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June 29, 2012


"4. Someone walking past or sitting in front of a wall or poster"

So tired of that one. A few street photographers, including a few rather well-known stret photographers, seem to think that that is what street photography is. Dreary.

To me, the first one is more of a cliche. The second is more like a quick sketch of an environment. I know I've certainly been guilty of all those cliches.

In my opinion neither of these would be in my choice of your top ten. I suppose the first is a bit more of a cliche, although I like the way that the big yellow daisy on her dress echoes both the shape of the door handle and the yellow reflection on the far right of the window. In addition, the light on her shoulder plays nicely with the light on the door handle and is somewhat repeated in the light on her hair, setting up three semicircles of light. Hmmm, as I write this I may be changing my mind...
The second photo uses cliche #4, but is somewhat saved by the division of space into light and dark, and by the repetition of the blues and the shot of red. It introduces another cliche - the partial person entering the frame.
But ice cream with chocolate sauce is a bit of a cliche for dessert - but it's still tasty! It's all in how it is served.

Life is a melting pot of cliches and street photography is a panoramic view of these. I like both photos. Each have their own merit, cliches or not. My favourite? The second one. It has light, dark, colour, vertical lines, the car reflection, the bronze door fixtures and lastly the door sign drawing you in. What does it say? Not quite sure at first, have to look closer. Brian Walker.

Your list covers most, if not all, street photography. Good images must either transcend or celebrate the cliches with composition and vision. Even then the images won't work for everyone.

Eek. Number 2 has me bang-to-rights.
One of my own (and others) favourite photographs is of the back of someone's head in front of a building just before & after demolition.

I'm just wondering which one of the two you consider to be more of a cliché than the other. Perhaps you could, before your next post, tell us what you think about these two photos, and why.
Thanks, Lesley


Of the two, I consider the first one the least interesting and most clichéd. There is no mystery or ambiguity, it simply is what it is: a young woman walking down the street, talking on a cellphone. She's visually interesting only because she's wearing a bright floral dress and yellow sunglasses. I could show you at least a dozen photos of mine that look a lot like it.

The second photo, on the other hand, has more to offer. Is the person in the blue sweater a man or a woman? Is the boy entering the frame somehow related? Was I aware that I was photographing an elderly person next to a doorway marked "National Archives?" And what about the shadowy image of the car reflected in the glass door? If nothing else, it directs your eye to the right, which is also the brightest, most colorful part of the image. Details like this aren't something you see every day (or at least I don't). It also helps reinforce my point, which is that the job of the artist is to find fresh and insightful ways to show us that our existence is not as mundane as we often imagine it to be.

Hi Gordon,

A great post. As usual, you gave us a lot to think about. I enjoyed the comments also.

I'm not sure if my comment is contrarian or not. I do use these cliches often to set up a shot, but I try to make sure, for instance, that the background someone walks across is something worthwhile photographing in the first place. Something about its composition, color, etc will have to attract me. The whole image, including the person, will need to be well-composed, free of distracting elements, etc.

If the person is walking across the background, I'll want a point in the stride that isn't static-looking. If the person is standing, I'll want something interesting about him or her...same if sitting.

If I may, here are two examples:

Young woman walks across wall: http://tinyurl.com/blb897u

Monmartre Steps: http://tinyurl.com/cwe9k55

Well, I *think* (hope?) these are decent images. I certainly welcome anyone's criticism on any of them, though.

Thanks for keeping up your excellent photo blog.

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