I think a lot of this comes down to clear and strong themes which are followed through to create a body of work.
As an example I was stunned to see a photograph very very similar to some of my family snaps as a finalist in one of those major art prizes a few years back. The guy had a theme which was about his Dad, an Irish man who was often a bit drunk, sometimes a bit shambolic, sometimes very funny and this came across in the images. What struck me though was two things, firstly I never thought of using snaps of my Dad when a bit drunk as a theme, secondly I certainly never thought of then weaving together a set of such pictures for public display as a form of art. So yes 100% could have but I didn't.
I did find seeing those images inspiring though to come up with some of my own themes with a tight clear vision of what I am trying to achieve with them right from the subject through the processing. The problem now though is that one such theme I started, started with 2 images very quickly but hasn't progressed in about 18 months. I guess its much harder than it sounds or looks than as a bunch of words talking about doing it.