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My Five Foundational Photo's
The images that have brought me to where I am today.
I’ve recently been watching a series on Youtube called The Crit House hosted by Jeff Larason and I’ve been fascinated by watching present day photographers list out their top five images. Images that have been impactful to them and to the industry. Many of the photos and photographers did not set out to change how we saw things, and yet, it was without that intention that we got some of the most impactful images.
The photos they selected inspired and captivated them enough that they felt it had had some profound affect on them. After watching a few, I wondered what I would consider my top five images. I think it would be hard to say that these would be my top five forever, but these are the ones that I would probably say got me to my opinion of photography now. Perhaps in a year or two (or more), I would pick five more. I sometimes think a lot of it has to do with the mood and the level of inspiration that I’m feeling.
So I present to you, my top five images (in no particular order):
Fan Ho has been a long time inspiration to my work. The images he’s captured seem to have that dreamlike quality to them. His photo “Hong Kong Venice” has constantly played in my mind as a quintessential style that I admire in street and documentary photography.
Sebastião Salgado’s image of the gold mine in Serra Pelada captures the sheer enormity of the region and scope of the work being done. While the image shown below is only a fraction of the work, I feel it neatly captures the heart of what was happening at the time. The labor, the conditions, everything. It seems so unreal and yet, he was there to bear witness to it. The power that a camera has to capture these things is immense.
“Gun 1” by William Klein is an image that is seared into my head. The emotions portrayed feel gritty and real, despite the fact that this was not an actual situation. William Klein had asked two children to pose with the toy gun in a number of photos. One of the boys became enthralled and made the pose shown below as Klein captured it on film. Even though the gun is a toy and the situation was somewhat fabricated, it nonetheless captured the harsh reality of the 1950’s and documentary style it helped create moving forward. The emotion on the boy’s face says it all.
Dorothea Lange will likely be known mostly for this photo (in my opinion). Again somewhat posed (from what I understand), but within the context of reality, “Migrant Mother” speaks about the dire situation many faced in that era. One of the big points of this photo is that the mother’s face isn’t even really in focus, and yet the power of this image cannot be understated. However, as many a YouTuber will often echo in their camera and lens reviews, image sharpness can be overstated. As a society, when we value that over the power of our images, then we’ve lost the meaning behind photography.
Tank Man. There are many images from this period of our history, but this one stands out to me. The image is such a powerful statement of one person standing up to the machines of war. The crackdown in Tiananmen Square in China by the government on its own people was seen by millions across the world. I’ve been to that very square, never would I have imagined what would happen there.
As you can tell, (perhaps aside form the image from Fan Ho), my top five consist of social documentary themes. Stories behind the image. These are what I feel have brought me to photography and where I see its importance in society, even to this day. At an age where A.I. can fabricate just about anything and photoshop can make anything disappear or embellish half truths, I feel we have to be careful of how we present things. Even though a couple of the images are somewhat fabricated, they still speak to some of the truths that we had at the time.
What are your top five images? Did they shape you into what you are today as a photographer or perhaps you’ve already had a top five and are onto the next batch?
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment."
- Robert Frank
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