• Matthew Brooks

Photography Oddities

Updated: Sep 5, 2019



Photography is full of oddities. Some people (my partner) say even photographers themselves are a little odd. So the fact that there are some odd trends in photographic fashions are not surprising. Odd trends can be things that sometimes are just a bit of a laugh that take off, like planking or that thing where you stick your head in a fridge and photograph yourself from inside the fridge. Odd trends could be things that seem completely normal at the time but when looked back on years later you think...why?

Well here is a few that have come and gone through the history of photography.

I'll get the disturbing one out of the way first.

Post mortem photos

When photography was kicking off there were a couple of popular subjects to photograph. Landscapes were popular, the streets of a town were, family portraits which included deceased relatives were popular.....wait, WHAT!? Yes, taking a family portrait with a member that had recently "past on" were the in thing. Not many people would have had family portraits back in the early Victorian times. Paintings took too long and were expensive. So when arranging a funeral they would bring in a photographer, which was slightly less expensive than a painter but still very expensive, so they had photos of their loved ones to look back on. They would be propped up with eyes open to make it look as if they were alive. Sometimes they would attach a frame behind them to help prop them up or even stand them up. Very often the pictures would be of children taken before their time. Mortality rates were high back then and with photography being so expensive having more than one family photo while everyone was alive may not have been feasible. The first picture it is the middle girl and the second picture it is the little girl at the end.

You may think this is a creepy photographic trend that has gone away never to return. But more and more I am seeing people in photography groups saying they have been asked to photograph a funeral or take a photo of a family and digitally add in a seperate photo of a family member who had recently died (from when they were alive). So it seems that people still have a small market for death photography.

Olan Mills floating head

The 80's. A decade full of weird hair, weird fashion and clearly weird photos. The now famous floating head next to a portrait of someone was really all the rage in the 80's. Olan Mills became famous for them and created an empire across the globe. By the time I was being seated for baby photos the floating head thing had lost its appeal and was out of fashion but I remember seeing baby photos of me with the Olan Mills stamp on them. They became a stamp of quality really. But now Olan Mills is only really remembered for these photos. It was a new technique that could be done in various ways and was reasonably technical to do. I don't know if customers felt that they were particularly creative or if maybe they felt they were getting two photos for for the price of one. Anyway, hotcakes is what they sold like.


Spot colouring

The whole point of spot colouring is that it brings attention to that particular part of the photo. Usually the part you spot colour is the most important part of the photo because that is where you want the attention to go. However it is a technique that a lot of people who are just getting to grips with photo editing programs tend to do. They have been impressed by it used in a good picture and wondered how it is done. They then learn how to do the spot colouring technique and then do it on even single photo that they ever edit for months. Which is why there are so many spot colour photos that are awful spread across the internet.

Commercially you very often see it done in pictures of New York where only the yellow taxi is coloured. In London similarly a big double decker bus is the only part coloured. They are not necessarily good photos but they sell in the bucket loads year on year. A more popular example being the floating balloon girl bit of graffiti art by Banksy. Not photography but it's actually good. Their are not too many good examples of spot colouring and honestly it seems to be one of the trends that photographers hate more than anything else.

Here is my example of bad spot colouring. It doesn't make sense for this picture to be spot coloured and the bit which is spot coloured isn't the main part of the picture. So stop doing stuff like this.


Double exposures

This again is a case of a technique that was discovered that became very popular not all that long ago really. It wasn't something that widely offered as an actual style to paying customers, although I know some did, but more as a creative outlet. Take a picture of yourself or someone and overlay a forest or city skyline on top using photoshop blend modes to make the look. But in an age of social media it took off quickly and every Instagram feed had these double exposures. Until that is, someone popular said "that's so 9 months ago" and everyone stopped doing them. As clever as it is, do we really want to revisit a world with people who had trees for hair or the Empire State Building sticking out of the top of their head.

Weird internet poses

No photos for this one as honestly we've all seen enough of them. As mentioned above, planking, putting your head in a fridge and photographing from inside the fridge (even I got reeled into this one), batmanning, owling and many, many others I don't know of. Social media is what fuels these. Honestly in 30, 40, 50 years time people will look back at the creation of social media and wonder "Why did some people just use it to show off what a bunch of idiots they are?". Why indeed, when it can be used to show off amazing art, promote businesses and share memories. Thankfully the days of sifting through these endless weird poses to find the good stuff is mostly over. I, hopefully, over the years to come can post up some more stuff which which is on the side of good than bad.

Ok so that's it for now. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

#Style #debate #photography

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Hendy, Carmarthenshire

photographymb87@yahoo.com