The Illusion of the Exotic

Making photographs of unusual things—exotic places or people, novel subjects—is the low-hanging fruit in photography. While there is plenty of value in photographing the unusual, merely filling the frame with something exotic does not make it a good photograph; it makes it merely a photograph of the unusual or exotic. Whether it is a compelling photograph must be judged on other criteria.

Subject matter alone—separated from the craft of photography—rarely carries a photograph, and when it does it remains merely a mediocre photograph of a fascinating subject, hardly the goal of most photographers. If by creating an image of the exotic you are hoping to say, “Look at this!” then by all means center it within the frame, ...

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