I am in my 52nd year of making pictures. During that time I have read at least a big-city library's worth of words on the subject of the medium and and its apparatus (conventions / practices, not gear) - not to mention the 10s of thousands of words I have written on my blogs over the past 15 years. I have visited / viewed mid-triple digit museum and gallery photo exhibitions. I have judged 100s of photo competitions, large (Kodak International Snapshot Competition) and small (camera clubs and the like). And, 100s of my pictures have been accepted and/or exhibited in competitions / galleries, large (Carnegie Museum International Nature Competition) and small (local / regional photo galleries and institutions).
All of that written, as I sit here writing this blog entry, I have come to one simple (to paraphrase a politician) conclusion ... it's [all about] the picture, stupid.
Amongst other things, to my eye and sensibilities, it's not about how a pictures was made ... not about the equipment used to make it... not about dynamic range, resolution or other technical considerations. And, because I could not care less about what a photographer (or other artist) is trying to "say", it's not about "meaning".
Rather, for me, it's all about how a picture looks and feels. That is, re: "looks" - it's effect on my visual apparatus (I like my eyes to dance across the 2D plane) and, re: "feels" - it's affect on my emotions (what Susan Sontag labels as the erotics of art).
In other words, I like photography (or any art) as a sensuous experience.
All of that written, I have also come to the conclusion that both photographers and academics are the worst audiences for photography. The former most often tend to react to pictures from a technique / techincal POV. The latter seem to only care about "meaning". And, when first encountering a picture, both groups tend to start yapping about technique or meaning rather than letting the experience of viewing the thing itself wash over them.