this is a subject that is haunting me since many years, well, since decades. It is the norm that a bonsai looses tremendously if you compare a photograph with the reality. Well, sometimes it is the other way around. It is absolutely not easy to get the essence of a bonsai onto an image of it. The main reason is the loss of three-dimensionality.Walther, so true.
One phenomenon is that trees which are styled according to the 'rules' often look good on a photograph. The reason is that they are made according to one single front, they are two-dimensional, and the branches have the famous layers where a bird can fly through. This looks good when photographed. In modern bonsai and also in naturalistic bonsai the layers with the bird are usually abandoned. The trees then have more depth and often spirit when you see them in nature. On a photograph they have a tendency too look untidy. This 'untidyness' is non-existent on the real tree.
So your conclusion is very important: be careful with judging trees on photographs. Especially do not compare a tree on a photograph with one that you see in person.
Which directly leads to another article 'Blind in one Eye'.
This has haunted me too - all too much. Thanks for putting words to my thoughts. Some bonsai looks so good when studying them in real, and when you see the photograph you are disappointed, and vice versa. What should be the one and only real judgments is to observe the object in real and not at a photo. My wife (not yet but soon I hope) is a painter. Her paintings also loose the magic sometimes when I take a picture of it, and sometimes it is almost better as a photo. The same thing with everything else. On a photograph some people looks stunning, but in reality :-) But some copes to do both.
Bottom line, what is most important is that the piece of art e.g., has to be viewed directly, and not interpreted by some media like a photograph. Not to deny the beauty of that too, but to point out that a bonsai needs to be taking seriously in real life, and secondly as a photograph. Like any other art there is an optimal way to view the piece of art, and then there is a secondary. Theater seldom works well as a TV-show but it works well when viewed in the theatre. Regards