The Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer: Photo Clichés of the 1930s

Back in 1937, art director M.F. Agha wrote a piece in U.S. Camera magazine titled The Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer, which warns photographs not to pursue common photographic clichés that were saturating the industry. It’s an interesting glimpse into what popular photo subjects were back in the day.

Now compare these to photographer Martin Parr’s piece on present clichés seen in the industry. What are some modern day clichés that you’d include in an updated version of this Hippocratic Oath?

The Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer (via ICP via The Online Photographer)

  • Anonymous

    …I will never bracket a series of shots inside an old house rotting in ruination so I can construct an abhorrent HDR image to post on Flickr…

  • Mark Kalan

    You do realize he’s being sarcastic. Re-read the last line.

  • Eduardnic


  • Anonymous

    I’ll never be a douche on an internet forum when I really am in no place to even consider myself a photographer.

    Nor will I think that Hipstamatic automatically makes me a fine art photographer.

  • Anonymous

    My thoughts exactly.  Honestly I can’t stand it when people complain “oh blah blah blah is so overdone”.  I find it snobbish and insulting.  I’ve been photographing since I was a kid, and have been very active the past many years so I’m a bit more “in tune” with what’s popular and “overdone” these days.  However, a great many people are just discovering or re-discovering the joys of photography.  When I see people get overly snobby and critical of a piece because it’s “been done”, rather than speaking to the actual photo itself – I just think to myself “jerk” and move on.

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Yeah, I think that the people who complain about people taking photos don’t love *taking* photos.

  • Solis48

    I say “boneheads” and move on.

  • Travis

    revised for todays standard:
    – I will never put a ring inbetween pages of a book to make a heart shadow
    – I will not arrange playing cards to spell love
    – I will not take pictures from an iphone, apply 13 filters and call it art
    – I will not photograph myself in the mirror with a duckface
    – I will not photograph my pokemon collection and share it with thousands of people who don’t care.

  • ceebeee

    I will never take a digital picture and leave it unmanipulated.

  • Dannynoonan82

    I will never take a picture of myself in a mirror

  • Rick Bennett

    I will not spend more time reading photography blogs than creating images.

  • james

    when my friend is wearing reflective glasses, i will never think about taking or actually take a picture of my reflection in them.

  • TODD

    I will never write a document with so many horrible misapplications of the carriage return as The Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer.

  • kelly hofer

    guilty of that

  • kelly hofer

    this is really the only way a photographer has of showing themselves. it may be cliche but it’s honest

  • Anonymous

    so many consumer digital camera adverts had a picture of a little kid with food all over his/her face

  • Dannynoonan82

    I will never employ selective color

  • Dannynoonan82

    There are far better ways to take a self portrait.

  • Brian

     I make a reasonable living from HDR of houses, many of them are old and guess where I have them. :)

  • REptar

    The México stuff is very interesting. Post-revoluion poverty, I guess.

  • Sebastián Soto

    And some of them may include a mirror. It’s all about vision.

  • Sebastián Soto

    I will never say to other photographers what NOT to photograph.

  • A Guest

    Boneheads like in “Nazis trying to rip off the working class image of non-fascist skinheads”?

    Sorry, English is not my mother tongue so I don’t know any other meaning of the word “bonehead” :)

  • A Guest

    right, but neither will I encourage them to create hipstamatic “art” or other stuff I really dislike and view as a disgrace to everybody with even a bit of photographic ambitions :)

  • Tpkeller2

    I don’t mind explaining to people what/why ‘I’ shoot and print the way I do…what they do is their creative choice. Unless I’m grading/judging/curating, I am in no position to impose my tastes on anyone (or misuse my tastes to exclude a work). That said, if someone seeks guidance, I will do my best to explain my suggestions and support them the best I can.

  • Sebastián Soto

    Yes, that may be true, but I also think all who wants to be a good photographer needs to try everything, even those overrated of very-hated or ‘art-y’ stuff. They’ll gain exprience through it.

  • timo musgrove

    hmm im tempted to create a photo album that has all these :P minus the nude shots

  • timo musgrove

    mind you i would have to take these photos in either victoria or vancouver :P