August 19, 2022

Cliches in Photography

By 1605 Publishers
Inspiration, Photography

The photo industry makes it hard to avoid clichés. The sunrises and sunsets, clouds, the emptiness of the landscapes, yellow cabs of New York, selfies in the mirror, you name it...! These sugary and so familiar to us images are everywhere. It makes it hard for some photographers to originate their ideas in the middle of the whirlpool of cliches that are screaming at us from every corner. Despite the pollution of these common visuals on social media, advertising and print magazines, the cliches can be deconstructed. If you feel like your project will not take off without that starry sky photo, do it! However, think about what you can adjust so your cliche suddenly shines in a new light and becomes a masterpiece.

We made a selection of some typical cliche images where the cliches were deconstructed and also asked the photographers at 1605 Publishers what is their biggest cliche in art. Enjoy!


Empty landscapes (Edward Weston)

Edward Weston


Hands (Irving Penn, Hands of Miles Davis)

Irving Penn


Birds (Masahisa Fukase - Ravens)

Fukase Masahisa


Cats (Willy Ronis Vincent, Anne-Marie & Cat Gordes France 1950’s)

Willy Ronis Vincent, Anne-Marie & Cat Gordes France 1950’s


Dogs (Josef Koudelka, Exiles)

Joseph Koudelka


Cigarettes (Irving Penn)

Irving Penn


Staircases (Sante Vittorio Malli, La scala, 1958)

Sante Vittorio Malli   La scala (The Staircase), 1958 Gelatin silver print; printed c.1958


Snowy or Rainy New York (Saul Leiter)

Saul Leiter


Flowers (André Kertész) 


"The biggest cliche in photography for me is reconstructing photos in Photoshop, so for example adding In a fake cloudy sky or recomposing the entire image, adding objects and photoshopping a 'new’ Image. I think the photo should be shot for the most part in camera. There are some exceptions, like removing objects to get a cleaner image." - Bastiaan Woudt


"I think that photographers don’t have to avoid so called cliches, isn’t it that a personal perspective of the artist can revive any subject in an original way? Personally, I even use cliches in my work, for example, the sunset might be most photographed subject, but it inspired me to make the work Sundowners. I seek the contradiction in what I photograph and what the spectator is emphasised by the titles of the work." - Thirza Schaap


"I’m not sure there is anything that I would never photograph because I personally think it a cliche. I believe it’s all how you look at it. Even something cliche can be seen differently. It’s an interesting challenge to go somewhere or shoot something that’s been done to death and somehow bring your vision into and make it yours.  A friend of mine studied with Richard Avedon and he recalled one assignment that he was given to photograph the Saint Patrick’s day parade in New York City. A notoriously cliche event. Everyone in the class grimaced. The photographs he took at that parade ended up becoming some of his favorite images." -  Maura Sullivan

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