Just to clarify…
What Ken Rockwell says is “in photographic art, it’s never about the subject.” [emphasis mine] and “The actual subject doesn’t matter.” [again, emphasis mine].
What I am trying to say is that subject does matter.
Here’s a useful distinction. If something must be present for the photograph to be successful, then that thing is necessary. If the presence of something guarantees that the photograph will be successful, then that thing is sufficient.
Rockwell appears to be arguing that subject is not necessary, and that strong, graphic composition is sufficient.
I am arguing that subject is necessary, and that strong graphic composition is not sufficient. It is, for all practical purposes, impossible to make a compelling photograph by making a strong, graphic composition of brightly colored idealized featureless geometric solids resting on a featureless geometric plane.
Here are some arguments I am not making:
- strong, graphic composition is never helpful.
- when deliberately striving for a strong, graphic composition, it is not helpful to ignore what things are, and instead think of them as three dimensional solids projected onto a two dimensional plane.
- subject matter is sufficient – that is, given very strong subject matter, composition no longer matters.