The Power Of The Fad - Visual Conformity Or Enlightened Art?

on September 29, 2015

Anyone who has a large collection of photo books and magazines can look at the images reproduced in them and trace the rise and fall of fads in the art. We are assuming that the work we see has been fairly submitted and presented and that we are not seeing the effects of a conspiracy or dogma or commercial ramp. We credit the bulk of the publications with presenting a genuine body of work.

Maybe we shouldn't. Let's face it - SIGNAL magazine had their own standards, agenda, and look - but who wants to base a quality judgement on them...?

Well, anyway, fads come and fads go. The fact that they come is not the defining thing about them - the fact that they go is. We can read the books and trace the rise of the Serious Man Portrait, The New Woman Glamour Portrait, The 1937 Ford Truck Rusting In A Paddock Photo and ever so may others from the 20's, 30's, 40's, and 50's. Many photographers copying a style - indeed copying an idea - based upon the equipment available and the publicity given to it.

Open today's photo book. The Pebbly Yorkshire Beach In HDR, the Skateboarder In Front Of The Graffiti, and the Big Stopper Waterfall should all be there, with the occasional retro image like The Aged Chinese Person Smoking. I must not forget the Timelapse Starscape.

What we really need to do if we are going to make money or club awards in the future is predict the next fad. One person has said it will be The 360º Virtual Room and another has said it will be The Drone Shot. Time will tell, presumably, and if someone throws a new spanner into the works - like a new sensor or a new lens - there will be a fertile period of copying going on. It is even possible that someone will make a new picture with old gear and it will fire the public desire for emulation. I have long admired the kindly and gentle portrait that Arnold Newman did of Alfried Krupp and have tried to emulate it for bridal portraits. One day I will succeed.