[QUOTE=tim atherton]
that seems to imply that all photographs can only be viewed individually and in isolation? Because as soon as you put two or more pictures together in any kind of sequence - even if they aren't directly related to each other - they have an effect on each other. Whether in a display, book, magazine or whatever
I agree, they do have an affect. I don't see that as positive or negative, as long as every one can stand alone without the context. If one "needs" the other, then it fails in my opinion.

As soon as you have more than two or three pictures together, intentionally or unintentionally, there is a narrative, even if we don't want it. What you call mediocre pieces are often required as pause or counterpoint or rhythm or echo. You can do this consciously - as in designing a book or gallery or museum display. Or you can ignore it and hope everything doesn't clash - which rarely happens.
I don't believe you need mediocre piece to carry any narrative. Or to enhance or highlight great ones by comparison.

The sum of the whole is usually greater than all the parts.
That may be true. Or the whole may be denegrated by a lot of mediocrity.

Only if every photograph is only ever meant to be viewed in isolation(and I'm not sure how you even do that?) can each picture really be required to "stand up on it's own" in the way you seem to describe?
I made the distinction by saying that a social documentary series could have pieces that were less than great, BUT that is different in my opinion than what most photographers do. The photographer here in question is an example of someone who has a distinct point of view and only includes pictures that propel that position forward. In doing so she has a lot of relatively meaningless images without the context. Such is social documentary photography. It's about the whole. Rarely can any image stand alone.

The expressive nature of any photogrpah more often than not does depend on context. The more shared the context the more more readily that that expressive nature is received and responded to.
Maybe, but the context has to come from the photograph. Not cute titles, or descriptions etc. Granted if the viewers shares lifestyle, culture, it may have more meaning, or maybe just the opposite. I might be very impressed with a picture from Tibet which is not big deal to Tibetans who see it every day.

Most people here, in the case of this photograph, have provided their own context - that of having female children, of growing up in the USA or N America, of the pressures of consumer society, of weddings, of photogrpahing children such as this. And they have easily fitted the photograph into these experiences and provided a context. Those seem to have been balanced against anything that might be lacking in the formal qualities of the photograph.
I can't speak for them. I think the picture has power from the expression or "voguing" of the child.

This photograph really only seems to "stands on it's own" as a photograph because of it's broadly shared context with thisd group of viewers.
Taken out of context, it's not that great a photograph at all. In context, it's brilliant
I disagree. Even though it's from a social documentary, I think this picture is great and can stand alone.