generic the question is, as Sally (“Might as well ask what makes a good book.”) and others pointed out; and as many others picked up, it ends up becoming a question of what do even mean by ‘good’, and whether is there any objective definition of good to work by, and so on.
    Also I found it interesting to see that for some people, the photo is deemed good, or successful, if they themselves liked it- “I have no audience, nor am I aiming my photos to one. A good photo is the one that satisfies me.” (Thomas K.) For others, it’s to do with the audience, or viewer response- “a good/effective photograph to me is one that stimulates an emotional reaction in the viewer” (Steve) or even “good photography pisses off all the right people.” (Lex) For others the two are inter-related- communication was mentioned a few times (Wouter, Arthur) which for me is very much about the photographers connection to their audience.
    Like Wayne, I tend to think that, whatever their supposed ‘quality’ or formal attributes, some photos “are more important to some than any other photos in the world just because they exist as records.” But then this negates all the attention and care given by photographers to capture an image that matters to them, since the importance resides with the moment being captured, and the time/ people/ experiences it evokes- rather than it’s representation in a specific photograph.
     
  32. I agree in that there is no clear-cut answer- and actually there is not really clear-cut question, since as everyone's responses attest to, it very much depends on what is meant by 'good' in the first place (which the people who asked me to write the article also did not specify...)
    What I'm interested in on a personal level is 'what matters'- which is what I ask myself whenever I set out to make something. Does this matter, in some way- to me, to the world? While staying aware, of course, that what matters to me may not matter to anyone else...but still, I would at least hope it does.
    Beyond that, I suppose I value any direction the answers and investigation take- I don't have a outcome I am pursuing- or perhaps the debate itself is the outcome, rather than any specific answers.
    As for your question of whether people are following the herd in their favouring...I would say yes, not because we are sheep necessarily but because images which are famous, well-loved and known have a power quite regardless of their intrinsic value or formal qualities as images; in fact it's almost impossible to differentiate or to say whether they are loved 'as' images or as as images that are already loved by everyone else (which also happens with famous paintings). Part of their value is the fact that they are widely known and referenced, which creates a circular argument of sorts- but I wouldn't necessarily say it was about them being 'better' photos.
     
  33. A good photograph is one which fulfils its intended purpose. Period. Everything else is secondary (by a very long way).​
    David, what happens if someone makes a photo that fulfills its purpose but it's a completely uninteresting or exploitive or offensive photo. Not necessarily good, in my book, even though I think there are some offensive photos that are good. Just look at the Nudes section on PN, where the often puerile intentions are being fulfilled, and the results are nauseating, exploitive, or juvenile. Is that good?
    I think intentions often have to be separated from results. The road to hell and all that. The best of intentions likely go into many photos of downtrodden people on the street. The results, however, are often superficial and exploitive.
    I think expertise plays a role in assessing what's good. I'd rather hear what a group of cinematographers consider good cinematography than a group of ordinary movie-goers. I'd give some extra credence to what a group of photographers I respect think makes a good photo. I'd take the recommendation for a good surgeon from 100 surgeons over 100 lay patients. (I'm not a big fan of YELP.)
     
  34. A photo, or book, or anything trying to convey boredom by depicting boredom so emminently that it makes the viewer, or reader, or whatever feel extremely bored is hard to dismiss as not good. If the goal is to be boring, a boring picture is rather good.<br>When you are looking for more than there is, the shortcomings are not real. It's the expectation, or longing, that is not quite 'good'. When purile intentions (!) are being fulfilled, you perhaps should not be expecting something that isn't purile?<br><br>I of course agree that the results aren't always a match for the intentions. After all, not everything is good.<br><br>If expertise is needed to recognize whether something is good, unless that is exactly the intention (for instance if it is meant to be a test or a riddle), the thing fails, is as useful, as good as a light hidden inside a hermetically sealed black box.
     
  35. The thing that's good about good, IMO, is that when someone doesn't recognize a thing's goodness, I can often comfortably say they are wrong. I never call someone's taste wrong, but I am content to call someone's judgment of something wrong. If someone thinks the surgeon who botched 50 out of 100 operations is a good surgeon, they're wrong. If someone makes a boring picture, even though they want it to be so, if I think it's a bad picture, I'll gladly say so. I use many other criteria besides intention to judge photos good or bad, different criteria at different times.
    As for looking for more than there is . . . Yes! When looking at photos (and art), I generally look for more than there is. And, when it comes to expertise, when a loved one of yours needs that good surgeon, I hope they'll take my advice rather than yours.
     
  36. How can a picture meant to be boring be a bad picture, because it is boring? You're not judging the picture there, but are saying that you do not find boredom/being bored by looking at the picture very appealing. And you are right: it isn't.<br>Just as not everything is good, not everything is easy either. Despite my last paragraph (rather definite that was) it may be that we need to know or recognize the thing that makes something good before we can recognize it as such.<br>I wouldn't call what is lacking "expertise", because that suggests some higher order thing. It's information. If we are to judge a thing by how it fulfills its intended purpose, and it isn't immediately obvious what that is, we may need to be told.<br>If you see a boring pictures, and call it bad because of being boring, and i tell you it is meant to give you the feeling of having looked at a boring picture, you can recognize how well it succeeded in what it was supposed to do. It's nothing special: we often need some help to understand things.<br><br>Now that surgeon thing: i never implied or said that a bad surgeon is a good thing, if and when you need a good surgeon (and we usually do). The implication that, because we usually do need a good surgeon, a bad surgeon would always be a bad thing is fallacious. If and when (for whatever purpose) a bad surgeon would be needed, a good surgeon would be a bad thing, a bad surgeon would be perfect. It is a rather simplistic thingy (both versions, your and mine): if we suppose we need X and not not-X, we need X and not not-X. The error is in assuming that we always need X and never not-X. The error is in assuming that pictures may never be, say (as it is the example used), boring.<br>I hope that someone who needs a bad surgeon (and it's another matter what a bad surgeon would be, or whether a good surgeon could also be a bad one, by adjusting his quality to match the task presented to him) would indeed go looking for a bad surgeon.
     
  37. One objection I have to restricting a good photo to one that fulfills the intentions of the photographer is that there are many good anonymous photos. There is certainly a long history of good paintings whose authors remain unknown. We judge these artworks good despite the fact that we don't and in many cases can't know the intentions behind them.
    Another objection I have to restricting a good photo to one that fulfills the intentions of the photographer is that many good photos come about with accidents and surprises being the best thing about them. Imagine my going out with the intention of shooting a sad photo. As I trip the shutter, without even seeing it or knowing it, something significant and comical happens in the background which makes the photo anything but sad. I only discover it later when I get it back from the lab. It would be ludicrous for me to deny the photo's being good because the comedy was not what I intended. How much credit I take for it might be in question (though I give credit to the photographer for being there for the accident), but whether the photo is good should not be denied because it didn't fulfill the photographer's intentions.
    I'm a firm believer in the connection between photo and photographer and all that means. The more info I have about a photographer, the deeper my experience of his or her photos may be. But, I'm also a believer in the artwork being separate from the artist and being able to be judged good or bad without such knowledge. Any photo or painting can be taken at face value alone.
    The intentions of most photographers I know are not always that clearcut or scientifically determinable. Many of my own intentions can be quite specific when it comes to certain of my photos. Many are much less so. I'm not always terribly in touch with what I want and am more winging it, leaving some things to chance, some to instinct, some to past experience. In addition to intention, I allow for such instincts, for my history, my cultural proclivities, for accident, misunderstanding myself, even anger and sadness and especially my subconscious all to influence me to some degree. If I don't fully understand or know my own or another's intentions, that would mean I could never assess whether my own work or their work (paintings, photos, sculptures, dances) was good or not. That, IMO, is not an acceptable approach to what's good in art.
     
  38. “I have no audience, nor am I aiming my photos to one. A good photo is the one that satisfies me.” (Thomas K.) For others, it’s to do with the audience, or viewer response- “a good/effective photograph to me is one that stimulates an emotional reaction in the viewer”​
    The photographer can be his own audience. After all, when you look at pictures that you shot of your family, don;t you feel love all over again? The point is that when the photo elicits a reaction in the viewer, whoever that might be, that's a good picture.
    On the other hand, some people may consider "good" as having to do with the technical aspects: focus, DOF, composition, BW or color, etc. Technical aspects can be good but the photo is not because it elicits little or no responce from the audience, The opposite could be valid as well where the photo plucks at your heartstrings, but the picture stinks from a technical standpoint.
    So which good are you referring too?
     
  39. But, Fred, now you are assuming that intentions always have to be that extra bit of information you need to be told. If you look at a photograph, it may be that it is not what you think it might be. But since a good photograph is one that does what it supposed to do, chances are that it is not, that it will grab you the way it is intended to.<br><br>Accidents. Yes, they happen. But are hardly ever entirely accidental. More coincidental. A photographer may stumble upon a photo opportunity he wasn't looking for and that isn't not in line with what he set out to do. But how is it that he came in the circumstances in which the shot presented itself, and (more importantly) why did he recognize it as a photo opportunity and did not ignore it as one of many other things he wasn't interested in?<br>And when indeed as accidental as your example, of not even knowing what you were taking a picture of until you saw the result: what has that got to do with being a good photograph? Why is it ludicrous to deny that the photo is good? A funny and lucky one, yes. But - as the firm believer in the connection between photo and photographer you say you are - how, would you say, is it good?<br><br>As far as an artwork (or work of art) being separate from the artist and being able to be taken at face value is concerned: it indeed is, if it is a good one. It does what it is supposed to do, without needing (much) help. A photo that needs a full explanation of what we are supposed to see because it doesn't show any of it itself is a perfect example of what is not a good photo.<br>And what, or rather who, made its 'face' such that it speaks for itself? The face value of a work is the intent of the artist put in material. When it is a good work, that is.<br><br>Then the thing about how conscious you go about creating things. It doesn't matter much. What matters is that other people, the audience, recognize what you are doing, even if you are less aware of it yourself than they might be. You mention instincts; how could we even talk about instincts if we did not recognize that living beings sometimes act instinctively while we have an understanding of what these instincts may be, what their 'intent' is, though the instinct driven being has not? Moreover, not fully understanding your own intentions is not the same as not having intentions, nor does it mean that noone else can see what they are either. In short: it does not get in the way of what makes a photo a good photo.
     
  40. And when indeed as accidental as your example, of not even knowing what you were taking a picture of until you saw the result: what has that got to do with being a good photograph? Why is it ludicrous to deny that the photo is good? A funny and lucky one, yes. But - as the firm believer in the connection between photo and photographer you say you are - how, would you say, is it good?​
    Because, as I've also said, photos exist as separate and separable entities from the photographer as well. I think a camera placed in the city square which takes pictures randomly can take a good picture. I can say it's good because I've been arguing for good not being limited to the fulfillment of intentions, so the photo itself would have characteristics/qualities that would make it good. Not absolute ones. They would be dependent on who was looking and in what context.
    I'm not diminishing the importance of fulfilling one's goals or intentions. That may, indeed, be good. But it's a good to the photographer. A good photo is something different from what may be a good in terms of the photographer's will and fulfillment of that will. In other words, what's good for the photographer isn't always good for the photo. Fulfilling goals is, on the whole, good (unless your goal is to kill someone without justification, of course, so there are limits even to the good of goal fulfillment) for those who set the goals or who wish the person to achieve his goals. A good photo, on the other hand, has characteristics separate from the person who made it. Just like I am an individual who has relationships, with my parents, children, siblings, spouse, I am also an individual quite on my own and would like to be treated as such, even as you recognize the influence of those to whom I'm related. A photo deserves the same consideration.
    My artistic appreciation incorporates both seeing the photo as a product of the photographer and seeing the photo as an entity separate from the photographer. Somewhere in that dialogue is my full experience of the photo, and I don't limit my judgments of photos to one or the other sphere.

    __________________________________________________

    I think I'll leave it here. We're starting to go round in circles. Point is, we've looked at the situation from a lot of different angles and there's lots of food for thought. You're not convincing me and I sense I'm not convincing you, which may not even be the point. Fleshing out these things helps in our creative pursuits and getting different perspectives widens our scope.
     
  41. David, what happens if someone makes a photo that fulfils its purpose but it's a completely uninteresting or exploitive or offensive photo.
    Fred, I think the principle holds up. Millions of people are posting personal pictures on social media of themselves and friends pulling faces into the camera [phone] while drunk. To any third party not involved in the original bacchanalia, such pictures are totally tedious, but the authors are apparently delighted with them and find them good. There are no absolutes - I can't imagine a single picture that everyone in the world would think is good.
    Nor do I find work by anonymous photographers a problem. It is an intrinsic ability of photography to communicate the mood of an event to viewers who were not there - it's what professionals do all the time. Of course, in cases where an intention is not absolutely clear cut, viewers may well arrive at their own interpretations. Which brings us round in a circle - an art photographer's intention may well be for viewers to make their own interpretation of his/her work.
    I think intentions often have to be separated from results.
    I would flip this around (and in the process emphasise that my statement includes the word "fulfils"). In many cases, lack of skill or simply bad luck mean that a picture does not convey the intended message, in many other cases, as I said before, contemporary artists are very apt to deliberately create work which asks questions but does not provide unambiguous (or indeed any) answers, but simply says "I found this interesting, but I choose not to say (or do not know) why and am just laying the image before you to make of what you will". In these cases, the good/bad verdict is a completely personal one on the part of each viewer.
     
  42. Fred, I think the principle holds up. Millions of people are posting personal pictures on social media of themselves and friends pulling faces into the camera [phone] while drunk. To any third party not involved in the original bacchanalia, such pictures are totally tedious, but the authors are apparently delighted with them and find them good.​
    If the principle, David, is that a photo is good if it fulfills its intention, then why wouldn't the third party find it good? The third party presumably knows it fulfills the intentions of the drunk that took it, yet that third party may well recognize what a bad photo it is. Your allowance for a third party not to find good this photo which fulfills the photographer's intention means that there are obviously other criteria people use to determine whether or not a photo is good or not. I completely understand you when you say the drunk folks involved would find it good. But that's just them. If no one else does, there are reasons they don't. And those reasons have to do with other things besides the fulfillment of the photographer's intentions. And those reasons are just as valid as the reasons of the drunk folks. That's why there's healthy disagreement about what's good, as you say, and why there will never be universal agreement on this or that photo being good. Because there are no absolutes, such as goal fulfillment being the absolute determiner of goodness. It would be different if there were disagreement as to whether the drunk's photo fulfilled the intentions. That would account for some people thinking it's good and some not. But under your quite singular criterion of goodness, if there is agreement about fulfillment of intention, there should be agreement about goodness. Or maybe the third party is in the wrong. The third party doesn't know he should think the photo is good, for the reasons you've given. Try convincing the third party, or me, for that matter, of that! :)
     
  43. Well Fred, you are separating what a photo 'does' (fulfill its purpose, for instance by leaving you feeling annoyed) and how you happen to like that. That is, of course, perfectly fine. The question though is where in this the photo ends and where you begin: is it a good photo you find boring, or is it a boring photo and it, for that reason, cannot be good?<br>Photos taken by traffic cams are supposed to catch cars running red lights. A good traffic cam photo is one that does. But you and i may see something else in it too, and appreciate it for that. We are then projecting our own intentions, that probably aren't the same as those of the people who invented the traffic camera, those of who bought and put these things up, etc.<br>If we expect photos to fulfill our own intentions, not that of the maker, we can find something good about it, "separate [...] from the photographer". But it is still fulfilling intentions.<br><br>Is it then really a good photo?<br>If i design a piece of furniture, say a small chest of drawers, and people happen to think it makes a very good chair, better than most of their other chairs, what does that mean? It can still be a good chest of drawers. It can also be a good chair, even though it was not my intention, but that of the people using it that way.<br>If i design another bit of furniture, and noone even sees what it is supposed to be, nor does anyone like it as a thing that has no function but being there and be seen (i.e. they can't find a way to project some sort of purpose in/on the thing), it can still fulfill my intentions (if that is what i wanted it to be, it is perfect), but not anyone else's.<br>In short: it is in the eye of the beholder. If we don't get it, we don't get it and the photo is not good. If we find something else to like in it, distinct and separate from the maker's intentions, it can be both a good and a bad photo. If we are not pleased by what the photo does, it probably is indeed a good photo. Unless we are not pleased because we recognize both the intent and how the photo falls short of fulfilling it. Unless (and that's what makes this such an interesting thing) that was exactly the intention to begin with: leaving us with the impression that it is a photo failing to fulfill it's intentions. Etcetera.<br>It becomes a problematic question when we start applying some external rules, such as 'it must always leave me feeling good about the world' or 'it must conform with my standards of beauty', or 'it must leave me feeling i got a glimps of some more exalted world'.
     
  44. A good photograph is the one which corresponds to the image I saw in my mind. I do not even think of an audience when I take a photograph, I think only of what I am trying to achieve. Equipment is not important beyond its ability to allow me to produce the photograph I want. Technique (skill) is likewise only important insofar as it contributes to the final print. Subject matter is of prime importance. The questions I ask myself are: What do I want to photograph? Why? What do I want to say about the subject? How will I say it photographically?
     
  45. What makes a good photograph? An artist makes a good photograph.
    Alfredo Jaar:
    Absolutely. Artists are human beings, and every human being has responsibilities. Artists are an integral part of society, and within society we are very privileged because artists have been blessed with time and resources to think, to speculate, to dream about different worlds, better worlds. This privilege comes with a responsibility, to respond to what surrounds us, and to suggest models of thinking about society and about the world, and that’s what the best art does. The best works of art take you to places you have never been – I’m referring to mental places -places where we create new models of thinking, and new possible ways of seeing the world. And that’s a tremendous responsibility.​
    The rest are just photographs and who cares if they are good or not, all being the same, just photographs, most the products of minds whose occupants refuse to embrace what really surrounds them, that which though always allusive, we recognize and want.
    http://www.laurenstrohacker.org/#/tca/
     
  46. That's blowing things out of proportion in an disproportionate way, Charles.<br>It is not a tremendous responsibility at all. It is also something we can't help doing. Everyone one of us. It is often called "(day) dreaming", and leads to great amounts of rubbish as well as some good stuff.<br>Furthermore, it does not provide much of a clou to what makes a photograph a good one, apart from asserting that if it is made by an artist, it is. Which is of course not so. An artist is someone trying to use a medium to share something, and idea, a feeling, something other people can recognize and respond to. It's not a privilege, but something we all do. Not all equally weel. And not all do it professionally/exclusively. It may be a privilege to be able to do nothing else. But it bears very little (no) relation to what the end product qualifies as: art, good or inconsequential rubbish.
     
  47. In his recent review of a photobook for publisher Hatje Cantz's blog, Jeffery Ladd laid down his base criteria for photography:
    " A photograph should be more interesting than the subject and transcend its obviousness"

    You can read the full article here:
    http://cphmag.com/
     
  48. Andrew I like that quote.
    Q.G., I'm approaching the problem by narrowing the scope, which narrowing I agree doesn't get us any closer to an answer.
     
  49. >>> What makes a good photograph? An artist makes a good photograph.

    I've seen *many* poor photographs made by photographers claiming to be artists.
     
  50. There's the rub. The quote didn't say, "Anyone claiming to be an artist makes a good photograph." The quote said "An artist makes a good photograph." While I also don't agree with this quote, I find it important to remember that artists are a different subset from those claiming to be artists. The claim to be an artist does not an artist make. For me, an artist is someone who makes art and it also is or can be a lifestyle. I've heard many people claim to be artists who aren't.
    ________________________________________
    Charles, like you, I find the idea of the relationship between art/photography and responsibility an interesting one.
     
  51. Still, I don't see why it is held that an artist (claimed or otherwise) makes a good photograph.
    Can people who are not artists make good photographs? Fred, are you an artist?
     
  52. Brad, I agree with you. I don't think it's right to hold that an artist makes a good photo. Yes, people who are not artists make good photos. And people who are artists make bad photos. I was just making the point that one's claim to be an artist doesn't make them so.
     
  53. Brad the OP question, what makes a good photograph: I was just exploring the 'what' of that question. Exploring the maker, not the photograph though the OP clearly meant to explore qualities of photographs not qualities of photograph makers.
    So I could have said 'a good photographer makes a good photograph.' I'm not trying to be very logical, we could say too that a good photograph can also be made by a bad photographer (one hole in one does not a good golfer make). One question begets another, so we could ask what makes a good photographer, or even, what makes a good artist?
     
  54. Well the photo stands as art and is "good" regardless of who shot it. Also, luck can play a great part as well, for amateurs and pros.
     
  55. Circular reasoning: a good photographer makes a good photograph. And how do we know he/she is a good photographer? Because he/she makes a good photograph. Says nothing.<br><br>I'm extremely doubtful about that "responsibility" aspect that got injected into the discussion (apart from that it also says nothing about what a good photograph makes). What responsibility? To what or whom? What gets offended, and how, or what else would happen if you fail miserably in that reponsible task?<br>There is no responsibility.
     
  56. When the question is 'what behaviors make good art' I favor setting strict logic aside; and specifically 'art' at least narrows the inquiry down a lot, but for me leaves me with even less to say. Particularly when 'good' involves a value judgment, though I am of the belief that we have responsibilities to sort through when sending and receiving value judgments. I don't think artists' responsibilities are as unique and weighty as that quote from Jaar suggests, perhaps coming from his personally over identifying with his muse and generalizing his excess responsibility feelings to other artists? https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius Gilbert speaks to that degree of responsibility as an unnecessary burden encouraged of artists after the renaissance.
     
  57. But is any good photo art? Or can a photo be completely not art, but still good? To me, these two things aren't necessarily linked at all. There are art photos that I think are simply bad, and non-art photos which are really good. I think adding "art" into the discussion creates more complications than it solves, really.
    There is responsibility in the communication envisioned with the photography, just as any of us carry responsibility for the words we speak (or write here). That's not unique to art, but to any sort of communication.
     
  58. I adopt a moral responsibility to the subjects of my portraits, so that if one were to ask me not to show his or her photo in public, I wouldn't. Others might go strictly by their legal obligations. I sometimes limit myself more than the law requires for the benefit of others. I take on the responsibility not to scare mothers on the street by photographing their children without permission. Leni Riefenstahl showed no sense of responsibility for what the murderers she was shooting for were doing and therefore shot propaganda for the Nazis. Interestingly, despite that, she made good photos. With unspeakably dishonorable intentions and to a murderous purpose. Now, with Riefenstahl, one could falter by trying to say that her purpose in Olympiad was to show the beauty of the human body, and she achieved that, therefore the photos are good. That would, IMO, be myopic. Because the ultimate purpose was to show the German race as physically (and, therefore, in other ways) superior. Purpose is complex and rarely is only a single-minded purpose involved in anything we create. They're good because they have certain photographic characteristics that make them compelling to look at and visually charged. But limiting her purpose to that would be, IMO, a superficial reading of her work. They're good propaganda because they fulfilled the Nazis purpose and desires. They're good photos because of how they look.
     
  59. Now, I don't see judgments of good art rising or falling on purpose but I certainly do think purpose is involved with art. And if purpose is involved, responsibility would seem to, by necessity, go along with that, unless the purposes are being set forth and fulfilled by automatons or robots.
     
  60. "Now, I don't see judgments of good art rising or falling on purpose but I certainly do think purpose is involved with art. And if purpose is involved, responsibility would seem to, by necessity, go along with that, unless the purposes are being set forth and fulfilled by automatons or robots."
    Fred, you spoke of moral and ethical duties to which you are bound; as an artist, are you also bound by artistic duties? If so, what are they, and what are the rules governing them?
     
  61. " A photograph should be more interesting than the subject and transcend its obviousness"
    Sadly, yet another pronouncement from an ivory tower dweller who has never done any real-world photography. Had he done so, he would know that the challenge in, for example, photojournalism and advertising,is to make pictures which are AS interesting and informative concerning an event or product as the real thing. With portraiture, the task is to capture and express the personality of a walking talking breathing person in a two-dimensional still image. The statement could at a pinch apply to strolling around with a camera on a Sunday afternoon. Try "A photograph should capture the essence of the subject" - the version above smacks of arrogance, condescension and ignorance.
     
  62. I agree Wouter. Social responsibility (i.e. questions concerning when and why anything we do is morally good) that is not particular to art or to what makes a good photograph good, indeed. And as such a bit of a red herring here.<br>Leni Riefenstahl appears to be a favourite example of how good photos are put to bad use. Are her photos bad because what they were intended to do is morally bad? What would be, in my opinion, superficial is to confuse the quality of her photography with the quality of her purpose.<br>That boring photo i mentioned earlier is still a very good one if it was indeed intended to make you feel bored, even though you do not like how watching it makes you feel and don't like people who make you feel bored on purpose. What would the difference be, would you say, between two photos made with the same (morally reprehensible) intent and purpose, one that achieves that goal and one that does not?
     
  63. Leni Riefenstahl appears to be a favourite example of how good photos are put to bad use.​
    "Good" in what sense?
    --Lannie
     
  64. Lannie, look at them. What do YOU see and think?
    _________________________________________
    Are her photos bad because what they were intended to do is morally bad?​
    Already answered in my post above. They're good photos, despite the bad purposes for which they were made. That's why judgments of good when it comes to photos can be separated from the purpose of the photos. And, she ought to have been and to this day is being held responsible for them.
     
  65. Try "A photograph should capture the essence of the subject" - the version above smacks of arrogance, condescension and ignorance.​
    David, if that statement above does, which I don't think it does, then yours does too, which I also don't think it does. Both statements, like photos, are snapshots in time of something the speaker is thinking. They both seem genuinely felt and both are true in their own ways. The problem is when they are spoken to be universally or exclusively true, true for all photos. Each statement captures an important idea of what SOME photos can do. But neither is fully the whole story. Many portraits seem to capture the essence of the subject, though I've always questioned the validity of the notion of essence, since it's too fixed and too-fully-defining an idea for my tastes. Many portraits don't capture anything like an essence. They may capture more of a micro-expression that's relatable to a lot of viewers. A portrait sometimes is less about the person who's the subject and more a reflecting device for the viewer. Many portraits capture a significant fleeting glance, which won't give a clue about the person's so-called essence but rather the view of a telling human moment. A good portrait can even be very deceiving about the subject. It can be a flight of fantasy. It can be a projection of the photographer., but still a significant one.
    It's the same problem I have with trying to reduce "good photo" to one criterion. What works in one instance doesn't work in another. Our aesthetic judgments are relative to context and to individual work. If art has taught me anything, it's that there is nothing that applies to ALL. The minute we think we've got it, some artist comes along to prove us wrong. There are all kinds of reasons to judge something good. Often we agree. Art and the world would be very uninteresting if those reasons were always the same.
     
  66. Intent, seperating subject qualities from photographic qualities, ethical implications, the message vonveyed - it all can be good, bad, and independent of one another. And then there is the simple aesthetics still too. Something can be good and bad at the same time, depending on what you're looking for.
    The Riefenstahl example is interesting, because it adds the full complexity: morally bad and bad use - according to us, now (and yes, I'm not going to claim otherwise). But in her own day, her own society, the government found otherwise, and found it probably ethically, aesthetically excellent work. The historical, cultural context in which the photo is created is easy to condemn with our current-day knowledge and insights. But understanding it, and putting it into context is a whole different matter, but often very necessary to get a proper idea.
    And that's also the essence on why I also think no photo captures the essence of anything - it's presumtuous to think that we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of a situation or person while we shoot them to catch "the" essence. At best, we capture what in our (limited!) point of view could be an essence, as we perceive it.
    We tend to look at a photo, and call it either good, or bad. And then a little (or a lot) later on, we look a bit better, we study the results, we try to empathise and understand, and reach a far more balanced conclusion, where "good" or "bad" are essentially insufficient words. As stated in the OP, the question is too broad, but possibly I'd get away with calling a photo "good" if it catches my attention on first sight. Anything that happens afterwards, is bound to be a more muddy-grey verbose answer.
     
  67. To me a good photo is one I am excited and feel compelled to take and then feel even more excited in how it resulted. It is an intimate relation between the artist and his art. Once you go beyond that and involve the judgement of an audience it becomes marketing...
     
  68. I'm still not sure: do we now agree that reponsibility is something that is important, but not part of what makes a good photograph a good photograph?<br><br>I see a quite large and significant difference between saying that a photograph must transcend its subject and that it should capture it. Between needing to go above and beyond the subject into some imaginary realm (of Bigger Things perhaps?) and presenting the subject as it is.<br>You can indeed question what the essence of something is. I think the answer will be along the lines of: what we think it is. That is quite different from, rather less problematic than, looking for something beyond.<br><br>But i'm glad to see we again return to "fulfilling its purpose". I agree that many portraits manage to show the subject in a way that doesn't even make it instantly recognizable who the sitter is, even to his intimi. If we suppose the intent of a portrait is to show the person as we know him or her, a photograph that doesn't does not fulfill its purpose (duh... i know). It can be quite interesting still, and if that is the real purpose - to provide a fresh look, show the sitter as we might not expect him to be seen, for instance to point out that most people are more interesting than what we who think we know them assume - it is a good photograph again.<br>The essence and the intent... The intent is important. Showing the essence is just one possible intent. ([Think, for instance, back to those traffic cams. They do not intent to capture the essence of a car running a red light or driving too fast. They want to record cars running red lights or speeding in an identifiable way. If they do that, they are good photographs, and the inventor ans useres of those systems can feel quite happy about these succesful photographs.)<br><br>I agree, Fred, that one person's "good" is not necessarily everybody's "good". But it is quite a leap from there to "there is nothing that applies to ALL" and i'm not sure you landed safely. How about, for instance, what you say about responsibility and art?
     
  69. I think we're over-thinking this and getting too far into the weeds. If you spend more than three seconds looking at a picture, it's good. More than five, it's very good. Ten or more, it's probably your own.
     
  70. Would that be accumulative, so that a picture you look at for three seconds two or more times could be better than a single look full five second very good picture?
     
  71. Inspired by reading Mein Kampf:
    Riefenstahl heard candidate Adolf Hitler speak at a rally in 1932 and was mesmerized by his talent as a public speaker. Describing the experience in her memoir, Riefenstahl wrote: "I had an almost apocalyptic vision that I was never able to forget. It seemed as if the Earth's surface were spreading out in front of me, like a hemisphere that suddenly splits apart in the middle, spewing out an enormous jet of water, so powerful that it touched the sky and shook the earth".[20] According to the Daily Express of 24 April 1934, Leni Riefenstahl had read Mein Kampf during the making of her film The Blue Light. This newspaper article quotes her as having commented, "The book made a tremendous impression on me. I became a confirmed National Socialist after reading the first page. I felt a man who could write such a book would undoubtedly lead Germany. I felt very happy that such a man had come". She wrote to Hitler requesting a meeting. After meeting Hitler she was offered the opportunity to direct Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith), an hour-long propaganda film about the fifth Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg in 1933. Riefenstahl agreed to direct the movie after returning from filming a movie in Greenland, and it was funded entirely by the Nazi Party as the credits to the film show quite clearly. (Wikipedia)​
    --Lannie
     
  72. Ethics and esthetics: VALUE THEORY.

    --Lannie
     
  73. Michael, sometimes a limiting case can be used in order to make a point, or to be used as a single counter-example to show the invalidity of a generalization of the type "All photos can be evaluated apart from the circumstances, motives, or intent of those who took them, and apart from the consequences which they helped to bring about."
    Perhaps "most." Perhaps not "all."
    In any case, I did not raise Leni Riefenstahl's name in the course of the thread. It had already been introduced above--and with it the unstated allusion to Adolph Hitler.
    --Lannie
     
  74. Lannie, did you see any of Riefenstahl's photos before/without knowing the context in which they were made? From the second you know these photos were made to support the outrageous and insane ideas the nazis had, you will not be able to let go of that (or at least, I find it hard). But at that point, what are you judging? The photos, the times they were made in, Riefenstahl's willingness to cooperate, the nazi theories and madness, .... ?
    I think Fred rightfully tried to distinguish between judging the aesthetic qualities of the photos, and the intent / consequence of the photos (as good or bad), and as such introduced a very clear example with Riefenstahl.
    Photos can be evaluated in isolation from the circumstances, motives and intent. Just look at the photo, and nothing else, blank out all the other considerations. As long as you do not know a background story, there is just the photo. Whoever made it, whatever story dwells behind it.
    Now, I'm not saying judging it as a complete blank is better, and sure it's not to defend Riefenstahl's work in any way, but the thread rightfully introduced intent and consequences as part of the "judgement process" we have, as one of many possible scales on which an image can be good (or bad). However, to put intent and consequence at the centre stage, and judge photos ONLY based on that (I am deliberately exagerating, it's not what I think you wrote) is a bit putting the cart before the horse, and next shooting the horse.
     
  75. Michael, not so fast! I don't think Godwin's Law would apply when things related to the actual historical Hitler come up in a discussion that has moved toward intent, ethics, and responsibility in photography. Hitler is not being used here as an argumentative "Hail Mary pass." He's being used because he's intimately relevant to one of the photographer's mentioned and to the discussion as it has proceeded.
    __________________________________________________
    While I would agree that a photo's purpose may help determine what criteria we will use to tell if it's good, I still think it's quite wrong to assert that goodness boils down to the fulfillment of that purpose, since, as most of us have experienced, there are lousy portraits of people showing a non-essential, more singular expression and good portraits that fulfill that same purpose. If someone thinks a portrait ought to show the essence of someone and they find it doesn't and therefore judge it to be a bad portrait, that shows, IMO, bad judgment rather than bad photo. It's their inability to maintain some level of objectivity causing them to base their judgment merely on their own opinions and tastes. Now, lack of this kind of objectivity is one of the great things about art. We get to like and dislike photos to our heart's content and not be questioned about it. But judging something good or not should be more objective than assessing whether it suits our own needs and desires. Judging something good, therefore, is by no means an absolute. It is simply adopting a more objective attitude toward something. If we're going to judge as bad everything that doesn't meet our sometimes very narrow expectations, we're going to miss out on a lot of art. Taste is a key ingredient, to be sure. And a confidence in our taste and healthy development of it is often in the best interest of our own creativity and voice. At the same time, Picasso was also onto something when he said . . .
    Taste is the enemy of creativity.​
     
  76. Ah, but no worries, Landrum. Noone compared something to how the Nazis did things, so still safe from Godwin's theorem.<br>Of course everything can be considered under exclusion of some aspect or another. So i don't know why all photos could not be evaluated apart from all that. What aspect, what quality we would then be considering is an open question. This discussion picked a few as candidates for what quality it could be that makes a good photo. It is hard to imagine that you can ignore consequences (especially when promoting the idea that fulfilling a purpose is the key). But we have to be careful in attributing the consequences to one thing in particular, such as a photo.<br>It is hard, impossible even, to consider the consequences of Riefenstahl's photos without considering so much more. The photographs themselves served a purpose, but were merely instrumental in producing the consequences we're talking about in that context. The consequences aren't those of the photographs by a long way.
     
  77. More precisely, Q.G., no interlocutor on this thread was being compared to Hitler.
    Just look at the photo, and nothing else​
    Wouter, one can do that, but why would one want to do that? I like to say, "Context is everything."
    At the very least, we have to make clear what we mean by a "good" photo. If we mean "divorced from context," then, yes, I agree with you and Fred.
    In context, one cannot evaluate Riefenstahl's photography on purely esthetic grounds.
    Better yet, one can only feel revulsion the more one knows about such propaganda, and even esthetically her work finally fails for me--but I didn't really mean to get us off on issues involving propaganda.
    --Lannie
     
  78. Q.G., I just want to say I think you've made an excellent case for how intent can play into our experience of a photo and work of art. And it often does and the ramifications are many. And these are all things that will, at some times, go into our experience of photos and art. It's just that, for me at least, none of this makes the case for purpose- or intent-fulfillment being the sole determining factor of whether a photo or painting or any other work of art is good.
     
  79. I hate the word "objectivity", Fred. There is no such thing. It is merely a suggestion that there is some absolute value that prescribes what we should think or feel, and forbids thinking and feeling something else about it. Absolutism (which indeed serves very well in fulfilling some people's purposes, so it can be called good, sometimes ;-))
    Basing your judgement on what you hope, expect, want is quite alright. That's why you can enjoy a bad film, find it good, and vice versa. remember? It's that purpose again and how it (a film, a photo, a work of art, whatever) succeeds in meeting those expectations, fulfilling that purpose.
    There is nothing forcing anyone to accept as their own the intent the maker of something had. If people find my chests of drawers perfect chairs, that is not a lack of objectivity, but simply revealing that despite my original intent, these chests of drawers are perfect chairs. We are allowed to make of things whatever we want. Why should judging whether something is good "more objective" than assessing whether it suits our own needs?
    You know the thing: what is a chair? To a bird it is not much (if at all) different from a table or a fence, or a [etc.]. It is only our purpose that makes it a chair - something to sit on - distinct from a table - something to sit at. And there is a reason why chairs are chair shaped, tables table shaped. Those shapes fit our own purposes best. And as such define what makes a good chair or table. The same holds for photographs and art.
    But now you are saying that we miss out a lot if we look at things like that? If a piece of art means nothing to you, if you have no purpose for it, it is a bad piece of art, or even not a piece of art at all. And of course, different people may have different views. Be selfish. There is no other Higher Instance we need to placate by deferring our judgement to something "objective". "Taste", the notion that you must indeed adhere to some Higher Good's Objective Rule Book, (a.k.a. absolutism) is indeed the enemy of creativity. It is the enemy of art. And of philosophy.
     
  80. Why should judging whether something is good "more objective" than assessing whether it suits our own needs?​
    Because I'm not an isolationist and am not as self-obsessed as your theory wants to encourage.
     
  81. Objectivity doesn't have to have anything to do with absolutes. It can simply be (and can be more than this) stepping back from one's own view to recognize that others have different views or that, even though I see it THIS way, there are OTHER ways of seeing it. I think we'd reach a greater degree of understanding (not expecting agreement) if we didn't conflate a more humble notion like objectivity with a much more extreme and far-reaching one like absolutism.
    Something that's good may, in fact, meet more of the needs of others than my own. That doesn't mean there's an absolute characteristic of goodness, but it does help me get beyond myself, which is often just the place art will take me.
     
  82. Well, i agree in part, Fred. we should indeed acknowledge that other people might be seeing other things.<br>The problem lies where we begin to believe that there is one way that is the right way of seeing a thing. That there are opinions, and there is something outside the realm of opinion, something we can opine about but are wrong unless we agree with whatever that object objectively is. Wrong, not because we have to bow to someone else's opinion, because else that someone would do us some harm. But because that something itself would allow only one way of understanding it. That is what objectivity is. The truth (another of those awful concepts) lies in the object, not in our (subjective) opinion/understanding.<br>That is both not a conflation of the humble (?) notion objectivity with something terrible as absolutism and indeed alreay absolutism. The identity is an objective one. ;-)<br>And as you know, a long time ago one particular thinker invented a separate world of Higher Things that imparts this untouchable truth to things we mere mortals had opinions about. Such a Higher Order has to exist, else we are not able to say what too many want to say: "you are wrong and there is no discussion possible, there are no two ways about it." And it still requires an appeal to Something Silly outside our human realm.<br>We don't have to go into what that leads to, even today.<br>Terrible.<br><br>Anyway, that does of course not mean that there is not something "beyond myself" or something that helps us get past ourselves. That something is other people, their views, and how we adjust or decline to adjust to each other. What we find then is inter-subjectivity. A meeting of like and a confrontation of difference/dislike.<br>And that's absolutely something absolutely different from that absolute horror that is that absolutist notion of absolute objectivity.<br><br>So if you are saying that there is added value to be found in judging something knowing and considering what other perspectives and opinions our fellows have to offer, compared to just assessing whether it suits our own needs, we are not that far apart at all.<br>But even then we have to fit the thing we are judging into our personal scheme of things. And if it doesn't help me do anything, if it doesn't fit (any of my purposes) i can still respect that someone else thinks it a great masterpiece, but for me it is quite simply not. It doesn't work that way that i like something because someone else says it is likeable.
     
  83. Landrum, it is true that "In context, one cannot evaluate Riefenstahl's photography on purely esthetic grounds", because the premise already states that you are evaluating the context. ;-)<br>You can indeed evaluate Riefenstahl's photography on purely esthetic grounds, if you so wish. It is not treacherous, or an immoral act, or subscribing to one particular ideology, to consider Riefenstahl's photography on purely esthetics grounds. It doesn't mean (and we mustn't assume that) we are denying the rest, the context, when we do.
     
  84. Lannie, the question why would one want to look at a photo without context is (I think) one of the red herrings in this thread. To some (not you, not me), getting all the context in is excess garbage, unneeded complication. They'll look at the photo, and if they like it, it's good. And that can be fine, though I think it makes one miss out on a lot of interesting (more challenging) work. Some photos do not call for a lot more either, too, though.
    To those who do not decide between 'good' and 'bad' that easily, I think we all have our different aspect where we put more emphasis in our judgement than others. Context is important, but to me not everything.
    And it is not mutually exclusive to the aesthetics. When you say: "In context, one cannot evaluate Riefenstahl's photography on purely esthetic grounds.", I can fully understand the dilemma, but I do not agree. Photographically, aesthetically, one can evaluate those photos. Even worse, to me, the Olympia photos are interesting. Saying that doesn't mean I endorse nazis, genetic superiority theories or worse, nor that I think that Riefenstahl took the right choices in working for that government. It means I see the photographic and graphic skill in them, a visual language that is very similar to the Nazi and Soviet architechture of that time (bold, hard, cold but very graphic in nature, a cynical form of heroism), and yet also something incredibly photographic. And they have been used for all the wrong purposes.
    We can judge those things in parallel, and seperately from one another. Nobody said there can be only one single "good" or "bad". There are multiple unrelated-related considerations to whether the photo is good or bad.
    If you would ask me to make one single judgement, the ethical problems behind those photos would in the end taint my judgement too. I would not buy a print of them, or put one on public display or something similar, because I never ever want to be associated with the ideas they represent. But the real, complete, answer to "good" or "bad" is far more complex, and it's not all bad, and certainly not all good.
    It could very well be we disagree on this, and as said, I can fully understand your dilemma, and via a different way, I think I reach a similar conclusion. I think the OP is still with us, because I think it wasn't a Godwin moment, but in fact we got very close to the real meat of the original question; thanks for the exchange of thoughts on it because it helped me rethink a few points and that never made me any worse :)
    [ edit ]
    Got interrupted, and in the meanwhile Q.G. said much more to the point the same thing :)
     
  85. Wouter - "I think adding "art" into the discussion creates more complications than it solves, really."
    It does add complication which may be worth the extra trouble because it weeds out 'good' car photo from 'bad' car photo, weeds out those cases where intent is clear and the result is easy to evaluate by agreed upon standards. With 'art' it gets more complicated because intent is layered. On the other hand, art may not be all that complicated if we accept a binary evaluation: like v don't like, with no fuzzy logic. Add the fact of fuzziness in the subjective evaluations, where some simultaneously like and dislike a thing: Riefenstahl's work may be an example of one's values coming into collision and that dissonance Riefenstahl experienced herself and resolved by collusion and sexual attraction though publically she didn't speak fully to the repulsive mental state she had entered by her having chosen to live out the false notion that there are unambiguous objective standards after all.
    So, editing, with Riefenstahl's work I find myself also put into a state of dissonance and it may be a mistake to set that dissonance aside, to speak to Riefenstahl's work without always communicating that overall the effect upon me is dissonant.
     
  86. Charles,
    With 'art' it gets more complicated because intent is layered.​
    Not all art has layered intent, not by a long shot. Non-art photos (documentary work, good journalism, for example) can be very multi-layered and far more complex. It has got nothing to do with simplifying evaluation of art to a binary choice. Why I think adding art adds complications is the stone-old discussion "what is art".I think we'd probably already disagree on its definition, as I obviously do not believe that art has a layered intent, in fact I think there is art where the intent doesn't exceed the "art pour l'art" mantra. Which (in my view) is as shallow an intent as can be.
    The question originally posed was broad enough already, adding in the complexity on defining art makes discussion probably just go way off-topic.
     
  87. Isn't what is "good" similar to what is "art"? It's defined by the viewers in both cases. Of course it's relative. The more people who think something is "good" or spends more time looking at it, the "better" it is. I'm using the definition of whether it's appreciated by the viewer, not some "objective" evaluation defined by certain criteria established by curators or professional critics who could define something as "good" although no one buys it or cares to look at it.
     
  88. Alan, there are many definitions of art that have little to do with being defined by the viewer. My own approach to art is not to define it restrictedly but rather take a holistic approach whereby I embrace many of the various definitions that have been offered (and reject a few!) and just think about art in terms of all those things, some having to do with viewers, some having to do with experts and institutions, some having to do with the art object itself, some having to do with the artist. I find that leaves me a good amount of flexibility and many different ways of understanding what I'm experiencing. I would reject the idea that either "good" or "art" is solely defined by the viewer if it were the only idea offered, just as I would reject all the other definitions offered if each was the only one I had to choose from. I embrace each as one part of a much bigger picture.
     
  89. In any case, what another viewer thinks is art or good is a matter of classification to a great extent, and is of little interest in many cases. I'd much rather hear a viewer's genuine reaction to what he's seeing and feeling. His decision to call it good or art really doesn't carry too much weight with me. But what he says about the photo or the painting, how it strikes him, why it turns him on or off, what emotional reactions he has or sees is generally a more fulfilling type of discussion to me than whether he thinks it belongs in the category of art or trash or documentary that is art or documentary that isn't art.
     
  90. Wouter it may not have layered intent in its creation, but to the viewer? and when viewed from the vantage point of another culture, at least one layer added there, a deep layer of cultural interaction? Art is as complex as those viewing it and if it isn't layered, is it art to begin with? There is very little art in the world, arguably none of it 'usable' in the way Q.C. would have us make a bird perch out of a chest of drawers or, as I suggest, out of a Stella sculpture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Memantra_pic.JPG ). Non-art photos communicate and can communicate well and there is sooo much of it in use. Art has intrinsic value regardless of whether its used in a utilitarian sense and for so little of it and its uselessness: that's a narrowing. Still, if we want the focus on the object and what makes it a good one, that's well enough.
    So I agree Alan that 'good' and what is art are the same question since they put us into the realm of value systems, relative (do you really mean that Alan?), and list making from an objective check list I guess isn't my thing. I would rather wonder about art as having intrinsic value, if that allows us to contemplate ourselves as also having intrinsic worth. This guy (the capuchin monkey at about 12 min, 50 sec ) thinks he's worth a grape and a newer study suggests his co subject thinks the lesser paid monkey also merits an equal reward, the higher value reward of a grape: http://www.ted.com/talks/frans_de_waal_do_animals_have_morals?language=en . Yes the monkey thinks that for something he's worth a grape, but underlying that is his sense of his intrinsic worth (why he and not me, not me, not me as he shakes the cage cursing creation). Most photographs are for something and merit their ultimate discard. Why talk about next era trash then? And it isn't in me to talk philosophically about "the good" and all that.
     
  91. A few quick notes (i have to run):
    The question is, Charles, what that intrinsic value is. Can you say a bit more about it than just saying it is intrinsic?

    Another question you raise is why you say that non-art photos communicate?

    We have been "in the realm of value systems" ("systems"?) from the first post onwards. We are in that realm as soon as we ask if, say, a pencil is a good pencil.
    You appear to subscribe to the Hermetic Higher Order theory, that requires something that transcends our normal world (art vs non-art) as a reference, as the Criterium for True Value. Even when you say "it isn't in me to talk philosophically about "the good" and all that" you are doing just that. Philosophy that is worth the name tries to avoid that, talks about our mundane world in terms of our mundane world, without alluding to Something Higher, just because it is our mundane world. 'Intrinsic value' (vague, but you appear to me Higher Value), 'art'... they are nothing special. We do not have to wonder whether we have intrinsic value, nor do we need to mirror ourselves in something we ourselves first attribute Greatness to, to see whether we are Great ourselves. (A rather pointless but all too common thing: calling something we do 'great' and then inferring that we must be 'great' ourselves too because we, after all, were able to do something that is 'great'.) 'Art' is just a thing from that world, just a thing we do. Just like making shoes and talking about the weather and last night's goings on at the neighbours.
     
  92. Charles,
    I think we have to agree to disagree; your premise is more or less: "Art is as complex as those viewing it and if it isn't layered, is it art to begin with?"; and I simply do not agree with that. Art is also music, architecture (which tends to be used), literature. Some music is simple, quite straightforward, and still art (Mozart, Haydn come to mind - a lot of there works have no complex layers at all). Minimalist works can be art, and they tend to do away with their layering. I can stand complex, layered works, and uncomplex unlayered works, so they're not as complex as me (as viewer), apparently. Regardless, I find it a bit strange to put the viewer this much in charge of the complexity of the work, as if the creator has got nothing to do with that?
    For me, a critical difference between talking "good"/"bad" and "art" is that the first one is about a personal value system, the second one is not. I acknowledge that Van Gogh paintings are art, but for the life of me, his Vase with Flowers can't move me in any meaningful way. I don't find it good. But it is art, no doubt, and obviously that wasn't my call.
     
  93. Q.G. - "Can you say a bit more about it than just saying it is intrinsic?"
    No, can't, in that regard I'm no better equipped to with justice reply than is the inequitably paid capuchin monkey. Yet among those dear monkeys, just acts do exist whether or not we or they can properly name them. Values exist as part of a mental surround that we're finding also in not a few mammals. Values are tightly integrated with human endeavors such as the making of shoes; and among makers and consumers alike, utilitarian objects are as subject to reification as are a few of the ultimately natural processes you seem to suggest I deify. But better I say to make a god of a capuchin monkey than to make a god out of a shoe. Either way, we're going to make one and that fact matters in any psychology worth its salt.
     
  94. I don't know Wouter, in music, is a good march considered good art or just something good to exercise to? Did we mention dance? Sound as an art form, architecture as the making of an image out of what would otherwise be a utilitarian box. But I do think of the best architecture as evocative use of space. Tired now.
     
  95. I don't know Wouter, in music, is a good march considered good art or just something good to exercise to?​
    HERE'S my answer.
    (Yes, Q.G., just like my neighbors hanging out and talking about the weather! LOL.)
     
  96. The notion thus persist, i see Fred, that there are mundane things we mere mortals do, and something else which is of a different, higher order. ... and which is also something we mere mortals do, but even so of a different, higher order.<br>What is it that makes the difference? An instrinsic value. Something that we can't describe, that escapes us. How do we know about that higher order? Is it something we cannot know anything about except that it is both terrible, or aweful, and fascinating, spell binding? Something irreducible (that category of its own you alluded to Fred)?<br>But does it really transcend our humanity? The mistake you make in that last comment, Fred, is assuming that everything we do must be equally banal, so that if we surprise ourselves by doing something we think is a bit less banal, it must be something fundamentally different. It is not.<br>Some people wash clothes, and some of those are better at it than others. Not something we get excited about. Some people write music, and some of those do it better than others. (But according to whom exactly? According to some Higher Standard? Or according to you and me? I don't see how Wagner could serve your purpose, Fred, because i don't think he makes good music. We can go hang out and talk about it, as soon as we get bored talking about the weather). And then, in the case of music, our excitement is such that we assume it, the act we witnessed, transcends mere humanity.<br>Why? How? Just saying it does, using empty words such as 'transcend' and 'intrinsic value' is also just like your neighbours hanging out and talking, Fred. Those words suggest some fascinating mystery that is surely bigger than any of us or anything we do. But all we have so far is the label, and nothing to stick it on.<br>So, what would you say is it that makes art something special, something outside the realm of human activity?
     
  97. Who in the world said art is something outside the realm of human activity? Why do you keep setting up hyperbolic straw men to knock down? You can project all you want into my glib statement, based on your own musing, about neighbors hanging out, but please understand that these are your projections and have nothing to do with what I'm thinking or saying.
    The only notion I have, if you care to listen instead of project, is that there are some actions that are mundane and some that are more interesting or, importantly to me, more passionate. Each has its place and each is human but, yes, there are fundamental differences, not in absolute terms but in personal terms.
    I recently sat at my father's bedside while he died and that experience compares to none, except my mother's death for which I was also present, in terms of its awe-inspiring power. That's not to say I don't get something out of washing dishes. As a matter of fact, I was just talking to a friend of mine about how meditative and, yes, transcendent, I find washing the dishes can be. It slows me down and enriches me. I still don't hesitate to see it as a mundane task. And in that respect, it's fundamentally different (as are my neighbors chatting about the weather) from being with my father as he lay dying. Sorry if that in some way offends you. And, before you get your panties in a bunch over my use of the word "transcendent," no, I don't mean other-worldly or Godlike or any of the other misinterpretations you're about to reach for in order to put me down. It means, for me, beyond my usual realm of experience. And, yes, I do think there are realms beyond my own and my usual realm of experience. You only have to go to a nearby dictionary to see what transcendent means, and you'll see that the more mystical or religious definitions you chose to understand me with are, in most cases, tertiary definitions at best.
    The bottom line is that my neighbors talking about the weather doesn't have the value to me of my best photo experiences, experiences around dying, loves I've shared, helping folks that need my help. Do I believe in a hierarchy of acts? You bet I do. I have no clue why you'd want to fabricate that into some notion of a transcendence of humanity.
     
  98. Charles, ..."is a good march considered good art or just something good to exercise to?" ...why can it not be both? Why would one exclude the other?
    Fred, excellent choice of march... couldn't have thought of a better one myself (and didn't).
     
  99. ...why can it not be both?​
    Good question. Duchamp helped us a see a long time ago that it can, though not always simultaneously. Interesting that I can now look at a urinal in a public men's room as art but I'm not sure I could get away with peeing in the one that's on display in the museum, though Duchamp himself would probably get a kick out of the latter.

    It's why snapshots can be art and art can look like shapshots.

    Ancient pottery is a great example of something people ate with or ground corn with and now we view it appreciatively behind glass in a museum.

    To some degree, art can be a way of seeing, whatever it is we're looking it.
     
  100. Third Ted Talk, 2nd on the creative process: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_tan_on_creativity?language=en
    About 15 minutes into Ms. Tan's talk about her creative process, she talks about the contributions to that process of external events that impart detailed meaning content that's co-incident with and specifically related to the details of inner events within the progress of her creative process. Tan's example: she is writing about a man stacking rocks, then goes on a walk and comes across a man stacking rocks. That man's self-observation about the 'why?' of his activity is the why of Tan's book. Since it's an event with no inner or outer cause it feels objective and what we do with that is, as Tan suggests, a balancing act.
    A meaningful co-incidences of inner and external events, a synchronicity, is a phenomenon that doesn't reduce down to post hoc wishful thinking. The meaning is instead imposed, present in the event of co-incidence, contained in the event, not later derived, that is to say, we don't 'will' it into existence, it's objective. I don't see any reason why that phenomenon couldn't also happen when the endeavor isn't art, is instead the act of lacing one's shoe or washing one's clothing. Such events are part of the mental surround we inhabit and make their way into our art and laundering activities.
     
  101. we don't 'will' it into existence​
    While I get what you're saying and agree to a certain extent, I'm not sure Ms. Tan didn't in some sense will it into existence. And it can actually relate to Duchamp's urinal. I see Duchamp as having been saying to the world . . . "Pay attention!" How we attend to things is significant. Ms. Tan, by her inner actions (I don't love the dichotomy of inner and outer, so I'd just say her mental actions) in writing her story and creating her man stacking rocks may have affected her own sensitivity to what's around her. She may not have paid any attention to that man with the rocks at another period in her life. She may, by writing, have opened herself up to being aware of what was there. Yes, there is coincidence, confluences of events, but there is also our attunement to things, which I think we very much affect with our wills. She had to have been responsive to the significance of this man stacking rocks. It isn't just that he was there. It's that she noticed.
     
  102. Sure to all, Fred, and she says almost as much by paying homage to both the casual connecting principle of her own focus and to 'chance occurrence' by mentioning happenstance and serendipity, though her voice tends to trail off as she says such things. More objective elements of objective psyche are in the accounts of a muse, a not-me within although I have no problem with the idea that in days of old muses lived near ponds and en masse decided that they would all move in to live instead in our mental surround, the phenomenon of synchronicity even suggesting a somewhat permeable membrane existent between our inner and outer surrounds. If synchronicities contain Ms. Tan's muse, then by her muse she was made to notice, it isn't just that she noticed, she wandered into circumstances where she had to notice, and an inner string of circumstance made her want to notice insofar as she wanted to bring her book to fruition. In that sense her book grew out of her and she assisted in that, which is a lovely way to think of things.
     
  103. actually, organizations like the Professional Photographers of Canada and the Professional Photographers
    of America have answered this question quite thoroughly and accurately. They in fact have specific judging
    criteria which are followed by their accredited judges each year in determining awards like "photographer of
    the year" etc.
     
  104. A camera makes a good photograph.
     
  105. "What makes a good photograph"?
    Who are those authorities that decide? Or, is it decided by a popular vote?
    Or, is it about a photographer expressing their vision....and being constantly being challenged by that vision.
    Is it not that place where truly great Artists explore.
     
  106. "Vision"
    An expression of reaching out to find an epical value.... a understanding of a mystical concept of value.
     
  107. A good photograph is not "boring" in the eye of the viewer.
     
  108. A good photo?: simple, the one where you wish you would have been there.
     
  109. Daniel, would that include THIS photo by Nick Ut?
     
  110. Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's responded and joined in on this thread- it's been very interesting hearing people's opinions. As I said, the piece I've written will be posted on Photoworks' site, some point next week, I'll leave a link here when it's up so you can take a look- hopefully you won't mind the artistic license I've taken in interpreting some of what you've written to make a new text out of it that reflects some of my ideas, or my approach anyway.
    Also, I saved some of the commenters' photos and have supplied then to go with the article, fully attributed, but I am going to contact each of you whose photo I used now, to obtain explicit permission.
    Thanks again!
     
  111. I know I am late to this form... but I would like say for me, a good photograph asks a question, reveals a mystery and tells a story.
     

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