“Everyone can take one good picture, its the body of work that counts.”
If you reflect on a life does it matter if someone did something nice once or twice? Or is a lifetime of good deeds that matters? Same holds true with photography. If you shoot enough pictures you will eventually take at least one good photograph in your lifetime, after all Ansel Adams photographed consistently and famously said that 12 good photographs in a year would be a good crop.
What sets apart a good photographer from the “meh” photographer, is the ability to create a body of work that is good and consistent. Too often photographs seem to get compared to other art forms such as painting in which a single “masterpiece” is held up as the ultimate shot. But photography doesn’t usually work that way.
Photography is often about telling a story over time and from various angles. Often book form is the best way to experience photography rather than a single shot. Or a gallery show or even as a series of three or four images displayed together.
Take one of the most famous photography books of all time “The Americans” by Robert Frank.
The Americans, by Robert Frank, was a highly influential book in post-war American photography. It was first published in France in 1958, and the following year in the United States. The photographs were notable for their distanced view of both high and low strata of American society. The book as a whole created a complicated portrait of the period that was viewed as skeptical of contemporary values and evocative of ubiquitous loneliness. “Frank set out with his Guggenheim Grant to do something new and unconstrained by commercial diktats” and made “a now classic photography book in the iconoclastic spirit of the Beats”.
Robert Franks individual work is strong but as a series in book form it creates a body of work that is elevated to greatness. Each individual image build on the previous to tell the story.
In this short video of Bruce Gilden critiquing submitted art photographs, watch when he gets to the final set of images and how the series of three images become so much stronger than any individual image.
Is This Art Photography Any Good? – Take it or Leave it with Bruce Gilden
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