Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer

The photo school term has begun and all the new students are now roaming New York with their cameras. These are the halcyon days of image discovery.  But it is here that we would all do well to remember The Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer as written by M.F. Agha for U.S. Camera way back in 1937 [from the vertical files in the ICP library].

Not only is this an absolutely brilliant poem/rant, it is also an indispensable piece of advice for any camera happy person who is seeking to avoid the dreaded photographic cliché.  These are the words to remember before you shove that expensive camera of yours into the unsuspecting face of a homeless person or a tearful child.

Art Director M.F. Agha could merely have been having a bad day but then again if anybody would be familiar with the nauseating dangers of image cliché then it would be him (impressive career here: http://www.adcglobal.org/archive/hof/1972/?id=293 ).

The most important thing for all of us to remember is . . .Think before you shoot!  At least try to avoid the cliché especially in these days of total image saturation, and even though that may be impossible, at least be aware of it.

Martin Parr talks about Photographic cliché here  http://www.martinparr.com/blog/?p=282

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About matthew carson

Head Librarian & Archivist at the International Center of Photography
This entry was posted in Unpacking the collection, Vertical files and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer

  1. Pingback: The Hippocratic Oath For Photographers « alistairhenning

  2. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am bookmarking your feeds also

  3. Jenee Lepp says:

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  4. I’ve been studying buildings for over 20 years. It is safe to say that this building is the most marvelous one on the planet. Visit it once and you will agree with me!

  5. Bernard Yenelouis says:

    One wonders what list Dr. Agha would compile after a few evenings of flickr – let’s not even consider extended exposure to such a behemoth. One can only wonder. I had seen this several years ago & could never find it when I needed it: many thanks.

  6. don says:

    Clearly you did not understand the ironic conclusion to this piece. It says, don’t become a photo snob.

  7. Pingback: Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer | Photography Now | Scoop.it

  8. Pingback: Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer — RetortaBlog

  9. Pingback: >Re: PHOTO » Blog Archive » Which Clichés Have I Made Today?

  10. search.insing.com/business/soubix-pte-ltd/eunos-ubi/id-ea880200 Thanks for that awesome posting. It saved MUCH time 🙂

  11. It’s funny to think that photographic clichés may have been around as long as there have been photographers!

  12. Chad White says:

    I am a photog professor and love this both as list and as image. Can I have a high resolution copy so that I may print it for my department notice board?
    Please contact me by e-mail.

  13. P. says:

    I have indeed taken a photograph of an old barn in Connecticut, but I will refrain from posting the Flickr link here.

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