'We want to emulate the impact that these images had on us, and this can be as restricting as it can be liberating', concludes Martin Parr in his blog entry 'Photographic Clichés' posted in April 2011. He claims in effect that practitioners of serious photography (my term, not his) are not necessarily as original in their choices of subject matter as they would like to think:
'The Fine Art and Documentary photographers take great pride in thinking themselves superior to the other main genres of photography, such as the family snap shooter or the amateur photographer, as personified by camera club imagery. However, after 30 / 40 years of viewing our work, I have come to the conclusion that we too are fairly predictable in what we photograph.'
Parr lists 13 'basic genres':
1. The above ground landscape with people (which he traces back to Gursky)
2. The bent lamppost (traced back to Stephen Shore 'and others')
3. The diary (traced back to Nan Goldin, predated by Larry Clark and Ed van der Elsken)
4. The nostalgic gaze (buildings, establishments and institutions on the eve of their closure)
5. The quirky and visually strong setting ('In terms of documentary we are much more likely to see a project done on a circus than say, a petrol station.')
6. The Street (including, in the UK, the beach, but decreasingly so: see Parr's blog post for elaboration)
7. The black and white grainy photo (traced back to Daido Moriyama, who 'combined the imagery of Andy Warhol and William Klein')
8. The New Rich (Tina Barney, rich Yale kids photographing their families; 'nearly always shot in large format, and often involve taking clothes off too')
9. I am a poet (traced back to Bill Eggleston and Rinko Kawauchi)
10. The modern typology (the Bechers, the Dusseldorf school)
11. The Staged photo (Gregory Crewdson)
12. The Formal portrait (Rineke Dijkstra, Thomas Ruff)
13. The long landscape
'I could go on [...] I think the point I am making is that we need to consider our subject matter more carefully. When I am looking through student folios I often say these things, and usually people look at me as if to say "how dare you question what I am shooting." [...]'
And here's another chance to read Martin Parr's original blog entry.