Research point – Genre

Genre in photography

There was a time perhaps when one could list down the possible genres in photography, though I believe today the list is ever growing as new genres are discovered almost daily. There are the most popular styles or genres of photography like landscapes, portraitures, architectural, food, travel, Black & White, Wildlife, Food etc. While the list is constantly being updated with more genres of photography gaining recognition now like tilt-shift, infrared, pinhole, panoramic, high-speed, space, motion blur, etc. A category could be further divided into sub-categories depending on the purpose, context, and need of that genre. The best example of it would be portraitures and it could be subdivided into various categories like political portraitures, celebrity portraitures, fashion portraitures, documentary portraitures and so on. The context, style, and purpose here become important in recognizing these subcategories.

To answer the question –  Do you think a photographer who is commissioned and paid to produce photographs will produce different work to someone who works autonomously, even if they’re photographing the same subject?

Most certainly yes there will definitely be a difference as there are a lot of factors involved here. A photographer who is commissioned and paid to produce photographs will probably have a bigger budget and therefore more money to create a bigger and better production, hire better equipment, better models, locations, etc. Such liberties might not be there for a person working autonomously. A commissioned photographer will probably restrict themselves strictly to the brief and only create images that fit the brief perfectly. An autonomous photographer might be more diverse in their approach to making images and might like to photograph the subject in diverse ways and not restrict themselves to one particular approach. It might not be better than the other but definitely, there will a difference in approach to a commissioned versus an autonomous one.

It is a good exercise to recognize photographs and the genre they belong to as it helps us to understand the purpose of different genres of photography. It also helps to become more familiar with what is expected, what the finer nuances of that genre are and how to achieve the best results in each category. Although it’s a standard practice to stick to a genre and excel at it I feel, and I say this from personal experience, that learning about other genres does wonder to your skills and make your skills in your existing genres even better. Being a wildlife photographer, and now studying with the OCA has already given me so much insight into different techniques and skills required for other genres that I feel I have bettered my skills and that in turn has helped me greatly in my preferred genre of photography.

Context is also important. Are you viewing the photograph in a gallery or on the front page of a newspaper? A photograph of a flying elephant would be understood differently in these two contexts. Understanding genre helps us situate and interpret a photograph, just as context tells us whether something is or could be true or not.

Context is the key factor in photography. As learned earlier in the coursework as well, context gives a meaning to the image and is very important to define and balance an image. It is important to understand both the positive and negative spaces in a photograph. One must realize that the surroundings or background in a photograph is as important as the subject itself and both are crucial in order to make a successful image. Context can totally alter the meaning of the image – for example, it can result in creating say an extremely powerful image or a very disturbing one even. Lack of context may make us like the image but context helps us establish a relationship with the image and knowing more about the image is something that really makes it work. To a large extent, context sets the tone for how the image will be received by its viewers.


  9. (interesting paper)

2 Replies to “Research point – Genre”

  1. I like the points you make about commissioned or autonomous photography. Both creative, but probably with very different results. An autonomous photographer may also not have time constraints and could potentially shoot under many lighting conditions.

    Liked by 1 person

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