This post is largely about me, but the plan is that my personal tale will provide some sort of more widely applicable ideas. It is in some ways a followup to this post.
Here is a picture I took:
I put it out there for "critique" on some random photography forum, where it was quite well received. There's some things to quibble about with it, for sure, but basically it's a very likable picture and people like it. I made it that way. I went out with malice aforethought to take a likable picture, and Seattle graced me with a good dose of luck, and here we are.
I don't like it it. At all. I hate myself a little for shooting it. That picture looks like anyone with a modicum of color and design sense could have shot it. Pictures just like it show up on flickr's Explore, and in every other photo sharing site's Trending, Hot, Buzz, Whatever lists. It's likable, and extremely generic. Pictures like it are shot by the thousands every day, and many of them don't have the technical quibbles this one is saddled with. Normally when I see a picture like this, I raise the camera to my eye, and then lower it. It's just not interesting to me.
This doesn't mean that it's bad. It's not bad, it's pretty good. It's very likable. It just doesn't look like something I shot.
Here is another picture I shot:
This was also offered for critique. Same forum. Boy was it not liked! Nobody liked it. I made it with a lot of formal structure, and I happen to think it's interesting, and I like it. Everyone else sees a big confusing dead space of nothing right in the middle and can't get past that. They don't like it, at all.
Ok, so that makes it bad, by my own standards. If more or less regular people just can't stand to look at your picture, then you're not connecting, you're not communicating, you're not garnering a reaction. The work isn't good. So be it. I still like it.
This picture looks like something I shot. It's too much to hope in this world of a trillion pictures that an aficionado could look at a picture and say a priori that it is a Molitor. It is not unreasonable that the same aficionado could look at it after learning that it is a Molitor, and discern clearly that it is consistent with Molitor's other work. It is not unreasonable that my work could be a coherent and visually related body of work.
I want to shoot things that look like I shot them, and that people like. So far, not a lot of luck. It's hard to do, since people mostly like things they've seen before, and things they've seen before don't look very individualistic.
Lots of people have no such ambitions. Some guys just want to duplicate Ansel Adams photos, and that's OK. More power to 'em. Lots and lots of people just want to make pictures that hit flickr's Explore, or similar. That's OK too. They're both technically and artistically challenging things to do.
That's just not what I want to do.