There's this guy, Harald Mante, who's a pretty well respected academic in Europe, I think. He's done some books. A commenter recently remarked on him, so I pulled this book out of the library.
The guy definitely fits my style in a lot of ways (personal style, that is). Serial photography is, to Mante, first an exercise. The idea is that you find a theme. Blue. Pairs. Birds. Pots&Pans. People with red hair. Anything. Then you shoot pictures to fit the theme, any time, any where. Now, tomorrow, next year. You regularly rearrange and manage your set of pictures, throwing some out, adding new ones. Perhaps you divide a theme up as some new idea emerges from the pictures you've taken. Or not.
It's up to you!
The results, in Mante's little book, are really wonderful. Lovely sets of about a dozen or so pictures built around one visual idea or another. He hits the theme hard (or rather, has selected pictures which hit the theme hard) so it's pretty obvious what each one is about. Each picture is a little lightweight gem. Usually pretty, formally pleasing. Each by itself wouldn't amount to much. Massed, though, the theme pops out at you and you get the point. Or maybe you're getting the joke? The feeling is a bit like the punchline of a good story, it's just pleasing.
These are not essays on war, or our place in the universe. They're not documentary evidence of great doings. They're just a bunch of appealing pictures massed up and being appealing.
It probably would be a great exercise to maintain a couple of Series as you go through your life. A series is, to my way of thinking, the simplest form of connection between pictures. A good project, a book, portfolio, what have you, should not only carry one or more ideas of substance (whatever that means) but the pictures within should connect, should be graphically related. A series is a set of pictures all linked by the same visual/graphical idea.
A book might have a set of overlapping and interleaved series, and it's nice when at least some of those series are clear to the viewer. The viewer gets to make the little pleasing discovery that holds the interest and satisfies. If things are really going well, the connections that generate the series support the ideas. Perhaps several of the pictures in your book are clearly connected by emphasis on the color blue, and the whole book is in part about sadness and loss. The color blue is often assoociated, in the western world, with sadness and loss. A portfolio about prisons, crime, criminals, or incarceration, could contain series linked by prison-like visuals. Bars, enclosed spaces, darkness, but not necessarily literal prisons.
And so on.
The "series" in Mante's sense is, it seems to me, a basic building block, a basic method, for creating serious collections of pictures.
Plus, it's a nice book! I like the pictures.
And Mante agrees with me that the "single iconic image" is a huge pain in the ass and a ridiculously high target to aim for. The series provides a way, ultimately, to do work with substance without ever having to make a singular mighty work in a single frame.