I came across a book the other day called Photo No-Nos, edited by Jason Fulford. More than 200 contributors – photographers, curators, writers – have provided lists of things they avoid in their work. These lists have been collated and alphabetised, and each contributor was asked to write about one of the things they submitted.
The result is a very strange and highly fascinating book. With more than 200 contributors, the list probably includes more than a thousand topics. The editor makes the point that there are no hard and fast rules, that photography is subjective, and that one could even read this list as a ‘challenging shot list’.
The topics range from things that I strongly disagree with as a photo no-no (analogue photography) to things I very much agree with (dogs pooping – who wants to photograph that, far less see images of it??), things I don’t understand or know about (where and what is The Festival of Koovagam or Kumbh Mela?), funny things (Errant Gloves, Socks, Hats, Shoes, Underwear (Especially in the Desert)), and things that make me think.
Take the letter Q as another example. It includes only five topics, three of which are Quarantine Boredom (I think that could make for interesting photography actually), Quasi-Deep Thoughts (how do you even photograph that?) and Question Marks on the Covers of Books (huh?)
One that really made me think was My Mother’s Funeral. It reminded me of my mother’s funeral. The light was shining in through the stained glass windows around the altar, and I wanted to get up and photograph it. I did not do so, out of some sense that I would appear strange, interrupt the ceremony and worry my family.
Earlier this week I went to visit her grave, and took a photograph of the little bird ornament I chose for her gravestone. So that’s something.
And it got me thinking, what are my photo no-nos? I’m shy about being seen taking photos, but that’s not a no-no so much as something I should work at.
Other than that I don’t know that I have that many. I don’t post recognisable photos of my son publicly, but certainly I take them. I feel finished with some of the things I used to shoot before, such as #fromwhereistand or photos of coffeeshop coffee (Cappuccino Designs is in the book!), but I wouldn’t call those no-nos for me either.
It seems to be the case that you develop no-nos by shooting a lot. Perhaps you tire of shooting certain motives after a while, perhaps certain motives turn into clichés to be avoided. When this happens, it means that you have worked through a process with that type of motive, and that seems to me to be a good thing, and something to aim for. And I think that I haven’t developed a whole lot of photo no-nos lately because the pandemic has made me photographically almost dormant.
Do you have any photo no-nos? Tell us in the comments if you like!
~All the best, Jenny G.