More on how to exceed the clichéd subject matter

Alicia Vera made this sweet photo at a strip club where she's doing a long term project. © Alicia Vera

Two things have happened that suggest a follow up to the post of two weeks ago, about photographic clichés.

First, I had the pleasure of working with San Francisco based photographer Alicia Vera last week. She’s working on a long term project about a strip club in the Bay Area. (Photographs of strippers were #5 on the list of clichés in the 2/22 post.) So I felt more than a little anticipation before I started to look at the few hundred images she sent me.

The goal was to talk about what was working and what needs to happen to finish the project. I also offered thoughts about how to elevate her photography.

Thankfully, many of the pictures Alicia has made exceed the cliche, the stereotyped images that so many people have made of strippers. One of the successful images is above.

How did she do that, exceed the stereotype? For one, she is connected to the subject. She’s spent a lot of time getting to know the women who work there. She’s sensitive to light and color, she’s not framing in the usual way and the most successful pictures convey a quality of the setting - they don’t just show what’s happening.

In the photo above, all of these things are true. So brava to Alicia.

The second thing that prompts a follow up post was lunch with a good friend who owned a superb photography gallery here in Portland for many years and for many more years has been connected to the photography world in other ways.

During our lunch, he offered another list of clichés that busted my gut. Here is his list:

  1. Photographs of wrinkled old hands (folded)
  2. Photographs of monks in saffron robes
  3. Photographs that use venetian blinds to light the sujbect
  4. Photographs of nudes
  5. Photographs of landscapes
  6. Especially photographs of nudes in landscapes
  7. And without exception, any photograph that involves a long exposure and moving water
  8. Photographs of unmade beds
  9. Photographs of child soldiers holding rifles
  10. and finally, any photograph of anything that is not already listed on this page.

Thank you Steven.

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