Gimmick Photography is a term I frequently use when discussing photographic concepts and styles with photographers and students I work with. I use it when describing how and why some photographers get known and remembered faster than others. It’s when an artist shoots, rinses and repeats over and over again, sometimes for many years, giving their audience a repetition of subjets that makes a connection and recalls earlier efforts. Like playing that same 45RPM single over and over and over… the song frequently becomes a hit!

via Gimmick Photography: A Primer – Manhattman.

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  1. That’s pretty much common wisdom by now, and is usually just called finding your niche–be it one part of the world, one type of baby (like newborns), one type of wedding…whatever.

  2. Or you can be known as a person of many interests. Take a look at Dan Winters for example. ‘Finding your niche’ doesn’t necessarily mean shoot the same thing over and over.

  3. I think it kinda boils down to content and delivery.
    There can be obvious consistencies for either independently or together.
    Seems to me that gimmick occurs where there is an imbalance between style and substance where substance takes a back seat.

  4. Forgot to say thanks for the link. Found Ken Nordine’s “Word Jazz” on Mr. Maslov’s site.

    • Been a huge Ken Nordine Fan since underground radio in San Francisco played Word Jazz and other of his works late at night in the late 60s along with psychedelic and folk music.. I was a kid and would listen to the “new” FM rock radio all night….So cool how it all mixed in….

  5. Ha! Thanks for reposting. Yes the premise is obvious and it’s no secret, but when I use the term Gimmick Photography, it drives people nuts and they usually first think I am dissing the artist , which I am not. But it usually makes the point, especially with students and photographers who are still discovering their own style. But one could say it’s a cheap shot, like a tabloid headline. But it got you to read the piece.

  6. Or you could just not think about what the audience wants to see and instead make work that you think is meaningful. It might not become a hit but who cares. Most of what’s in the music charts is crap anyway and it’s not that different for photography.

    • Yes good point. I was not suggesting that anyone really plays to the audience, but with this particular idea, it is what people see and remember. Yes it is simply one idea and works best when an artist stumbles on to it.

      I remember first seeing Martin Shoeller’s work. Every image was a really tight portrait. None were initially celebrities, but by seeing them over and over, we got to know him and his wonderful work. 5×7 or 8×10 maybe? And we all got to know him pretty quickly.

      • The repetitive, often typological work of shooting the same thing in the same way over and over again is only one particular approach amongst many. I personally find it very boring (not Schoeller in particular, just that approach in general) but that is really just my own taste and not a general value judgement. I’m also very bored by style and I know that most people don’t share this view.

        Having a very recognizeable style and/or subject matter does certainly help achieve success in the marketplace (in both art and commercial photography) simply because it creates a brand. But this does not necessarily mean that recognizability or style is a valuable artistic endeavour. (I want to stress artistic, because it’s different for commercial photography where you deliver a service and the client has to know what they get.)

        I did not read your article but it seems like you tried to be a bit provocative in labelling William Wegman, Anne Geddes and Cindy Sherman all as “Gimmick” photographers. While I agree on the former too, I would say that, even though I’m not a fan of Sherman’s, you’re grossly misrepresenting her body of work. Historic figures are just a small part of the work she did throughout her career. And the fact that it’s always her in the picture is no more of a gimmick than being outdoors is a gimmick for a landscape photographer. (And it’s not at all the same thing as what Geddes does as her photos are always about the same thing, i.e. how cute babies are.)

        • All great points.

          My Manhattman blog is really showcasing my own interests in music , hats and martinis ;-)…. and inserting work from the photographers whom I represent in the commercial world . Might be considered advertorial in nature as I find that creatives spend more time on my entertainment postings, but then stumble on the wonderful work from my talent.

          If you read the posts I have written, my style, if I have one, tends to be on the snarky side. Not always so serious, but either personal or solely image driven. So listing Sherman and Wegman along with Geddes right there will incite comments like yours (but I also compared Geddes to Kenny G.- so there). I’m a big fan of Sherman and have followed her since her first black & white series, but for my purposes, I had to simplify what she has been doing for almost thirty years. When people think of her, the think: Self Portraits! Why doesn’t she shoot Wegman’s Weimaraners along with a baby in a giant eggshell?

          Again posting a headline with the phrase Gimmick Photography, is bound is piss real artists and creators off a bit or make them go read what the piece is all about. . But I find when I write some attention grabber, I get more traffic out of it (including it be rebroadcast here, which I didn’t know about) .

          • I did get the sarcasm and I don’t really have a problem with the phrase Gimmick photography. What I meant was, while I can see how that phrase can be used to describe a lot of work, I don’t think it’s accurate in relation to Sherman, if by the phrase you mean photographers that basically make different iterations of the same basic image. If we look at Sherman’s work as something along the line of performance art then we can’t call her a one-trick pony simply because she is in every picture. Being in the picture is the basic condition for what she does. She doesn’t just work in the genre of self-portraiture, self-portraiture is her medium.

  7. I think once upon a time, what the author refers to as gimmick photography was thought of as “finding one’s niche,” but these days it seems that most photographers use the “shoot, rinse and repeat” approach are just looking at as a form of branding, as opposed to a method of artistic exploration.

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