We can perhaps think of the role of concept in art on a continuum.
At one end of the spectrum we have art about art where concept is king. An example is Marcel Duchamp's readymades. As a Canadian the snow shovel (In Advance of the Broken Arm) is especially appealing. From Moma Learning:
Such self-referential work spirals in upon itself until there's nothing left. It's not like you can make a practice of sticking shovels in an art gallery. Otherwise, art schools would only need to teach students how to find the nearest Canadian Tire. That doesn't stop some members of academia from trying to find ever more obscure and convoluted ways to make clever statements mostly appreciated by those in the know. But I digress.
A little further along the continuum we have photographs of photographs. Richard Prince is well known for his Cowboy photographs.
This kind of work where concept is king doesn't appeal to me that much. But further along the continuum we find ourselves visiting artists such as the recently deceased Lewis Baltz. From a tribute by Gerry Badger:
Baltz's work appeals to me because concepts are - at the very least - balanced by the aesthetic properties of the photographs. These photographs can be deeply appreciated without reference to concept or their place in art history.* They are beautifully crafted images. They invoke a visceral response. The aesthetic properties and concepts support each other.
Duchamp's shovel by comparison, is a bit of a one-trick pony. It's about the concept. There is a 'right answer' as to how one is intended to interpret the shovel. Prince's photographs are similar. We're meant to marvel at the cleverness of the idea rather than his ability to assemble light and form in interesting ways.
Many excellent photographs lie further along the continuum where concept plays a lesser role. Ones where concept is more emergent or implicit. I appreciate these photographs equally well.
But I can't help but admire photographs like those from Lewis Baltz that sit comfortably at the balancing point of the continuum. They are photographs that have a strong conceptual foundation while still being excellent photographs independent from conceptual reference.
* Perhaps assuming one appreciates photographs of the vernacular.