Photo editor Michael Davis on why clichés win photo contests:
I think one of the dynamics at play is that work that was recognized in the past triggers interest in similar work in the present. In other words, we have this library of images in our minds and when we see images that are similar to the images that we think are great, there’s an association, a connection that is positive. These are derivative images. But instead of being a negative aspect, these images get elevated, often to the highest awards and often without realizing we’re just awarding what worked in the past.
That’s the nature of the cliché: I’m photographing a subject that was deemed good in the past, therefore the photo I make today will also be good. As a judge, the perspective is: This type of photo has been recognized in the past, therefore we should recognize it today.
His advice for photographers looking to break free of subjects that have been beaten shot to death? Do the hard work of researching prior work, and think about breaking new ground in either the subject, story, or storytelling method.
If clichés are so bad, why do they win contests? [Michael Davis]
Image credit: Cliche by Tom Newby Photography
Rodney Smith of The End Starts Here has written an interesting piece on the topic of smiling, and argues that smiling is a “false sentiment” that separates a casual photograph from a portrait:
The truth is no portrait of substance has people smiling. Look at the history of painting, Rembrandt, Titian, Goya, Velasquez, Sargent, Vermeer, DaVinci, etc., the subjects gaze to the viewer is neutral at best, neither inviting nor forbidding. It is there for the viewer to see and feel.
Smiling is like much of American popular culture, superficial and misleading. It is part of our vernacular, but it should be expunged in photographs.
You can find some famous portrait paintings made throughout history here. Virtually all of them support this argument.
Smile (via A Photo Editor)
Photographer Rodney Smith writes that the greatest gift possessed by still photographers is under attack like never before:
So dear photographers, others before you fought hard and long to give you a gift. And although everyone from corporations, to magazines, to art buyers try desperately to take it away from you, I implore you not to give it away.
Most of you are young and feel the need to work, and feel powerless against larger forces. You do not realize that when you get older, having the rights to your own work will be the best gift you have as a still photographer. It will help you when you need it most.
[…] The pressure is on. The economy is awful and people will grab what they can get away with. I implore you to stay strong and fight hard for what many other photographers, over the last 50 years, have fought hard to give you; the right to own and control your own work.
What Is A Picture Worth? (via APhotoEditor)
Image credit: Nimoy Present Toss 2009 by Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary Wolves
Harry McCracken over at Technologizer wrote a fascinating piece about Polaroid founder Edwin Land and the history of the SX-70 camera.
“Don’t undertake a project,” an oft-quoted Land maxim goes, “unless it is manifestly important and nearly impossible.” The SX-70 was both.
Did you know that “SX-70″ was actually the codeword used by Land a quarter century before the SX-70 camera for his first instant film camera project? It was his 70th Special eXperiment (Land was a Harvard dropout and prolific inventor, inventing the first synthetic material capable of polarizing light when he was just 19-years-old!)
It’s a pretty lengthy piece, but a must-read for any Polaroid lover.
Polaroid’s SX-70: The Art and Science of the Nearly Impossible (via Daring Fireball)
Image credit: SX-70 Family by Brian Warren