Monday, 13 February 2012

'new photographic clichés'

We are inevitably influenced by the imagery that surrounds us; sometimes unknowingly so. And inevitably, we become part of a visual culture in smaller or larger contexts that often bites its own tail. Very few people manage to produce truly original work. More than some of us like to admit, we tend instead to reproduce visual and cultural stereotypes. 
21st January 2012 © Lise Utne
Harvey Benge's blog entry 'New Photographic Clichés' recently alerted me to 25 such categories identified by Mark Page over a series of blog posts.

In his (now discontinued) blog Manchester Photography, Page produces a humorous list of topics many of us will recognise -- perhaps with a hint of embarrassment -- as our own:

1: The dodgy painting
2: Mounds and heaps
3: Backs of heads, either human, fish or fowl
4: The "found" photograph
5: People with shit over their heads
6: Murals in the landscape
7: Teeny tiny shrunken cities
8: Falling, floating, jumping folk
9: Half in half out, folk wading
10: Calling exhibitions and books things like (re)this or (something)similar where half the (fucking)title is (in)brackets
11: Diptychy triptychy random white borders
12: Crappy photos of "What I eat"
13: Typologies of murder weapons (either real or potential)
14: Topiary
15: Charging a $35 submission fee for exhibition/competition entry
16: Photos imitating old paintings
17: Where the magic happens, studios and darkrooms
18: Girls & beds, messed & distressed
19. Semi-naked attractive American white kids hanging out of trees
20. Crap collage
21. Detroit? Oh come on, give me a fucking break
22. People staring through sweaty bus/train windows
23. Something old something new, take an old picture and mix it together with a new one
24. Pissed Russians
25. Anything shot with that Apple 'Hipstamatic' app bollocks

After Page had posted his first 12 points, Harvey Benge commented (on 7 October 2009): 

'[...]  I just had to repost this as not only is it funny, but it's true. [...] I'd add, over photoshopped pictures of young kids often in funny clothes, people made to do things in the landscape they would never do in real life and large format landscape pictures we have all seen a million times before.'

Funny, yes, and enough to make one blush: Personally, I am aware of being guilty according to charges numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 11, and 12. Ouch!

(PS: Words typed in blue contain links to the mentioned content: please click to open in a new window.)


  1. Guilty of 2, 10, and especially 21 (but I go to Detroit. A lot.) 25 as well, except that I have an Android. It still applies. Interesting post, good to think about as one photographs, to consciously avoid cliches and work harder towards a genuine expression.

  2. That's it, Megan: it takes a lot of awareness and conscious, hard work to start avoiding some of those tempting traps -- or to at least start falling into them with open eyes. -- Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Oh, and I think you must most definitely be excused in relation to number 21...

  4. Some points are a guiltypleasure!

  5. Yes, consciously pursuing these and other stereotypical approaches can definitely have its own rewards - and the results are not necessarily without value.

  6. Fun exercise, going through the list -- I might shoot some 22's these days... ;-)

  7. I quite like 22s; I wonder if my travelling shots from inside buses and trains qualify? If they do, I'm guilty according to yet another charge. Looking forward to seeing yours :-)

  8. Guilty of a few, especially that apple hipstamatic.

  9. :-) we're all guilty, Debrah...