Fine art photography, like speaking, is a medium for communication and I think there are two ways to look at this medium.
On one side of this medium is the expression of the photographer (what the photographer is saying) and on the other side is communication of that expression from the photographer to the viewer (what the listener is understanding).
The success of a photograph, in my humble opinion, should be judged by not only how well the photographer expresses himself (the eloquence of the speaker) but also by how well the message is understood by the audience.
I believe the relationship between expression and understanding is critical because of one simple word – Connection. Connection is what humans strive for and it often is the Connection with others that gives meaning to our lives. As photographers, we’ve chosen photography as a medium to build Connection with the audience.
This is why I think it is essential that for our photographs to be impactful and successful, they need to communicate and connect with the viewer.
A photographer could have symbolism so obscure in the photograph that only he or she understands but it doesn’t make any impact on the viewer at all. This would be like speaking Japanese to a bunch of American toddlers. Regardless of how good the speaker is, the message won’t be understood.
A way around it – and the way that I prefer is to let my photographs find their own audience. I’m the Japanese speaker with a mic in the middle of a street market speaking Japanese to the crowd – and letting those who understand Japanese understand my message while the others simply walk past.