I recently made the remark that a lot of the "well known" photographers working today are quite awful. I was accused, in turn, of simply not liking them, and was snootily informed that my personal taste is just that, personal taste, and by implication of no consequence.
Ho hum, retards abound on the internets.
Still. What do I mean when I say something is good?
What I mean is, of course, an expression of my opinion. But it is not that I like it or not. I dislike plenty of things I estimate are "good". What "good" means is that the social consensus says so. The tastemakers, usually, have some say here, the gallerists and curators. But generally, some notion of The Public agrees that it's good. They might not like it. Most people don't "like" Warhol or Pollock, but they grudgingly agree that it's Art and that they suppose it must mean something to someone (possibly a homosexual).
What I mean when I say something is good is that I think, it is my opinion that, the social consensus will, or at any rate ought to, coalesce around the work and declare it good. I don't mean that I like it.
It has something to do with whether the work will stand up in time. If Ming Thein hung it up today, nobody but a few fanboys would remember him in a year. If you stumbled over his pictures five years later, you'd shrug. Flickr-ready junk. If Kirk Tuck hung it up today, people would stumble across his portraits year after year and think "man, that guy could shoot". If Daniel Milnor hung it up, again, he'd be remembered by a relatively small cadre and newcomers would look at his pictures and think "yeah, there's something there, isn't there?"
Usually it embodies having something to say. The point is that people look and they thing "there's something there" or "maybe there's something there" they do not think merely "how sharp! How wonderfully pretty!"
Anyways. It's all about that social consensus.