Classifying Genres of Photographers to Better Situate Yourself In Your Style

Black and white landscape of Cathedral Valley in the state of Utah. Black and white photo by Amar Guillen.
Black and white landscape of Cathedral Valley. Although this photo was made with clients in mind who had told me about this place, I created it showing how I am (the clouds show the incessant churning in my mind; the monolith shows my body).

Ranking #3: Attitude

I sometimes use this classification in an unconscious way. It appeals to the attitudes of photographers in their practice of photographic activity.

Here is the classification by photographic attitude:

  • The technical type.
    He swears by his equipment. He thinks that only the perfect mastery of his equipment allows him to make good pictures. For him, knowing all the functions of his camera and applying them is the only way to make images that others cannot.
    He knows all the software without really knowing how to apply all the functions to his photos.
    For the technician, only the technique is important. It is enough to adjust his camera, to choose a scene and to trigger. The photo will be good: he is sure of it. This is a type of photography that I often encounter in the field.
  • The latest-and-greatest materialistic type.
    I have not found a name for this genre. But I have met many photographers belonging to this genre.
    They always want to buy and own the latest camera, the latest lens, the latest computer. They act as if they must order the first ones as soon as an announcement has been made by a manufacturer. They are always on the lookout for the latest novelty, they are sure that their pictures will be better. In general, they like to show off their cameras and equipment in an ostentatious way.
  • The "follow the recipe exactly" or "copycat" type.
    These are the photographers who are always immersed in technical books and photo magazines or specialized websites. For them, if someone publishes an article on a subject, it is necessary to apply those techniques exactly. They do not have much imagination or creativity that can actually be attributed to them.
    They doubt themselves so much that they are reassured when they apply recipes that others have dictated.
  • The "I am constantly reinventing my style" type. This kind of photographer is the opposite of the good studious student. For him, everything has to be broken, everything has to be reset. You have to reinvent the wheel all the time.
    He wastes a lot of time and is not highly creative. He explores paths that have already been explored. In general, these are photographers who have good creative qualities, but they do not get anywhere because they waste too much time in their research.
  • The creative kind with a good foundation.
    In this genre, we find photographers who like to create while having a good foundation. They are independent and know how to choose good directions. Because they have a good solid foundation, they do not waste time and are efficient in the realization of their projects.
    You can add other categories in this classification by genre. Just look at the attitudes of the photographers to classify them. The classification is quite instinctive. It is not very practical, because finally it is quite subjective.

Ranking #4: Yves Reboux

I do not know Yves Reboux visually. He is a photographer with whom I have exchanged emails. During an exchange, he proposed to me this classification which I find remarkably interesting. His classification includes two genres:

  • The photographer who reports what exists with more or less his own personal vision.
  • The photographer who brings life to the photos reflecting that which he sees and imagines.

This classification is interesting because it does not appeal to the material or the technique. It appeals to the photographic vision. It can be used in all photographic domains whether it is photojournalism, fashion, portraiture, or nature photography.

However, it does not specify the real motivations of the photographer.

Ranking #5: Amar Guillen's (my personal ranking)

As always, for years I tried to classify the genres of photographers to situate myself, to develop my photographic consciousness. I used classifications that did not satisfy me.

Finally, one day I decided to establish my own classification of photographers' genres. It is only for me. It's the one I use when I meet a photographer I don't know.

My classification of photographers' genres has two genres:

  • The egocentric photographer type.
  • The altruistic photographer type.

The egocentric photographer considers only his own point of view and interests. He is characterized by:

  • A huge ego.
  • The constant search for recognition.
  • The need for affection.
  • The need for identity.
  • The need to always be the center of attention.

I have met a lot of self-centered photographers in my life and professional career. There are a lot of them. Some of them create technically and visually remarkable photographs. I know two photographers in particular. They have a perfect command of photographic language and photographic writing. Their photos have an extraordinarily strong visual impact.

When they talk about their photos, everything starts with "I".

The egocentric photographer does not try to share or exchange. His photographic communication consists in saying what he thinks, who he is without caring about those who look at his pictures. But above all, he must be told that he is the best. His only objective is to receive compliments. He is not there to help others.

The most interesting thing is that we are each to varying degrees, egocentric photographers. We often take pictures in the field while just thinking about ourselves. We do not think about the use of our photos. We do not put ourselves in the place of a viewer.

Sometimes we just tell our truth without thinking about others and their interpretation.

The egocentric photographer is always looking for honors. He wants to be seen and recognized. His personal glory is the most important.

They are what I often call showmen. They go out of their way to explain how they made their photos and the extraordinary experiences they had. They always show off because their photos do not speak. They feel it. They then have this irrepressible need to explain, to tell, to dramatize.

When I meet these photographers at festivals or exhibitions and they give a talk, their audience is made up of photographers of the same genre. Or recognize them easily, because their favorite phrase is to say, "My photo is better." Enough has been said about their character.

The altruistic photographer is characterized by:

  • His generosity.
  • His empathy.
  • His dedication to others for a cause.
  • Its solidarity.

The altruistic photographer possesses human qualities that allow him to express himself and to take pictures for others.

If you are one of these photographers, but you do not have a good command of photographic language or writing, your photos will still be interesting. The fact that you are addressing others makes your photos useful and meaningful.

Remember that the purpose of photography is to express yourself by telling your truth but thinking of others.

In general, altruistic photographers do not give essential importance to technique. Only the emotions, the messages, the feelings count. They often leave their comfort zone to put themselves at the level of others.

It is their empathetic qualities that make their photos interesting.

The advantage of this classification of the kinds of photographers is that it is valid for amateur photographers to professionals. It can also apply to photographers who are artists or not.

The main thing is to come back to the essence of photography: writing with light. To write is to communicate, exchange, share. We often tend to forget this.

The altruistic photographer is discreet. They are not very talkative about his photos. Their work speaks for them.

When I meet a photographer belonging to this genre, he is often in the background. He often observes others. He does not make noise. He waits. He listens to the comments of others, telling himself that next time he will take the remarks into account.

Altruistic photographers have their audience. It is characterized by calmness, attentiveness, and respectful observance of their viewers.

Often it is their eyes that speak and not their voice. You can recognize them easily because they listen, look, and wonder.

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What is the Best Ranking for Photography Genres?

As you may have guessed, I apply my model to organize the genres of photographers: the egocentric genre and the altruistic genre.

When I talk with photographers I do not know, I always try to understand if he is only interested in himself or in others. This classification is only for me as I already said.

If you do not see yourself in these rankings, feel free to create your own based on your moral and ethical values. There is no good ranking of photographers' genres. There are rankings that match your expectations and others that do not.

Finally

If there is one thing you should remember from this article, it's that the classification of photographers by genre allows you to better understand the photographers you meet.

This way you can better discuss and understand their approach.

This is important because you will develop or enrich your photographic awareness and your photographic why.

Similar to how you perfect your photographic analysis or judgment, so should you work on identifying photographic genres. This is a tool which will help you to better understand and situate yourself in your own photographic activity.

Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.

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