Here's a "photoessay" from my BFF Ming: After the establishing shot which is, well, in my opinion obviously, just a random bunch of grab shots of nothing. He's an absolute master at coming up with a convincing-sounding bunch of bullshit to support almost any collection of random shots he's pulled out of his lightroom repository.
But he does have a point. Movies do insert these sorts of things, and they're not random bullshit (well, sometimes they are, but they're not supposed to be, usually). When there's a narrative in play, that insert shot of the scooter handlebars takes on meaning. If you don't have a story, it's just a random horizontal shallow DoF snap with half-assed "filmlike color grading." Inside the film, you recognize it as Mystery Girl's scooter, since this was the third cutaway to her and her scooter. Later, Mystery Girl plays an important role.
There is a precise analogy in portfolio or book construction. Sometimes some random and relatively uninteresting picture is exactly the right thing to glue the sequence together. Out of context it's worthless junk. In context, it can be a vital component which holds the whole thing together.
A not particularly good example. In my Vancouver project, there's a photograph of a building crane against the sky. This is a nothing shot. Standalone, it's got a certain flickr-ish appeal, a sort of minimalist blah blah bullshit thing. But it's just a stupid cliche.
It's in the portfolio, and to my eye it's pulling its weight. As follows:
Later on there's the red wall with the twig against it. That's a very conscious nod to a sort of generally Asian aesthetic, and the water droplets and light give a connection to the wet chill that is so much of Vancouver. The saturated red connects to some of the other pictures with strong color, the twig+color connecting the B&W forest pictures to the color urban/people pictures. And I could go on, but you get the idea. So that red picture makes a lot of deliberate sense. Although it is itself a bit of a cliche, it's one I am happy with. The crane shot is included (and was flipped around) to reference the red-wall picture, and to connect that to the growing forest of glittering towers that is the Vancouver of now. And thence to the pictures that include towers, and so on. The crane fills in one (and perhaps more) pathways of citation, of reference that make up the sequence.
It functions in the portfolio, and carries a real freight of the meaning I am aiming for.
Outside of the portfolio, it's garbage.
Perhaps I should pull together a bunch of random crap and talk about how each of these is a sort of linchpin of some imaginary portfolio, and then I could create a bunch of sock puppets to write comments about what a genius I am.