Never Fail Image
An Idea by Ron Bayhan, Expanded by Jeffrey Sward
A never-fail image is a photograph which succeeds based primarily on the force of its subject matter. Note: compare with Photographic Subject Taxonomy and Cliche Subjects.
  • Groups of 500 or more
  • Twins
  • People showing fish they caught
  • Children wearing sunglasses
  • People in theaters wearing 3D glasses
  • Collectors and their collections
  • People standing in front of cars they own
  • People holding guns
  • Other people taking pictures
  • Very young girls behaving like somewhat older girls
  • Tattooed people
  • Executives wearing suits at Disneyland
  • Congressmen in suits walking through the Capitol Rotunda surrounded by tourists
  • Stewardesses giving emergency procedure demo
  • Bored stewardesses sitting on jump seats
  • Nudes in junk yards or construction sites
  • Nudes standing in the middle of automobile traffic
  • Performers or beauty pageant contestants or chorus girls back stage or in dressing rooms
  • Movie stars in studio cafeteria
  • Clowns or Disney characters half in and half out of costume
  • Lovers embracing in public, taken clandestinely
  • Most hotel lobbies
  • Topiary gardens
  • Trailer parks
  • Beauty parlors
  • Health clubs
  • Drive-in food joints
  • Drive-in movie theaters (with the movie playing and otherwise)
  • Spectacular miniature golf courses
  • Diners
  • Carnival rides
  • Inflated "Jaws" sharks at the beach
  • Baptist revival meetings
  • Aerial views with running water in them
  • Rephotographic surveys
  • Crime scenes
  • Autopsy rooms
  • Freeway congestion
  • Parking garages
  • Subway tunnels
  • Auto malls
(Living) Things
  • Elephants
  • Flamingos
  • Penguins
  • Alligators
  • 1958 Edsels
  • 1957 Chevrolets
  • Underwater cars in swimming pools
  • Palm trees
  • Century plants
  • Yucca trees
  • Palm trees
  • Turned on television sets
  • Very small and very large dogs
  • Poodles in car windows
  • The American flag
  • Billboard/landscape ironies
  • Pictures of pictures
  • Dolly Parton
  • Carmen Miranda
  • The Sphinx
  • Recognizable dead roadside animals
  • Pictures of pictures
  • Professional sand castle sculptures
  • Zamboni Ice Resurfacers
  • Smog
  • Roads and bridges going nowhere
Per Ron Bayhan:

A never-fail image is a picture that succeeds, based primary on the force of its subject matter. The list that follows represents a survey of such Images. They are subjects that both fine art and tourist photographers return to time and time again. Because of the elusive nature of this concept, there are images missing. So as subjective as this may be, you are to make photographs from this list only.

This project is intended to investigate semiology — the science of signs, and is concerned with how meaning is generated in "texts" (photographs, films, television programs, and other works of art).


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