I was recently looking for a way to describe the kind of spontaneous portraits I used to love doing when I first started photography. It came from just documenting the outings I went on with friends with my DSLR. It wasnt staged, but the photos were well-framed and professional looking. And I’ve always thought all my friends were pretty, so I thought that the resulting photos were really nice. I never knew what to call it… “Spontaneous Portraiture” just sounds weird, “Documentary Photography” too stuffy or too National Geographic… then, I recently stumbled upon the phrase “lifestyle photography” which sounded promising. The problem? Well, read on.
Besides the obvious overdose of hipster, so called “lifestyle photographers” would appear to have this endless crowd of models for friends (which leads me to wonder if they have, like, friend try-outs?? I probably wouldn’t pass since I pretty much consider putting on a bra to be about 75% of my “dressing up” process). The photos are scattered with vintage and plain items, the rooms don’t have a single object out of place unless it’s meant to be — which is any given room in my house, say, once a month and for about 5 minutes right after doing some major cleaning. Everyone who has ever lived anywhere knows that the state of being that clean and organized is very short-lived. So I think the much more obvious explanation is that these photos are the result of elaborate productions, complete with costume and set designers as well as hired models. Which is what brings me to what I hate about it: it isn’t fucking “lifestyle photography” if you had to pay a bunch of people.
Dont get me wrong — there are some wonderful photographers out there that I would consider to fall under the umbrella of “lifestyle photography”. One of my favorite photographers I’ve followed for years is a guy that goes by “BurlapZack“. I never had a way to describe what he does until I heard this designation. It makes sense: it’s a photographer basically documenting their life and/or the lives of the people around them. I just really think it’s weird to see all these people making a living out of something they’re deeming “lifestyle photography” that clearly isn’t. Photographers have, of course, done staged work forever, but it’s always pretty obvious when large productions make up a photo and I just think that completely takes away from any spontaneity or, well, “lifestyle-ness” of the work.