I think that the student's bravado hides his lack of knowledge of famous
photographers. What I usually do with my advanced photo students is assign
"big ideas" for them to photograph and then introduce them to photographers
that also tackled the same ideas. After exposing them to different
photographers, THEN I think it is appropriate to ask the question "who is
your favorite" and then have them do research on that photographer. Right
now, I think only my AP Art History students would be able to name famous
photographers, and most of those students are not going on to art school.
They can also identify "big ideas" in artwork.