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Author Topic: The 101 Cliches of Photography  (Read 124267 times)
Paul Sumi
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« Reply #40 on: October 23, 2006, 10:49:09 PM »
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Fast forward to century 21 - there are 6.5 billion people on the planet and counting. Any given medium of expression is going to go rapidly saturated - all possible permutations are going to be thoroughly exploited in the time it takes Mr. Jones to pop into the loo.
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Given the situation and the tremendous scale of numbers that Dale describes, one can argue that the photographing of cliches has insinuated itself into the global economy.  What would happen if we were actually prohibited from shooting any of the "101 Cliches of Photography?"  

At first glance, banning photographic cliches would seem to be a good thing.  For example, certain on-line fora would no longer have multitudinous messages announcing, "my first photo using the new (fill in the name of latest zillion megapixel DSLR)!" with obligatory feline image.   The savings in bandwidth alone would be considerable.

But, upon closer examination, the downsides become all-too-apparent.

Computer hardware makers would be the first to go under.  People would no longer need more and bigger hard drives to store all of their high resolution images of cats, dogs, sunsets, etc.   Larger monitors would no longer be needed to display umpteen-megapixel images of bees landing on flowers, tilted wedding photos or yet another close-up of a moving rock at the Race Track in Death Valley.  Ever more powerful computers would not be necessary to process digital images.  The sales of photo printers, paper and high-margin ink cartridges would plummet.

Sales of digital cameras of all types would likewise decline precipitously.  Consumer and prosumer digicams would languish in warehouses and retail display cases, the lack of sales creating considerable financial chaos among their manufacturers and retailers.   Ironically, high-end sales (particularly DSLRs) might actually pick up.  It seems to me that a significant number of non-pro photographer buyers of these big-ticket items are the sorts who would rather spend great amounts of time on-line arguing about the superiority of their camera's specs versus competing brands than actually using the equipment.  Since they apparently take no photographs, no cliches are produced.

The negative consequences are wider than just a few companies going under.

People would no longer travel great distances on vacation because they would be prohibited from taking pictures of iconic (cliche) locations at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, Yellowstone, or other natural or man-made wonders.   This would affect not only the U.S. but the rest of the world as well.

France's Eiffel Tower would be deserted.  Buckingham Palace's changing of the guard would go un-noted.  The African savannah would be barren of photo safaris.  China's Great Wall would be just another wall and the Angkor Wat temple ruins would sink back into the Cambodian jungle from lack of visitors.  Airlines and other long distance transportation dependent on camera-toting vacation travelers would go bankrupt from lack of business. The world-wide tourist infrastructure -- lodging, eating establishments, car rentals, shops, etc -- would all collapse from lack of custom, inflicting massive damage on the global economy.

So, be careful what you wish for, the consequences may be catastrophic!  

Paul

Oh - and for those interested in seeing my photographic cliches:

[a href=\"http://www.pbase.com/pauls]http://www.pbase.com/pauls[/url]
« Last Edit: October 23, 2006, 10:59:03 PM by PaulS » Logged

alainbriot
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« Reply #41 on: October 23, 2006, 11:05:13 PM »
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Paul,

Nice cliches ;-)  

Care to tell us where is F8 point so we can go there and make our own cliches of this location?
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Alain Briot
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John Camp
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« Reply #42 on: October 23, 2006, 11:08:57 PM »
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Cliches are like the supreme court justice's comment about pornography: I can't define it but I know it when I see it. Sunsets often are, but not always; babies often are, but not always; & so on. Maybe the most famous landscape picture in history is a Moonrise...like, duh, that hadn't been done before.

When it comes to lists, I sort of like the Ten Commandments of Leica Photography:

1. Thy children are ugly. Do not make us look upon them...

3. Thou shalt not photograph thy dog, nor thy cat, nor thy ass. (Some dispensation may be had for thy neighbor's ass, but we'd have to look at it first...)

7. Thou shalt not photograph homeless people. Thou shalt leave them alone, or buy them a sandwich; this is pleasing in the eyes of the Lord...
« Last Edit: October 23, 2006, 11:09:43 PM by John Camp » Logged
alainbriot
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« Reply #43 on: October 23, 2006, 11:34:30 PM »
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When it comes to lists, I sort of like the Ten Commandments of Leica Photography:
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=81901\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I like this kind of list too.  I remember one for the Zone System but haven't seen it for a while.  If someone knows where to find it, or is willing to post excerpts to this page, from what I remember it was a pretty funny one as well.
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Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #44 on: October 24, 2006, 10:16:16 AM »
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Paul,

Nice cliches ;-) 

Care to tell us where is F8 point so we can go there and make our own cliches of this location?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=81900\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hi Alain,

I traveled with people who know how to get to what we called "F-8 Point," but I couldn't point to it on a map to save my life.  This is one time I wish I owned a GPS.

Generally, the turn-off is just before Dead Horse State Park (near Moab).  Getting there involves traveling a number of miles on rough dirt roads (high clearance vehicle necessary, 4-wheel drive helpful).  Definitely not as easy to access as parking at the visitors center at Dead Horse (which is a surprisingly good sunset location).

If I were to do this on my own I would arrive late afternoon to shoot the sunset, camp overnight, and shoot the sunrise the next morning.  Parts of the "road" are pretty nasty to drive in the dark if one is not familiar with the area.

Wish I could be more helpful.

Back to the topic at hand.

Paul
« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 11:13:27 AM by PaulS » Logged

alainbriot
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« Reply #45 on: October 24, 2006, 12:11:00 PM »
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Paul,

Thank you.  I am familiar with the area so finding the dirt road before Dead Horse Point should be no problem.  Sometimes it involves getting lost and finding other, just as interesting locations, which is part of the fun of scouting for locations!

I saw you went to the "false Kiva" site as well.  This is one that is hard to find too.  We wandered around the sandstone bluff above the Kiva for hours before realizing that there was a trail.  We found the Kiva the next day.  It's actually a steep hike up into the ruin, but what a view.  I want to return on a cloudy day to have a more moody ambiance for the photograph.

Thank you for sharing your work.  I very much like your vertical composition titled "Early Morning, F8 Point" .  It is actually an uncommon image of Canyonlands, definitly not a Cliche!

Best regards,
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Alain Briot
Author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Composition, Creativity and Personal Style., Marketing Fine Art Photography and How Photographs are Sold.
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #46 on: October 24, 2006, 01:07:40 PM »
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With the availability of cheap photography since the 70's and especially today, there are many taking photographs who are either copying the work of the greats and well known, or trying to emulate the styles. Why? Because their work - worked! By now give or take every conventional photographic subject has been tackled and there are people who could write books on the best way to photograph each subject from an objective point of view, i.e. what has worked over the years.

Therefore every photographic subject is by definition cliched. There is only a very very narrow window of originality open in any genre and it in itself is only an offshoot of a similarly cliched genre.

Let us take Alain. He shoots the most cliched subject in photography. Landscapes. His artistic take on the landscape is very good, it works, but because of that it is again defined by the name cliche. He isn't shooting landscapes at f1.2 or using funky tilts or fisheyes which may give originality to his art. Do I then say that his work is no longer significant? That his artistic expression is worthless? What nonsense!

I have no formal artistic training but I would not hestitate to define photography as the expression of the photographer through the medium of the camera. Just as with art. Here is where we seperate the wheat from the chaff. What has become cliched is photography based on technicalities, based on machinery. 'Nice photo' should be the ultimate curse on any photograph. The image must show the soul of the photographer through the coming together of light and composition. It has to be far more than just a 'nice photo', it has to SPEAK to the viewer in ways that another photograph may not.  When I see Alain's Antelope Light Dance photo it speaks to me in ways that could not have come about from anything entitled a cliched genre. There are a few photos which I would hang on my wall and although perhaps cliched in their genre, they are anything but cliched in their execution.
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opgr
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« Reply #47 on: October 24, 2006, 01:07:53 PM »
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I was thinking that a cliché and a trend are closely related, no?

The latest trend here that I can recall off the top of my head is Food Photography with extreme shallow depth of field. Food being a highly popular subject in general, so many magazines and commercials are now pushing those types of images, it's beyond funny. The similarity in these images is quickly making it a true cliché. But since it's a trend, some day the images will subside and be forgotten, so that the trend can be rediscovered in 20 years time as the next best thing since sliced bread (to remain consistent with the subject at hand).

So, how long does a cliché remain a cliché?
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Oscar Rysdyk
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« Reply #48 on: October 24, 2006, 01:20:04 PM »
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On a different note: who here believes that "cliché" is a value-judgment?

And if so, would you say that "A brilliantly executed cliché" is a contradiction bordering the sarcastic?
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Oscar Rysdyk
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« Reply #49 on: October 24, 2006, 01:48:44 PM »
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would you say that "A brilliantly executed cliché" is a contradiction bordering the sarcastic?
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I would say it might demonstrate genius.
« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 01:51:14 PM by alainbriot » Logged

Alain Briot
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« Reply #50 on: October 24, 2006, 01:50:18 PM »
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The image must show the soul of the photographer through the coming together of light and composition.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=82015\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

This is a subject I develop at length in my next essay "The Eye and the Camera".  I think you will enjoy reading it.  

Thank you for your comments on my work.

Regards,
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Alain Briot
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #51 on: October 24, 2006, 01:59:54 PM »
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On a different note: who here believes that "cliché" is a value-judgment?

And if so, would you say that "A brilliantly executed cliché" is a contradiction bordering the sarcastic?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=82019\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

IMO quality of execution has nothing to do with originality (or lack thereof).  The concept/personal vision may be better expressed through technical excellence.  Or not - for example, 60's rock musicians were not often virtuoso vocalists or instrumentalists.

In contrast to your question, how can "cliche" be a quantitative judgement?  At what number photograph did the vista of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View become a cliche?  The 500th?  Was the 499th NOT a cliche?  How much more of a cliche was the 501st compared to the 500th?

Paul
« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 02:00:30 PM by PaulS » Logged

mmurph
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« Reply #52 on: August 03, 2007, 08:21:43 PM »
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Thanks Russell, interesting post!

After 30 years in photography, there are certain things that you see again, and again, and again ...

Sure, Photo 101 students need to be encouraged. But if you are serious, you eventually need to ask whether your own work is merely repeating cliches. And you need to be able to talk about what you see in artwork without worrying about offending some "lowest common denominator" photographer.  

At a conference where she was being honored, Anne Tucker told a story about her first semsester in graduate school for photography. She got a "B".  When she went to ask her "instructor" (Nathan Lyons) what a "B" meant, he said "Anne, in graduate school there are really only two grades. An "A" or an "F". "      

Sure, subjective. But at some point you need to trust someone's judgement if you are to have a mentor, etc.

Anyway, really old thread here, but I thought you would like this:

http://mncp.org/index.cfm/openings_closing...oll_Sunburn.cfm

Sunburn is a meditation on landscape, particularly the photographic cliché of the sunset. Eric William Carroll asks, "Why do we feel the need to repeatedly photograph something that happens every day? Is it beauty? Is it time?" Using photographs of landscapes and sunsets found in the dumpsters of one-hour-photo stores, Carroll pushes the images into sublime fields of color through bleaching and silk-screening. In the end, the artist hopes not to describe the beauty of a sunset, but rather re-imagine it.

Best,
Michael
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #53 on: August 03, 2007, 09:30:26 PM »
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You're saying that the sun sets every day?  And people take pictures of it?
« Last Edit: August 03, 2007, 09:31:54 PM by gordonsbuck » Logged

Ray
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« Reply #54 on: August 03, 2007, 11:41:07 PM »
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This is really good, that old threads should be rejuvenated. Thanks for that, mmurph.

The fact is, in October 2006 I was trekking in Nepal and had little opportunity to access LL.

Having now read the entire thread, I think the issues raised are important.

I'm particularly impressed with Dale Cotton's response. Dale seems to have a breadth of knowlege on such matters unparalleled (or should that be unparalelled or unparrallelled?)

My own take is this. We photograph scenes because they 'move' us in some way. The 'move' might be an obligatory response to a request from a spouse to photograph a particular scene, for example.

Cliches are embedded in our consciousness.  Common language itself is a cliche. Almost every phrase you've uttered has been said a milliom time before.

The pressure on artists to produce something original is enormous.

One cliche I'd like to add to the list is the 'group' photo of kids at school or college or company.

Here's a shot of the class of '64, Tibetan refugee style. A little bit different from my school photo when I was 11 years old.

[attachment=2919:attachment]
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Anthony R
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« Reply #55 on: August 04, 2007, 01:01:19 AM »
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russell I applaud you for making such a thread. I have an enormous distaste for cliche and also realize that every photograph has already been taken. I see where you are coming from and know that it is meant in good fun.

Here are some additions without the defensive arguments against (me thinks some doth protest way too much)

Close-up of a sunflower
Person wearing a half mask or pulling their shirt/sweater/scarf over their mouth
Person shot with a shawl of some sort wrapped about their head/face
an empty pier or dock
close up of an eyeball
a person with wings
a color image selectively made black and white
a pregnant woman holding her stomach
a field of wheat or better yet hay bales
an umbrella shot from birdseye
shot of/in a rear view mirror
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blansky
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« Reply #56 on: August 04, 2007, 10:44:39 AM »
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When I was a member of  APUG, a "traditional" photography site, one day someone started a thread that suggested we list all the kinds of photographs we hated. It started off by listing the usual, slot canyons, kids with angel wings, grand vistas of wheat fields, and then thread after thread hit upon hundreds of our great photography "hates".


By the time the list was done after about ten pages of threads it turns out that we as a group hated everything.

Michael
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Rob C
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« Reply #57 on: August 04, 2007, 11:21:37 AM »
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The distinction between cliche (I can´t find accents on this Spanish keyboard) and just another photo of a familiar subject is very difficult to define. I would suggest that cliche is the term to  be used when one is talking about  something that has already been done very well by a ´name´ photographer and which then spawns repeats from other photographers of whatever standing; generic pictures, on the other hand, are simply shots that can be classified as the OP suggested.

I think that the OP is a rather important thing to contemplate. It really cuts to the chase and repeats, in a different manner, the truth behind what Terrence Donovan said: the problem for the amateur is finding a reason to take a picture.

I think you have to exclude the snapshotter in this discussion because he clearly neither knows nor gives a hoot about cliches or otherwise - why should he, it´s not his obsession!

However, for the rest of us, the problem is almost religious: who is free of original sin? Who can say that he has not been influenced by seeing other work than his own? To admit that is to deny originality and to accept that cliche is an unavoidable part of one´s personal armoury. For the pro, it is often done to order...

Ciao - Rob C
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mmurph
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« Reply #58 on: August 04, 2007, 04:18:06 PM »
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However, for the rest of us, the problem is almost religious: who is free of original sin? Who can say that he has not been influenced by seeing other work than his own? To admit that is to deny originality and to accept that cliche is an unavoidable part of one´s personal armoury. For the pro, it is often done to order...

Yes, exactly. To find a master/mentor and "copy" his/her style, as a student is a very valid, necessary, and even natural learning process.  

It may be more or less concious.  We are all "stamped" by our own personal school of influence - Robert Frank, Walker Evans, Gary Winograd, Robert Misrach, Ansel Adams, etc.

The challange is to grow beyond repeating what you have seen or know to work, to develop your own personal style.  

To be able to "mimic" other styles as required is a sign of a certain level of facility, learning, and understanding.  As long as you don't get trapped into being too clever - or too ironic - so that mimicing others becomes your work and you never move on to develop a personal style that you believe in.  

Or stay so stuck in your head and so cynical that you can't make *any* photos without feeling that it is a meaningless activity. Then you just need to pick up a Holga and start playing again  

Best,
Michael
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Gordon Buck
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« Reply #59 on: August 04, 2007, 05:06:45 PM »
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an empty pier or dock
...
...
a field of wheat or better yet hay bales

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=131433\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Hey, I *like* my photos of piers and docks but don't have my photo of a field of hay bales -- yet (perhaps this year).  I request that these two subjects be removed from the cliche list!
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