Photographic buzzwords are still some of the most heavily used, yet meaningless forms of journalism today. Possibly the "millennial" answer to The New York Post's historically obnoxious front page headlines, these "delicious" words continue to get our clicks, regardless of how hollow they might actually be. They make stories more "digestible" with language designed to entice even your feline friends. For many photo editors, this tendency towards linguistic carelessness also finds its way into image requests, and for the self-proclaimed intelligentsia, using art-speak can often seem a bit more "complex" than it actually is. Since we at Humble are guilty of all of the above, for the second time, we invited some of our favorite art and photography curators, writers, editors, and producers to share some of their most beloved/hated photographic buzzword pet peeves, which we illustrated using some of our favorite stock photos and illustrations of cats. Enjoy, and "please share this magical work" widely. Wanna see our 2015 list first? Click Here
1) "Selfie" or "#Selfie"
In 2015 a widely shared stat showed that more people died by taking selfies than in shark attacks. While this was later proven to be a hoax, it's fitting, since the #Selfie has effectively jumped the shark! When Selfies were first taken, they were exciting - taken often at arms length, at awkward angles, and with an immediacy of what was happening in the now for the selfie taker. It was emerging as the "self-portrait" of the digital age, and the art world usually gets a huge boner for any type of emerging media they can crown as the next aesthete. Now, the "Selfie" is a commodity, wielded for self marketing. It's calculated, too composed, too filtered and all too self-satisfying to be taken seriously. We have become anesthetized to the Selfie, and are becoming conditioned to accept it as just another marketing vehicle.
Liz Lapp. Curator and Social Marketing Manager, Yahoo
"Conceptual" is valid when you're talking about Cindy Sherman, but far too often I find it used to legitimize work that lacks a real emotional or human valence. Pulling other people's photos from Instagram, using Snapchat to doodle mustaches on your images, or blowing up stock pictures and putting them on a gallery wall doesn't necessarily make for profound or meaningful artwork, but somehow when the word "conceptual" is slapped on there, everything suddenly seems cool, edgy, and genius. Not everything is part of a movement; some art is ironic and shallow, and sometimes that's okay. I wish writers would permit us to have that, rather than trying to convince us that vapid work is anything more than exactly what it is.
Ellyn Kail. Staff Writer at Feature Shoot
Whether it be art, yarn, paint or photo ‘bombing', the term makes my skin crawl. In an era where you thankfully hear more about ‘making’ photographs than ‘shooting’ them, I think the prospect of ‘bombing’ photo-slang is rather dismal, albeit with its nod to graffiti hit strategies.
Charlotte Cotton. Curator in Residence, International Center for Photography
4) "Too Many"
I don't know if it's a buzzword, but the lament that there are “too many” photographs, “too many” photographers and “too many” photobooks is something I wish would disappear from the conversation. Yes, there probably are too many photographs and photobooks. No lone individual will be able to grasp it all so you might as well enjoy the photography you're able to experience in your short life. Besides, within a few years the algorithms will have completely taken over and will make all the decisions about the photography we experience.
Bryan Formhals. Photographer and host of The LPV Show
Great photographs make me feel so much. They make me stop and examine and learn from somebody else’s experience. Empathize and share emotions. Inspire me to action. But make me breathless?? Speeding in a Ferrari makes me breathless. Jumping out of an airplane makes me breathless. Getting punched in the stomach makes me breathless. Making photographs have certainly put me in situations that made me breathless. The act of observing generally passive rather than the active and requires patience. It is generally not rewarded with adrenaline, even on the internet. However I'm ready to challenge any photo and that must be why I always fall for that clickbait!
Stephanie Heimann. Photo Director, The New Republic
"Elevated" is an ugly little term that's popped up even more this year in commercial photography with the rise of "advertorial." Advertorial feels like a way to rip photographers off and use their images to sell products, but pay them a lower, editorial rate. Companies save money this way but still deliver cool/more down to earth imagery for advertisers to sell their crap in. When brands/people say they want their photos "elevated" they mean they want you to take clothes, makeup, a lifestyle, etc & make it feel more remarkable. It's like saying "make it better" but giving no explanation as to how. It infuriates me because it's such a vapid way of describing photos. I've seen it used in moodboards to sell brands on certain photography approaches. Example: " We want to make your nail polish feel brand feel elevated so we will only shoot photographs that incorporate the highest class pinky rings"
Elizabeth Renstrom. Photo Editor, VICE
7) "Challenge" | "Challenging"
When I see a headline that says a photographer or series “challenges” stereotypes, gender norms, etc I've got to sigh a little bit. Photography definitely can and should be challenging but to describe work in this way feels incredibly one dimensional and trivializes what the artist is actually trying to accomplish. It's another way publications try to make photography “exciting” to a wider audience. It's a necessary evil a lot of times, but I wish we could let work speak for itself without slapping over simplified cliches onto it. If something is truly challenging, you shouldn't have to be told it is.
Jenna Garrett. Photo Editor, Wired
Have you ever been so utterly transfixed by a photo, so completely captivated that only the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers could remove your gaze from it? Not often? Then let’s limit the use of “mesmerizing,” which promises a sort of spellbound fixation that’s as unlikely as it is unhealthy. Sure, great photos can, briefly, monopolize our eyeballs, but unless they’re likely to render viewers unblinking and drooling, there’s probably a better word to describe them.
Jordan Teicher. Writer, Slate's Behold blog.
Photo editors often ask photographers to shoot "candid" portraits. It's ironic, asking a photographer to deliberately be not-deliberate. And yet, it's one of the more common prompts of art direction we give. I'm definitely guilty of it. I love those in-between, less staged moments.
Jacqueline Bates. Photography Director, The California Sunday Magazine
Every time I hear that word I think: "You keep using that word, I don't think It means what you think it means." It's just a nothing word, it means nothing. Someone could describe their work as "edgy," and I have no idea what it's going to look like because it could look like anything. Whatever nuance it once had has been completely sucked dry by creatives arbitrarily demanding that it means everything and nothing at the same time
Toby Kaufmann. Deputy Photography Director, Refinery 29.
Not a bad word in and of itself, but when applied to photography, almost always suggests an interest in cliche ideas drawn from pre-existing characteristics of the medium. Let's take a look at the following sentence. "The photographs are about memory, its impermanence and inevitable failure." Sounds deep, but what are the chances you'll be looking at anything other than a bunch of blurry photographs? Practically none.
Paddy Johnson. Founder, Art F City
Fresh is not my word of the day. Salads are fresh. Teenagers are fresh. You may have taken that photo two seconds before sending it, and therefore it may be 'fresh' to you, but I don't want fresh. I want your mulled-over, considered, edited. I'll click on your fresh bait, because I'm nice like that, but I'll wish it were a vintage.
Kate Osba Co-Founder, Look See Photo