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When does a familiar subject become a cliche?

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by RovingMike, Oct 2, 2015.

  1. Atavar

    Atavar Well-Known Member

    Everything I say must be a cliché then, because I hear that sentence a ​lot. :)
  2. Trannifan

    Trannifan Well-Known Member

    What doesn't seem to have been considered so far is the context of the cliche. Is, for example, the single tree photographed simply because it's a single tree with a nice shape, or is it perhaps essential in the context of the surroundings. Does it, for example, add scale and/or depth to what otherwise might well be a run of the mill landscape? Or is the tree simply and unavoidably there, like it or not? Does that make any picture including it a cliche?

  3. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I think that was covered in the question:
    an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has become overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect, even to the point of being trite or irritating, especially when at some earlier time it was considered meaningful or novel.So only if the lone-ness is the idea.
  4. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    I've been off-line for a few days so have not been able to read/reply.

    In my post, I wasn't trying to be judgemental either. I wasn't expressing a view on whether clichés are worth less than non-cliché images. I was just trying to explain why it's contentious for some and not others. Also, to simply point that out that all art experiences the same issue and has the same essential response.

    As to my personal view, it's that only the viewer of something can decide if it's a cliché or not, because only the viewer has experienced or not experienced the repetition. A piece of art in and of itself can never be a cliché, it can only be a cliché in the context of all other art experienced by that viewer.

    So for one person to say, this is a cliché, they're really saying, I have seen this many times before and find it cliché. Other viewers may have never seen it before.

    So, much like the cat, art can be both cliché and not cliché at exactly the same time, determined only by who's viewing it.

    Edit: In fact, you could get quite pretentious and claim that art isn't art until it's experienced by someone. Until then, it's merely a combination of things waiting to be experienced. Is art still art while there's no one around?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2015
  5. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Indeed. Or is a tin-opener a tin-opener until someone opens a tin with it? :)

    What I tried to comment a while back but was defeated by this problem of the site and IE not getting along (is that going to be fixed?) was that I think over time many things can become un-cliched again. I cited Ashness Bridge and the Lone Buttermere tree from the well-worn tripod holes as an examples. I bet many here have never even seen those old '80s and '90s cliches?
  6. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Indeed. Flares would be a non-photographic example, in fashion, then cliché and out of fashion, and then eventually back in fashion again.

    Also, if I take a picture of a lone tree today, does that picture remain a cliché later on when viewed after all the other lone tree pictures have been forgotten? How does the moment the image is captured play into the status of cliché.

    Is it a cliché only when it's viewed at the time the subject is cliché, or is a cliché when it's created during that time, no matter when it's viewed.
  7. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Specifically on that one - yes, it's only a tin-opener, because that's the only function it has in the world. It exists to open tins, and while it's not being used to open them, it's still a tin opener.

    Art has no function, no purpose, beyond being experienced - discuss ;)
  8. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    You did say you've been away for a while, didn't you?.....
  9. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    Even if Art For Art's Sake, it has two purposes: being made and being experienced. Then again, approximately 99.99%* of photography is not intended as art, so it may be art but it also has other purposes.

    *This statistic has been brought to you by Off The Top Of My Head Productions.
  10. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Or, in the case of heavy, old-fashioned jab-jab tin openers, opening oysters...

    Approach a tin opener without knowing what it is for and you may be able to devise at least one new use. Even if you just pretend you don't know what it is for and you may be able to devise at least one new use.

    Oh: and another function of art is to be created. Insofar as you can use the word "function" in this context.


  11. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I find tin-openers make very good door stoppers. And you can dig mud out of your boots with the old fashioned kind.

    Being married to a psychotherapist I would say the experience of others is entirely secondary to the therapeutic value to the artist. Indeed, for many people it is better for others not to see it at all.
  12. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Very true. I enjoy the process of taking photographs, clichés or not and editing them (in the modern, sensible sense), and that enjoyment is separate from the enjoyment of sharing them with others on Flickr (which I note some forum members consider a sub-human form of entertainment).
  13. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    As long as you include the artist amongst those who may experience it, i.e. experience the creation of his/her art, then I wouldn't argue with that.

  14. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    But does natural art, created only by nature exist? EG snowflakes, rainbows, etc.
  15. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member

    No... (had to do that since my answer was too short.)

    Is music art? The theatre? Cooking?
    All can unlock creativity. They can also be mind bending in that they can calm or stimulate or even give you an appreciation of numbers, structure, manual dexterity and an appreciation of colour and form.

    Or be boring...
  16. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    So all the things artists take inspiration from and often render less beautifully than nature created them, are not art?
  17. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    That could take us back into the endless circular discussion of another thread.

    Not only "Is there a god?" but "Is she/he an artist?"
  18. Sejanus.Aelianus

    Sejanus.Aelianus In the Stop Bath

    There is no way of knowing if he, she or it is an artist, assuming that he, she or it exists. In the case that he, she or it does not exist then he, she or it cannot, ipso facto, be an artist.

  19. Catriona

    Catriona Well-Known Member


    I am (not God) but also an artist. Sold more of that in the past than by my photography! :D
  20. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    You mean all the pretty flowers, lovely sunsets and peacocks tails are not created simply to beautify the planet? Then I have mistaken the whole purpose of creation. Just wait till I get my hands on that god fella, I'll tell him next time he can save a lot of effort and just bang the whole universe out in mono.

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