If clichés are so bad, why do they win contests?

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I think one of the dynamics at play is that work that was recognized in the past triggers interest in similar work in the present. In other words, we have this library of images in our minds and when we see images that are similar to the images that we think are great, there’s an association, a connection that is positive. These are derivative images. But instead of being a negative aspect, these images get elevated, often to the highest awards and often without realizing we’re just awarding what worked in the past.

via Blog – Mike Davis.

There Are 12 Comments On This Article.

  1. Long ago I created a stock image of a businessman with a “Bowler” or “Derby” hat and wearing blinders. It sold like crazy. Whenever I showed it to an art director or designer they would look up at me and say “Magritte!” I always thought they liked the image because they felt good about recognizing the “Magritte” “influence”…whether it was actually there or not. So yes, I do think we have a “library” of images in our heads and that it does have a large influence on us.

    As always, thanks for your wonderful blog!

    John

  2. yes, John, I think you are right. If a ‘judge’ or art director recognises an influence, it makes them feel good because it is a positive reinforcement of their knowledge and experience, and therefore they feel more positively about the image itself (if it is good!)

  3. People like what they can grasp straight away without having to think. Popular culture has always been like that, there’s a shift every now and then and then this shift gets rehashed for the next few decades.

  4. If nothing outstanding comes up then yes- rewarding the best executed one that has a twist. It’s the same with ANY competition IME.

  5. This is a very personal aspect of art and how artists, whether they are sculptors, painters, photographers, allow those they admire to influence their work. I find it interesting that the used of photojournalism was used. A lot of cliche images we produced over the years, people trying to emulate the likes of Eddie Adams for one. Or even Nature lovers who followed suit to Weston or A. Adams.

    I have been working on a documentary that revolves around Route 66, a couple photographs of Diners were seen as emulations of Edward Hopper and “Nighthawks”. While it is nice to have that kind of association I have had to work to stay away from the influence, since I want what I am doing to stand on its own merit. Some will view this as noble and many not get me recognized right away but I do ti because I love it.

    Would I love to win a contest, of course, yet at what cost does it come in relationship to the familiarity of someone else’s success.

  6. almostinfamous

    the late, great, Will Mortensen had a sweet little book called ‘Command to Look’- long out of print, exorbitant rates quoted by those who do have copies for sale- that basically laid out a formula or rather a set of guidelines on how to get your work into salons and galleries. I assume the same formula applies, adjusted for context, in any photo competition.

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