I used to hold the opinion that “good is good.” Specifically, I think there is a branch of criticism in the photography world (really, the art world in general) that cliched photographs of cliched subjects are per se bad, even if done very well. Think photographs of sunsets over beaches, the Milky Way at night, or iconic locations like the Grand Canyon, which all have been photographed over and over again to the point where even the best executions of such images mostly really do tend to fade into a sea of duplicate, derivative, and look-alike imagery. My counterpoint always used to be that good is good, so even a cliched photograph of a cliched subject can be good if done well.
Truthfully, I think I still largely stand by that opinion, but I’m beginning to see the merit in the other side. I look at a lot of photography, and if you look at a lot of photography, you can’t help but notice the repetitive onslaught of the same depictions of the same subjects done in the same way over and over again. For example, I think I’ve candidly reached the point where I don’t need to see another long exposure seascape, unless it’s done by Michael Kenna or perhaps another of a handful of photographers who really pioneered or otherwise contributed to this genre.
It’s become a relevant consideration in my own practice of photography. I think a conscious motivation behind making the image in this post was to try and reach past photographic cliches. Which, on balance, I think is a good thing. I just need to remember, for myself in my own work, anyway, not to sacrifice fundamentals – like strong light, strong composition, and a conveyed a sense of emotion – that always make the “good” so “good.”