what makes a good photo?

The following are excerpts from the Conscientious blog.

Timothy Archibald: “This photograph, by Ahndraya Parlato, has been infinitely fascinating to me over the past two months. I look at it, think I got my fill of it, and look at it again a few days later and it still strikes me in new ways. Here we have a non-descript, average dressed woman, lying on a patterned rug, with something that looks like milk filling her mouth. I don’t know what the photograph is about, I don’t know what it is saying, but with these minimal elements Parlato has created her own vocabulary. The photo speaks with this vocabulary; I think I get what its telling me, but it just doesn’t translate to words. When a photograph takes risks, reaches far out into the land of what is almost unacceptable or goofy, but then somehow really delivers the goods, I tend to refer to it as ‘great’.”

Jeff Brouws: “I follow Garry Winogrand’s thinking: a good photograph has a balance between aesthetics and information.”

Jonathan Gitelson: “This photograph by Lee Friedlander has long been one of my favorites because of its cinematic quality. If this were a scene from a movie, it would either be the moment right before or right after a major twist in the plot. The props tell more of the story: we have a pair of sunglasses on the dash in front of the steering wheel and an mobil travel-map. Is he on a roadtrip? driving off into the sunset? is he lost (literally or spiritually)? There’s a sense of anticipation, reflection and numbness.

“I also love the staged element of the photograph and that we are allowed in to see how it was made. A basic dissection of the scene: we have Lee parking his car on a hill. He gets out, puts his camera on the hood (see reflection in the foreground), sets the self timer (?), gets back in the car and stares as blankly as possible into the distance and clutches the steering wheel: A one-man performance.”

“And finally, as with so many of Lee Friedlander’s pictures, I’m left with question: Is the whole thing just a joke?”

Jason Lazarus: This “Sternfeld image at once fails to show the quiet pleasure of a photographer always looking, yet reveals the fruit of stumbling upon a moment so iconic it will outlive its creator by generations.”

Alec Soth: “I was recently wading through the hundreds of ads in ArtForum when I flipped the page and, whack! A great picture. In a slit second the image separated itself from everything else in the magazine — everything else I’d seen for months. A second later I learned the picture was from one of my favorite photographers (Nicholas Nixon); but the experience, the goose bumps, came first.”

“Pictures are small, fragmentary things. Hors devours. Pop songs. What makes anything of these things great? It is swirl of sensation, a feeling, and is otherwise impossible to define.”

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