Banal Photography - New Genre of Photography? A Debate.

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tom_kondrat, May 22, 2022.

  1. One of the ways I think of banal photography (my own way of thinking of it, not necessarily what Tom has in mind) is taking photos where I don't exclude unnecessary elements. Or, another way of saying it might be, where seemingly unnecessary elements (in addition to seemingly unsubject-like subjects) are no longer unnecessary but sort of become the point of the picture.
    My own idea of banal photography has nothing to do with how candid it is or how candid it seems. It's more about the content (subject, background, and other elements) and how that's presented.
  2. Baltimore, MD
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2022
  3. I'm not sure the birds knew I was taking there pic. Candid? or just banal.
    luis triguez and ericphelps like this.
  4. I finished writing my critical inquiry about banalography and I would like to share the results. Although I know it is not perfect, I did spend quite a lot of time on that. If at least one person finds it interesting or inspiring, then it would make me really happy:
    Ricochetrider and movingfinger like this.
  5. Ah, well need to update my desktop... page wouldnt fully load. Took a look on my phone but at 27 pages in "book" format, it's just too much to read in such a small format.
    Looks like an interesting, deep dive into the genre tho!
  6. What can't be called banal by someone? Who hasn't seen every image available? Who hasn't eaten sausage and mistaken it for food or a planet? This is just the cherry blossoms from Japan reduced to current times.
    If I was having a drink with someone who called Rico's photo, above, banal, I'd ask them to leave the table.
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  7. When it comes to “banal photography” or “banalography”, I see the word “banal” being intentionally transformed from a pejorative to a more creatively descriptive word, where it retains its pejorative flavor while also moving beyond or rising above it to say there’s something more here than formerly met the eye. It’s much like gay folks have taken back the word “queer”. It retains its history as a curse but by gay people owning it we remove it as a weapon against us and it becomes a word of pride in terms of our ability to have risen above being the world’s slur. So, I think a photographer dabbling in this kind of work would likely feel pride when their work was referred to as banal. As with much in life, it would depend on the context within and tone of voice with which either word (and several others) is uttered.
    Ricochetrider and tom_kondrat like this.
  8. I read your treatise. It was interesting. My own experience with photographing the banal came when I was thirteen and I received an 8mm movie camera. It had a single shot mode that allowed me to shoot single pictures of whatever. So I would wonder around shooting hundreds of pictures rather than "wasting" all the 8mm film on shooting in movie mode.

    When I finally finished a fifty-foot roll and developed it, I would review each shot on the screen. At thirteen, I was fascinated with capturing a moment in time. It didn't matter much what I photographed. The freezing is what amazed me. But as time goes on, one adjusts even to miracles. We then want better content, prettier, rarer. We compete. So for most people the banal becomes, well, ordinary and boring. So we move on to more challenging feats.

    Anyway, that's my take on it.
  9. What will they think of next ?
  10. Lomography ? , is this not the film camera version of this "new " genre ? :rolleyes: :D.
  11. I can see that quite a few people gets fixated on the word 'new'. It is my fault as I didn't use the best wording for the title of this post. Unfortunately I cannot change it now. If I could, I would have written: 'Banalography - unrecognized genre of photography. A debate.'
    Let's forget about the word 'new' and try to focus on the essence, shall we?
    Ricochetrider likes this.
  12. ""Lomography" as a photographic ethos and style is generally centered on a rejection of the increasing "perfectness" of modern camera lens design, light metering, and final rendered images. The lomography style tends to reject the continued advancement toward cameras that provide sharper, clearer, and more realistic images, and also rejects the heavily refined photo shoots that orchestrate every aspect of the final image. Lomography seeks to exploit the interpretive and expressive nature of what might otherwise be considered "imperfect" images resulting from the use of low-fidelity cameras and film stocks."
  13. Yeah sounds like a different name for what many have been doing all along. Maybe it is just another level of refinement?
  14. I don’t think it’s an unrecognized genre of photography. Seems to me it’s been recognized and explored for decades. It is, however, a fascinating part of photography and one that can be further explored. Rather than approaching it as unrecognized, I’d be more interested in an approach that explores some as yet unexplored possibilities. Can a connection be made between cell phone picture-taking and banality among younger (and/or older) photographers who are using their phone cams creatively? Is there a new angle you might find to address this kind of photography? Something I’d be interested in questioning is whether banal photos can last or if, after a few decades, they take on too much nostalgia to be considered banal anymore. Forgive me if you covered some of this. I also couldn’t read your work because of the software constraints I ran into on my iPad. Regardless, I admire your inquisitiveness and wish you much luck with the project.
  15. Tony Parsons

    Tony Parsons Norfolk and Good

    My take on this (and the image I posted in No Words) is that a banal photograph is one in which there is very little to interest the average viewer - where the subject is of a boring or unremarkable nature. One example of this might be a paving slab (unless the viewer is a Highways Engineer, of course). I shall say nothing about the current mania for photographing every meal which some people seem to have.
  16. according to my research banal photography does not officially exist as a genre of photography. I think it's usually considered as a sub-genre of documentary, street or still life photography.
  17. Seeing some of the photo's reminded me of the photo's of a PN guy who has not been posting for awhile. Jack McRitchie.
    JackMcRitchie |

  18. When first viewing the Eggleston image in the OP my focus went directly to the tablecloth. It did infuse the image with a nostalgia feel for me which reduced its banality. But, how about for a viewer who wasn't born in the same era as we were? The millennial doesn't have that nostalgia to fall back on for the image to transcend banality; an image both banal and non-banal at the same time. A Schrödinger dilemma.

    Conversely, the millennial's cellphone image has none of the history which can evoke a nostalgic reaction. Though a series of 20 out of focus images representing 3.2 seconds of a night out and posted to F-Book probably secures the definition of banal.
  19. Yes, just as Mozart and his audience didn’t listen to classical music. It was just music.

    Compare banal to classical, pictorialism, realism, modernism, post modernism, cubism, impressionism, expressionism, constructivism, minimalism. While it’s an apt and a good description, banal also relies on judgment. Other schools of art like suprematism and naive art have a similar bent toward judgment, but I think it’s an interesting aspect of banal art that, simply to use the label requires one to invest in some degree of judgment and simultaneously a degree of suspending or overriding judgment. Obviously, some viewers won’t get past the first order of banality to appreciate any transcendent aspect and will simply view the work as if they’re above it. Just listen to some reactions to Eggleston!

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