I understood it in this way [Murray correct me if I'm wrong]:
Originally Posted by jovo
'looked through' - the viewer looks at the objects portrayed on the photograph, so his mind dwells with what's on the photo's rather than the photo itself .
'looked at' - the viewer looks at the photo as an object in itself in terms of composition, color, grain, exposure, balance, etc. - what's portrayed is of less importance or comes in second place
looking through the photo in the first sense seems to be the more intuitive one (which gets comments from viewers like 'oh what a cute doggy!').
Looking at the photo takes a little more effort, training and awareness on the side of the viewer (which might get you comments like: I think this works better if you crop those branches out in the left upper corner as it will give more balance to the whole.)
Both aspects are important IMHO but I can see what Murray is struggling with. If I were in his place, I'd decide for each subject what the appropriate mode of presentation would be to achieve the effect I'm looking for, and I wouldn't shun unorthodox ways of doing so. But then, Hey, I'm a freagging artist so that's what I'm supposed to be doing anyway, isn't it?