A Good or Bad Photograph?

Today our class was asked to go to the library, and find a ‘good’ picture and a ‘bad’ picture. At first I thought that this was a trick question task, but we went to the library and I booked out William Eggleston’s Guide for the ‘Good’ picture, and Andrew Cross’ Along Some American Highways for the “Bad” picture. My intention was to demonstrate the similarities between these pieces of work, with both photographers managing to make the mundane interesting.

The difference that I found with Eggleston’s work is that the images were composed in a way that told a story and documented people’s lives, whereas Cross’ work was just a series of plain images of ‘The American Road’ with no really striking subjects. This was my initial argument for these images. I then thought about the way the images were organised in the books. The fact that Cross’ photographs were altogether in one book made them interesting, and so together the photos were ‘Good’ photos but on their own they could be argued as ‘Bad’ photographs.

We then discussed the question itself and if a photo can be classed as good or bad? We found that it’s important to put the photo in context. Look at the time when the photo was taken, what the photographer was trying to show the viewer and how this has been expressed. There are 3 people in a photograph. The photographer, the subject and the viewer.

We also learned about the endowment effect which is when someone is more willing to own or appreciate something, if they know more information about it. For example a market trader may compare an object in their stall to something on the high street, and make it desirable by loading it with information and history. This is the same with a photograph. If the photograph or a series of photographs are explained in context then they can be made more interesting and can engage the viewer.

I’m going to use this technique in my future work when creating series and other works.


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