My working definition of perfection has been approximately what you propose.
Originally Posted by Felinik
But recently I have been challenging my definition of "perfect".
I'm not changing my definition permanently, but instead see it as expanding my range.
To continue a project I started to help tkamiya, I picked up 3 rolls of Tri-X Saturday to continue exploring graininess. The core of the idea was to throw out the traditional definition and create a new definition. The changed definition is clear: Instead of trying for minimum grain, try for maximum grain.
It was such a pleasure to review historic texts and find scientists were "always" working towards the other goal. So when I found passages saying what "not to do" I just took note to do the exact opposite. My test results tell me to use lower EI (e.g., 250) and "look" for scenes which are primarily medium gray. Then develop in Dektol 1:9 for a "less than normal" time.
Now you throw out an additional challenge I had NOT originally considered. I was still planning to make perfectly sharp, well-focused images. But it intrigues me, and I think that it will add to the overall impact of images to make shots deliberately blurry, unusually focused.
tkamiya holds a very high standard of quality, spending hours to print a specific negative and throwing out many results that I would find aesthetically satisying. I hold a high standard of quality (similar to yours) as an ideal, but then I accept what results I get as-is. Mistakes are noted and corrected for future images. Prints I get, remain what they are. I reserve the right to make dramatic future improvements. But for the most part, I stop when I reach a realistic look.
Documentary photographers work at a bit of a disadvantage compared to landscape photographers. They witness an exceptional situation, with little control over it. People in the photograph complicate matters by their changing facial expressions. Many important things happen in dark shadow. Even if they were to hold a high standard in mind, there may be many shots that do not live up to the ideal, but which satisfy the moment they wanted to show.
I'll grant that sloppy practice and uneducated darkroom technique can also lead to the exact same result. This might be what irks you.