What makes a great photograph? – The results

Going back to the beginning, this is where I started this experiment.

“Looking at some photographs by a famous photographer, she asked, ‘Are these great photos because there is something about them which makes them great, or are these great photos because they are taken by people we are told are great?’  So, what makes a great photo?”

By the end of the first phase I’d reached a conclusion of sorts, which I summarised with the following;

“Great photographs are often made by consistently good photographers who are able to purposely create images within a context that others will respond to. If those photographers are already well-known then, then their work will have greater engagement with a wide(r) audience than otherwise. The great photograph is therefore one which has the ability to effect the emotions of people by somehow highlighting and resonating with our common humanity, it speaks!”

By the term ‘context’ I do not mean the genre of the photograph, or even the socio-historical placement of the photograph, but rather I mean in it terms of habitus, a shared cultural understanding of the medium. If this can be applied to photographs, then it goes some way to arguing that photography is outgrowing its historical roots in ‘art’. This is something that requires more thought, but is an area that I will be coming back to in the near future.

By this reasoning, a consistently excellent photographer’s work should, even in isolation, be recognisable as good work, regardless of whether or not we know who has taken the photograph. It would not be unreasonable, therefore to expect the Magnum photographs to feature strongly in the final scoring even though many of the students did not know who or what Magnum is.

So ……………….

In first place Nick Brickett – NOT a MAGNUM PHOTOGRAPHER (30/45)

In second Bruce Davidson – MAGNUM (27/45)

Third, David Hurn – MAGNUM (23/45)

Fourth, Steve McCurry – MAGNUM (17/45)

So, Magnum in three of the top four, but not number one!

 eightDAB1959007W00198-17-18FRS1986004W00016-19INDIA. Old Delhi. 1983. Tran station platform.

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