Cliché: any form of expression that is overused and lacking in freshness or originality
I will confess that have commited all the following ten street photography clichés at least once and some more often than I would like to admit. I do, however, try to avoid relying on them or mistaking them for high-quality work. They are, in no particular order:
- Someone doing little more than walking down the street, sitting on a bench, waiting for a bus, talking on a cell phone, lying on the grass, etc.
- The back of someone’s head
- Someone destitute, preferably asleep, lying on the sidewalk or a park bench, or begging for money
- Someone walking past or sitting in front of a wall or poster
- Someone who is oddly or inappropriately dressed
- A grainy, gritty, high-contrast black and white image produced solely for the purpose of a pseudo-journalistic effect
- An image shot with the camera tilted at an absurd angle
- A reflection in a sidewalk or curbside puddles
- A street performer
- A street performer’s audience
Keep in mind that there’s a paradox at work here: Even if the subject itself is a common cliché, it's still possible that your approach to photographing it may be completely unique and original. So how can you tell the difference? In my experience, fresh and original street photography elicits a definite reaction, be it amusement, amazement, curiosity, envy, or even annoyance. If the best reaction your street photos can get is “nice” or a cursory glance, it may be time to cut down on the cliches and work harder on finding fresh subjects or showing common subjects in a new way.
How many of these clichés have you been guilty of? Are there any I've missed? And which of these two photos do you think most qualifies as a cliché?