1000 things famous photographers never photograph

Some things in life are definitely off limits: Don’t talk politics on Thanksgiving; do not park in the handicapped space. Others are a bit more subjective: I personally don’t think socks should be worn with sandals, although Kendall Jenner disagrees.

[Photo: courtesy Aperture]

So what happens when you ask hundreds of photographers what their refusals are when it comes to photography? It is the object of Photo no-no, an alphabetical assortment of over 1,000 taboo topics compiled by Jason Fulford, photographer and editor who also designed the book. With answers and short essays on topics ranging from “abandoned buildings” to “the food on my plate”, the book is a curious exploration of the mind of the photographer. More than just a veto list, it celebrates the value of different perspectives on the same subject and offers a window into how creatives see the world in an era when, thanks to the dominance of smartphones, everyone gets confused. for a photographer.

pages of Photo No-Nos: Meditations on what not to photograph (Opening, 2021) [Photo: courtesy Aperture]

“I started thinking about it as a young photographer when we would look at each other’s work and criticize each other, and talk about our doubts about certain images,” says Fulford. “For this book, I was curious to pose this question to a wider group of photographers.”

Cristina de Middel, Untitled, 2018, series The body as a battlefield; from Photo No-Nos: Meditations on what not to photograph (Opening, 2021). [Photo: © Cristina de Middel/Magnum Photos/courtesy Aperture]

Fulford therefore contacted more than 200 photographers and artists, including John Gossage, Lisa Barnard, Aaron Schuman and Sara Cwynar, from all over the world. And despite geographic and cultural differences, similar themes arose. “Sunsets and rainbows” were widely discussed, and poignant, more layered topics like “images of pain and suffering” or “the homeless” were recurring themes.

Manal Abu-Shaheen, Take My Picture, Beirut, Lebanon, 2016; from Photo No-Nos: Meditations on what not to photograph (Opening, 2021). [Photo: © Manal Abu-Shaheen/courtesy Aperture]

Fulford started this venture last year, around the time the George Floyd protests spilled onto the streets. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the issue of protests comes up often in the book. In his essay, artist and historian Olu Oguibe describes the iOS shortcut that was designed to blur people’s faces in the wake of last summer’s protests as a “potential alteration of history as a whole”. In a similar vein, Filipino American artist Stephanie Syjuco shares that she tries not to photograph people’s faces “because she doesn’t know if those can be weaponized,” Fulford says.

Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa, 1/2 rue de la Charité, 2014 ; from Photo No-Nos: Meditations on what not to photograph (Opening, 2021). [Photo: © Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa/courtesy Aperture]

Beyond the protests, the reasons behind the no-no range from practical (“the light is flat”) to ethical (“the impression of exploiting the subject). Others are more nuanced, such as the one by Coralie Kraft (photo editor at the New Yorker), who says she sometimes struggles with aesthetics versus the full context of a moment. “When I think of the times when I censor myself,” she writes, “I wonder when I feel drawn to the more visually compelling image versus a photograph that more accurately represents the current situation.”

As for the images themselves, Fulford says he asked photographers to send in some of their own photos that captured the very things they considered taboo. “So these are sort of exceptions to the rule,” he says.

Alec Sot, Ed Panar, Pittsburgh, 2019; from Photo No-Nos: Meditations on what not to photograph (Opening, 2021). [Photo: © Alec Soth/Magnum Photo/courtesy Aperture]

Ultimately, Photo no-no is a rich compilation steeped in subjectivity. Fulford remembers two photographers with starkly opposing viewpoints: photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti eschews the “century gaze” – when the subject of a portrait gazes into the distance – while photojournalist Ed Kashi avoids direct eye contact with the camera Photo. “I didn’t want the message of the book to be: These are things we think shouldn’t be photographed,” says Fulford. “I wanted there to be so many subjects that the idea of ​​censoring yourself seems absurd and just very personal.

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