Part of my thinking on photography follows:
This probably describes more of a spectrum than 3 distinct categories, I don't really care too much about the details like that. These are three notions I have about kinds of photographs.
There are photographs of "something", where the subject is inherently photogenic, or otherwise interesting. Flowers, nudes, famous people, interesting buildings, etc etc. For these, you "merely" need to not screw it up to create an appealing image. This is not to trivialize this work, not screwing it up is hard enough, and making something that's better than just an appealing image is real art. Your favorite portrait artist, for instance, is working in this zone.
There are photographs of "nothing" which reveal the nothing as something after all. Abstracted images of water, stones, that kind of thing. Maybe you see it in a new way, and realize that the smooth stone is interesting in its own right (I am on the record as disliking these things, but that doesn't mean they're not real photography and real art). Weston's pepper would be something here.
Then there are the photographs of nothing, which do not reveal the subject as something, but which are nonetheless powerful photographs. Walker Evans, for instance, did things I lump in here: It's a tin building, with a pile of dirt in front of it. Photographically, it's nothing. In his photograph, it's still nothing. The photograph itself, however, is powerful and moving. Some HCB arguably falls into this category too, I think.
Not that I am this organized, but the work I put out here is mostly, partly, sometimes my efforts at this last category. I feel like if I can develop even a little ability to make a good photograph out of material that's basically nothing (not necessarily hostile to the photographic process, but not inherently interesting) then I'll really have done something. This is purely personal, and I don't mean this as a criticism of anyone else's work, nor do I mean to suggest that you all ought to do it too. This is just what I happen to be up to.
And, finally, specifically to address your remarks, Dave. I think it's kind of basic to this kind of thing that it DOES look like anyone could do it, and the failures, anyone probably could. Most of HCB's photographs COULD have been made by taking 1 shot per second for a couple hours, and picking the right one (wasn't it said of HCB was that the "decisive moment" actually occurred with looking at the contact sheets?) A lot of Walker Evans consists of taking pictures of complete crap, absolutely nothing, from a very very very carefully selected spot. Any fool who happened to be standing in that exact spot, could have taken that photograph. At any rate, that is the sense one gets, true or false. At any, it was your remark that led me to start thinking of what I am doing in this way, so I sure hope there's something to it!