According to the Cambridge Dictionary of English, a cliché is ‘a saying or remark that is very often made and is therefore not original and not interesting’. For photographers and visual artists, the term ‘saying or remark’ could be better exchanged for image, composition or subject matter.
Clichés have always existed, but today they travel faster and multiply in larger numbers. With the online revolution and the explosion of social media, which is very much visual oriented, the amount of photographs we are bombarded with day in and day out has risen exponentially. From all those images, an ever-increasing percentage incorporate a narrow range of common templates, subjects, locales, compositional schemes and/or technical effects. These clichés change with time, very often according to technical ‘revolutions’, fades and fashions, the popularity of different places and favored media through which photography is shared and displayed.
For instance, the advent of high ISO cameras brought with it millions of images of the Northern Lights and the Milky Way over lonely trees, while the arrival of neutral density filters have filled the internet with long exposure black and white images of piers in the ocean. These new clichés re-join the old ones, like near-far compositions with rocks/flowers/water in the foreground and sunset light over a distant peak.
Locales can become cliché too, and most images shared online seem to have been taken on less than 0.001% of the whole planet. If yesterday most images depicted scenes from the Southwest of the USA, today most images seem to be made in Iceland and a few more destinations which are in the bucket list of most photographers.
Photographic clichés have been done, are done and will be done by all photographers, and in fact they play a very important role. They serve to let us...
Read the whole article inside issue 71.