Research point: Genre

28th November 2019

Make a habit of trying to identify the genre of photographs you view.

What use does the photograph have? Is it advertising or news, for example? One way to understand is to ask, ‘Who commissioned the photograph?’ Or, ‘Is this a personal project?’ And ask yourself how the photograph functions in order to achieve its aim. What does it describe and how does it describe it

OCA Foundations in Photography Course folder pg109

Genre: Landscape – pictures of places, Portrait – pictures of people, Narrative – pictures of events, Still life – pictures of objects and Concept – pictures relating to ideas.

Species: Sub-categories – documentary, fashion etc..

It has been quite amusing trying to read up on genres within photography. for instance, if you visit good old Wikipedia (which I very rarely do), you will notice many genres, other website entries range from 15 to 62 just on the first page of a Google search. When you look at these articles/ discussions, ‘Your mind boggles!’

Screenshot of Wikipedia’s index of photographic genres.

I actually like the OCAs definition of genres being divided into five main parts which are, landscape, portrait, narrative, still life and concept. By narrowing the genres to these five we can then divide each one further into sub categories which is a clearer way to see the many areas of photography.

This division of genres also means that it is less confusing when sub-genres cross over into other disciplines and use other skills and techniques to be completed. I have always classified my work into these genres:

  • Nature (organic, not man-made) – Landscape and Wildlife
  • Portrait – Environmental, Candid, and Studio.
  • Narrative – (factual and fictional) Story telling
  • Still life – (inanimate subject matters) – Objects
  • Concept – Illustration of an idea
  • Creative – Abstract and Manipulation
  • Photojournalism – Documentary
  • Event – (factual) Sports
  • Travel – Transport, Landscape (man-made), Architecture
  • Close-up – Macro
A simple diagram to show cross over between genres with addition sub-genre categories

Above is a very simple cross over diagram showing how the ten genres I use can be related to each other. I have also shown a few sub-genres in red with their links. As we can see this in simple diagram photography but it shows how genres can be linked in many ways. There are some I could have divided even further and if we add the creative directions that we can take especially with modern cameras and software, the sub-genres grow in many more directions.

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