Slack Smarts

Photography often feels like a scavenger hunt in which there’s no list of what to look for, but there’s a long list tailing you of all the things you’ve already photographed, or things that feel wrung-out and tired, or worse, feel like someone else’s work.

This new interview with Polaroid’r Mike Slack yields a great list of items he tries to avoid photographing. You’ll notice a few of these have crept into Slack’s work.

“I keep a long mental list of things that I try (and often fail) to avoid shooting. That list includes: funny-looking bushes; chain link fences; street signs; arrows of any kind; empty parking lots; painted brick walls; weeds; stairs; shadows; doors; rain gutters; tools; words; hats; the backs of people’s heads; trash; trash cans; empty roads; plush toys; food; loading docks; telephones; cracked sidewalks; shopping carts; manhole covers; water towers; inanimate objects that resemble sex organs; airplanes; shoes; telephone wires; water puddles; clouds; stray dogs; ugly office buildings; brightly colored flowers; the ocean; empty hotel rooms; long hotel corridors; birds; air conditioners; fire hydrants; curtains; framed paintings; crashed cars; cell phone transmitters; and sofa cushions.”

6 thoughts on “Slack Smarts”

  1. Well, THAT list is infinite… let’s see: 70s-era streetlights, recent model cars, logos, logo Ts, the backs of people in general, fur coats on young people, fur coats on men, fur coats on the sofa, silhouettes, linoleum, gas stations at night, gas pumps, puddles, all reflections ever, dog shit, little dogs at eye level…

  2. I was thinking how photographers of the past in general had so much less clutter to deal with. Atget or even Walker Evans made choices sure but they didn’t have to struggle to crop out logos crammed into every visual space. Personally, I’m trying to go in the opposite direction — leave the parked cars in — but still can’t stomach the logos. Look forward to reading the interview.

  3. Okay, here are a few (other than the ones above) that I intend (and can’t seem) to ignore:

    anyone lit by sunlight through blinds
    people who’ve fallen in the street
    people who’ve tripped and dropped their stuff in the street
    men getting growled at by women’s dogs
    small, worn-out american flags
    brick walls painted bright colors
    reflected light, anywhere
    brightly colored vinyl chairs in diners
    BBQ joints
    kudzu in the winter
    people standing in front of signs
    street poles in front of people
    patriotic or religious signs next to signs selling stuff
    abandoned churches
    the first or last light of the day on anything
    the intersection outside my front door
    car butts

  4. Please. There are numerous successful works done by very fine artists and photographers that have incorporated almost everything on Mr. Mike Slack’s list. The list is endless of past documentary photographers and current artists who have shot engaging and provocative images with any of those listed. Limiting yourself to such trivialities impedes creativity.

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