Saturday, 12 May 2007

Making room for the best work

George Barr has recently posted on the issue of photographing cliches: photos that have been done to death of popular places and subjects. This seems to be a common photography thought - why photograph something that has already been done a million times? There is no value in such images etc.

I'm not sure I agree with the sentiment that there is nothing valuable in such shots and tend to agree with George - the challenge is to make really great images from places where one knows a good photo is possible. As is commented, it's also these photos that the majority of people like the best: recognisable scenes well executed.

From a commercial point of view i think such photos make a lot of sense. They're not a sell-out, they can become a way to subsidise the other stuff. I recall an interview with Sigourney Weaver that went along similar lines: why was she doing "simple", commercial block-buster work alongside much more artistic endeavours? Her reply was that it took just one of the former to pay for her to do several of the latter. She's not the only actor/actress to make similar comments. Bills need paying, and if it's highly commercial work that is toallow the more creative work to exist at all, then that, surely, is a good thing. Artists of all types, in all forms of artistic endeavour, have followed a similar path. I don't think some of the greatest works of art would exist without it.

From an amateur point of view I also think there is merit in doing the cliches. It becomes an exercise in composition, light, timing etc. When you're not worrying about the basic scene you can work on all the other stuff until it is ingrained. Then, when it comes to executing the harder but more "worthy" images, all of the nitty-gritty has become second nature and isn't a worry. Then one can focus on the scene & the message (if indeed there is one).

Finally, sometimes it's just nice to have great photos of nice places. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. Photography doesn't have to be high-art all the time, sometimes it's just a record of a place and time, an aide-memoire, something to lighten the dark & dreary days.

1 comment:

  1. Doug Stockdale25 May 2007 at 02:29


    This was one of your posts that struck a cord in me. I must have been thinking this same thought about the same time. What I can create today, with a lot of confidence, may not have been as easy without the previous "practice", including doing derivative works of other's images, e.g. Wynn Bullock or Paul Caponigro.

    Best regards, Doug Stockdale


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