Hey – Please Stop Taking These Six Types of Photos

From A mort l'infini by Philippe Mayaux, Centre Pompidou, Paris, July 2007

A brief open letter and unsolicited recommendation to travel and lifestyle bloggers, photographers, Instagrammers and Facebookers who are vying for my shrinking attention on social media: please stop taking stupid photos.

Most specifically:

  • Of your feet, bare or otherwise, either dangling near the edge of a cliff or pool, sprouting from the sand on a beach, or at the narrow end of a hammock pointing towards a sunset. Nobody wants to see them.
  • The blogger portrait with back to the camera, arms raised high, like a modern-day Moses or latter-day Rocky, looking over a scene you either didn’t capture very well, or are blocking if you did. Unless you’re hoping to inspire me to punch the unfollow button — then you’ve succeeded.
  • The digital nomad/ luxury travel blogger/ global entrepreneur shot of you sipping a cocktail or lying in a hammock on an apparently secluded beach somewhere that might or might not be southeast Asia. The few people who believed the hype don’t anymore.
  • That “spontaneous” shot of your cup of coffee (that’s gotten too cold to enjoy) that’s sitting between your laptop (whose battery died during your shoot) and a hip reprint of a classic book (that you haven’t read).

And to burgeoning street photographers:

  • Shots of strangers on the street talking on their mobile phones. That may have been edgy in 1994. It’s not anymore. Triple yawn.

And to everyone:

  • Selfies. Yeah, I know, I’m not the first to drone on against the wind about this. And I know that people trying to tell you how to build your brand have convinced you that I want to see photos of you eating, drinking, sunbathing and working out. But I don’t. Nobody does. But if you think you can truly live and experience a moment by turning your back to it in return for a few dozen likes, who am I to stop you?

A camera is an incredible tool. Challenge yourself to use it creatively.

Today’s lead photo?

If you guessed that the thing on the back wall of the mirrored reflection is a penis with flippers crawling to a piece of land a la Darwin wrapped in a boa-type thing, congratulations. You’re right. I think.

This was part of “A mort l’infini“, a July 2007 exhibit by Philippe Mayaux, winner of the 2006 Prix Marcel Duchamp, in Espace 315 at the Centre Pompidou (snapped quickly and surreptitiously when attendants weren’t watching). This room housed “Tastings of her,” a collection of body parts (not real, of course), sliced and diced and laid out and displayed on fine porcelain.

Said Mayaux:

I use bad taste in order to express my undisciplined freedom regarding what has to be beautiful. The sole function of artwork is to be seen, not to please.

The mirror is the outside wall of a small room which housed a similarly off-color collection of mounted hog noses.

Now, wasn’t that much more interesting than a snapshot of my feet on a beach?




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  1. paula graham says

    Here, here…couldn’t agree more.

  2. NW Frame of Mind says

    I agree 100%! Adding pointless memes to the list – especially when the big, bold words are covering a photo that the poster probably “borrowed” from someone else.

  3. Manja Mexi Movie says

    I can’t click love because I’ve got one post entirely of feet + a babe talking on the phone or two. Dang!

    1. Bob R says

      No worries. I still like you anyway.

  4. GeorgieMoon says

    A little bit harsh, I thought. Nothing wrong with a sunset hammock shot, a cocktail in the beach or a cafe coffee now and then….

  5. Mick Canning says

    Ooh, I could have written that!

    1. Bob R says

      You still can. 🙂

  6. Angeline M says

    I can almost deal…almost…with what you’ve listed…if I must. It’s only the selfies that I cannot deal with any longer. There should be some kind of a limit and then your camera locks.

    1. Bob R says

      Good idea!

  7. C. J. Hartwell says

    I half expected you to mention photos of teens on “mission” trips, surrounded by orphans. Makes me cringe every time.
    Thanks for the pic of the flippered penis. Totally made my day! 😉

    1. Bob R says

      Yeah, those are awful, pathetic. And my pleasure on the image. Always happy to oblige! 🙂

  8. Trinity says

    I couldn’t agree more! Every one of those photo-types make me scroll by them. I will just ask one thing about selfies: Why is it that people think they need to pucker their lips (and/or stick out their arses)? Millennials will likely, in future generations, be best described by one word: Egocentric.

    1. Bob R says

      It is all very curious behavior. It wouldn’t even be half bad if there was at least a modicum of creativity or originality involved. 🙂

      1. Trinity says

        True; though selfies, by their very nature, are “self-ish” – egocentric. Their prevalence, no matter how creative, simply teaches this generation to focus on themselves…

        1. Bob R says

          I don’t think today’s selfies are intrinsically evil. They’re just generally not very thoughtful and as you suggest way too self-involved.

          Self-portraits have been with us for a very long time, selfies are just an evolutionary extension or of that. Some of Van Gogh’s finest works are self-portraits; much the same can be said for countless photographers. Those works are obviously much more thoughtful and probing self-documentations that have and continue to stand the test of time. Instagram #iwokeuplookinglikethis selfies? Not so much.

          1. Trinity says

            I agree! There is a painting in the Kyburg castle near here (Zürich, Switzerland); it takes up a huge wall, and down in right corner of the grand scene (a trial) is one man looking “at” those viewing the painting – that is the painter himself. So yes, I guess “selfies” have been around for ages, but as you say, they should at least be intelligent or creative… 🙂

  9. ladieswholunchreviews says

    Okay, one time I post a picture of my pedicure and you get all upset 🙂

  10. Shakirah (Iman) says

    This is why I have a hard time with instagram. I am not saying you do not get this pictures on facebook, but instagram is just made up of pictures I really do not want to see.

  11. Style Domination says

    Positive article! LOL

    1. Bob R says

      Haha – Thanks, I though so too.

      1. Style Domination says

        Any time – I had a good laugh! *packs away hammock, coffee mug, dead battery*

  12. NYG@NaughtyYogaGirl.com says

    Haha! I loved reading this … although I’m totally guilty of several of them (especially the feet pics … being a yoga girl, they’re usually always on display in my Instagram pics and, for some reason, seem to get a lot of attention … I don’t judge). 🙂 Loved your writing style. I’m going to click around and read some more …

  13. James A Pickering says

    That post made me chuckle, I’ve done a couple of those things and I confess to taking a selfie sipping a Pina Colada and sharing it on Facebook but it was the first time I’d ever been to Spain on holiday so it was “bucket list” territory for me. About that dangling legs off a skyscraper thing, yeah I’m not convinced those POV shots are worthwhile or a great way to build a following, but there’s a dozen everyday on those curated hashtags coming out of places like Chicago and New York. Maybe they should add a ‘dope’ button especially for those one’s that automatically adds the necessary emojis 😉

  14. Brittany_WMSB says

    I am 100% guilty of at least one of these photos. Oops!

  15. 2e0mca says

    Sound advice Bob – Hopefully I don’t fall into these traps too often… Apologies for the feet the other week though… They were for a Photo Challenge 😉

  16. lastchance3 says

    I think it depends on what the selfie is for. If it’s your profile picture or icon…fine.

  17. Roy Stevenson says

    Well said, Bob! Those repetitive selfies, coffee shots, beach shots, feet shots, arms raised “I’m the king of the world” snaps, et al, have worn a bit thin. Let’s see some creative stuff from the millennials. Lord knows there’s some talent there. And while they’re at it, how about some good travel writing, versus the self-indulged epiphanies they keep tossing out? Roy Stevenson http://www.Roy-Stevenson.com

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