Life by Selena Photography
Montreal portrait & wedding photographer


The official blog of Montreal portrait and wedding photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. Explore her signature photojournalistic style and stay up to date on her latest wedding and portrait photography projects here.

Blog 69 : Creative Potential Photo Club 2

Banner Photo (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 2_0006.jpg

Motivated by a desire to encourage people in my community in their journey as photographers, I've created a new digital community and photo club called the "Creative Potential Photo Club". In this photographic blog post I share the contributions from our second assignment.

This month we're exploring the idea of the visual cliche. We all know the idea of character tropes in literature—when authors present a simplified and possibly even stereotyped set of character traits so the audience can quickly identify characters they are familiar with. Similarly with images, visual cliches capture moments that countless people have experienced before, allowing the feeling to be quickly conveyed to the audience. Far from being an easy task, it can be a challenge to recreate cliched images that people will quickly identify with—the environment, subject, and frame can be hard to create.
1. Take some time to explore the idea of the visual cliche by reading this article and exploring this Instagram account. Identify which visual cliche(s) resonate(s) with you, and reflect on what it is about the cliche(s) that piques your visual curiosity.  
2. Over the coming weeks, look for and create opportunities to replicate visual cliches. You can choose either to replicate the same visual cliche or to explore the creation of different cliches. Challenge yourself to create 3-9 images. If possible, use a square composition.
3. Write a short paragraph about why the visual cliche resonated with you. In what ways was it easy to create the cliche? What challenges did you face? If you can, explore the tension between originality and the simulacrum.
4. Bonus assignment: look for ways to re-shoot and subvert the visual cliche(s) that you've created.

Adelle 1(Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 2_0005.jpg


I'm working on a website for a women's community/meet up that I am helping to create. Researching visual cliches got me on track thinking about the kinds of images that communicate female friendship and meaningful conversation to us. I found it very interesting since before my research I mainly saw visual cliche as a negative. Now I am trying to employ them in the same way that I utilize cliches in writing. Very cool.

The visual cliche that resonated most with me is what I fondly coined: 'female in the wild'. This cliche appeals to me for a couple of reasons. First, and most practical, I recently got a tripod and I have been taking self portraits in an attempt to improve my overall portrait photography (something that is proving much more difficult than I expected). This choice would allow me more practice. Second, I like to be outside, a lot. I have noticed lately that many photos of women doing outdoor activities show them perfectly put together with a full face of makeup and hair done. (I realize that this is not unique to outdoor pursuits and women are shown like this doing all sorts of activities where it would be impractical). I liked that, although all of these poses had the women with her back to the camera, at least they seemed closer to being comfortable in the outdoors. I also like the anonymity of them. As if these pictures could be any one of us, out enjoying time in nature.

Instagram: @blonde.girl.hikes
Camera: Nikon D3400


I don't recall seeing this type of image on Insta Repeat, but I've used the idea of feet standing, with friends' feet and/or at noteworthy locations as inspiration for my submission. I decided to present a grid of this cliche in an effort to draw attention to the enormous amount of litter here in Toronto. On one of my daily walks following daycare drop-off, I photographed disposable coffee cups (sometimes several in a single frame) an average of once every 75 metres. (Fun fact: You can use this figure and the collage to calculate the length of my walk!) In short, coffee cup litter that meets my minimum photographable requirements is plentiful. But it turns out that coffee cups that don't make the cut are also plentiful, as are stranded coffee cup lids, plastic straws, empty bags, cigarette butts, empty aluminum cans, marooned pop tabs, and disposable cups for beverages other than coffee.

Camera: iPhone 6s

Phil 1 (Life by Selena Photography) Creative Potential 2e.jpg


I've always been mesmerized by the visual cliche of the leading girl. In my own romantic life, I've always pursued egalitarian relationships, so the idea of one partner leading the other is bizarre to me, to say the least. For this assignment, I photographed my best friend and muse Emily, a subversion of the prototypical heteronormative vibe of this visual cliche. On a practical level, it was difficult to shoot this project because my arms are just too short! Although I initially wanted to use a square composition with these images, it just wasn't possible to shoot my subject with enough distance to get her whole upper body in the frame. Another detail I noticed when I actually went out to photograph this visual cliche is that the hands are in a very different position than I had imagined. Before shooting this cliche, I had imagined that there were two people organically holding hands before the girl spontaneously took the lead to pull the second person ahead. Instead, I found the hand position to be a bit awkward. Try it yourself and let me know what you think!

I subverted this visual cliche in two ways. Typically the girl is leading the photographer into a stunning landscape with open space ahead. In the first image my muse is leading me into a dead end and wall of electrical boxes. In the second image she's leading me into the cluttered view of a busy market. Although it was fun to look for opportunities to photograph beautiful scenery for this photo project, it was equally fun to look for unsightly spots we could use to ruin the cliche.

Instagram: @_selenapb
Camera: iPhone 5s

Here’s the assignment from the first month of the Creative Potential Photo Club. Each month I send out new assignments by email. If you want to join the Creative Potential Photo Club, please send me an email at lifebyselena[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll add you to the list! After the submissions are compiled, I'll post the images with the goal of fostering the digital community. This is a project of Montréal portrait photographer and wedding photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle of Life by Selena Photography.