While driving back from San Francisco today, I was thinking about what makes a good photograph. I concluded, for now at least, that it’s any photograph that holds your attention without grabbing your attention.
Photographs can grab attention by displaying something disgusting or lurid, but in the end there’s no depth to these photos – it’s just sensation.
A photograph that holds your attention can do so for different reasons. Some just have dimensions or a shape that are pleasing to the eye – there’s no deeper meaning, they just have a gentle symmetry or form that we innately find beautiful. Others tell a story – they compel us to ask questions about what’s happening in the picture. And yet others are dynamic in that they have a main subject that attracts initial attention, and then they use spacing and detail make your eyes flow deliberately towards other parts of the picture in an attempt to gather more meaning. Finally, some pictures are more educational but can hold our attention because of a personal connection, such photos of the place we’re going on vacation of photos of our relatives. These are not “good” photos. but they are “good for us” photos.
I’m hoping that I’ll have some good photos among the ones I took today. I walked around San Francisco all day taking street photos on 35mm film. I’ll find out a week from now once they are processed.