There is an academic discipline for everything. In literature, scholars have studied genre as it appertains to works of literary expression since the Enlightenment. Long before that, philosophy discerned the production of ideas on the basis of type. Recently, I gave a talk at a local photographic society. I enjoyed doing it, and I liked having the opportunity. I had a question at the end that asked what type of photograph did I think should be made in order to successfully accomplish making a good picture, that is to say, a successful picture, one having a large and appreciative audience. I was at something of a loss answering, however. The idea that a photographer would look for the elements in a frame as the basis for making a type of photograph seems contrary to the pursuit of photography as an art, or at least as I understand it. Photographers I have paid attention to, who have well-considered approaches to the ethics of photography, even going so far as to justify the ethics of having no ethics at all, and who argued for looking at the elements of a photograph purely as a thing-in-itself, tend to argue largely against type.
Lately, though, I have come to think of genre as an approachable way of learning more about the whole cloth of photography. If someone is interested in a corner of the subject, perhaps that is how to intrigue the viewer, and engage them, or transform their expectations, which were based on taxonomy, into a new way of individual seeing, and getting them all the way to the
Likewise, food photography has a ritualistic expectation of pre-selected ideas, and values, that make up what is considered “good” and “bad”. What a great photographer does is mix ingredients experimentally, so that categories cease to have value. Flavours blend into new, unfamiliar, but ultimately satisfying concoctions. Cookbooks are all very similar, and the pictures in them are rarely anything but boring. It isn’t just a matter of food, but how it is pictured: Howard Edgerton