Calling a photo dumb requires an explanation. But I’d like for you to find that explanation yourselves. All that I’ll say is that if some of these photos make your smile, you’re on the right track, and you’ll be able to recognize a “dumb” photo when you see it.
Take “1950, Venice.” There was nothing special about the fashion show apart from the palazzo where it was held. The model wasn’t particularly beautiful. I was 22 and doing my best to satisfy the designer who had hired me. When I saw this photograph on the contact sheet, I didn’t think much of it. I wouldn’t even have kept the negative if I hadn’t decided to print another photo on the film strip.
Then one day I was flipping through my contact sheets and saw it with a different eye. What had seemed banal now seemed to reveal something I hadn’t noticed during the shoot. Was it the series of five expressions—the model and the four spectators—the moment they were lit up by the flash? When I took the picture, I couldn’t have seen them because they were backlit.
That, in a nutshell, is the miracle of the “dumb” photo. It reveals something, but there’s no reason to believe the photographer did it on purpose.