A Great Photograph

 

Photographers studying outstanding photographs can learn much about the technical essentials of image making (such as dynamic range, when to emphasize contrast, how to control lighting, etc.) from both reproductions and originals, but more importantly they can gain a deeper understanding as to why one photograph is extraordinary and communicates a great truth while others merely titillate.

 

What criteria do we use to evaluate an image as a “great” photograph? What makes it great? Is it its technical prowess? Is it how it makes us feel emotionally? Does it gift us with a greater connection to other people or does it merely entertain our intellect? I believe that a great photograph conveys the commitment of caring the photographer has for their subject, whether it be people, nature, still life, landscape, or the future of humanity. (*The images listed and links below are excellent examples.)

 

The depth of caring or our passion for a subject is communicated in a fundamentally emotional, intuitive, heart-of-the-matter sense—the stronger the emotional impact of the image, the clearer the message. And simply put, the emotional impact of the image are the feelings that surface and we immediately associate with an image, as well as the thoughts and memories that emerge from that experience.

 

However, if as a viewer and recipient of that message, I do not care about any of these things (people, nature, art, etc.) then I will remain untouched by these images. So in a very real sense photographers create images that matter to them in faith believing that the message will resonate in the like-minded. I say in faith because there is no guarantee that the message will be well-received.

 

Mastering the technical aspects mentioned above, i.e., dynamic range, contrast, etc., serves to hone the message so that it is communicated in as powerful and clear a way as possible. Being more mindful of these issues and being able to focus our passion will effectively transform our perspective as photographers.

 

 

The Common Threads Project by Ruddy Roye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last Resort (book) by Martin Parr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper #30 by Edward Weston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Times Square, 1958 by Pete Turner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Igor Stravinsky, New York, 1946 by Arnold Newman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dresie and Casie, Twins, Trasvaal (series)
    by Roger Ballen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minamata, The Poisoning of A City
    by W. Eugene Smith (image #13 of Takak Isayama)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Afternoon by Arlene Gottfried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walk to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10  El Capitan, Winter, Sunrise, Yosemite Valley
      by Ansel Adams

The Common Threads Project by Ruddy Roye

    http://ruddyroye.com/galleries/the-common-treads-project/

The Last Resort (book) by Martin Parr

    http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2S5RYDYDHEB9

Pepper #30 by Edward Weston

    http://www.sfmoma.org/explore/collection/artwork/14685

Times Square, 1958 by Pete Turner

    http://www.peteturner.com/index.html

Igor Stravinsky, New York, 1946 by Arnold Newman

    https://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/igor-stravinsky/

Dresie and Casie, Twins, Trasvaal (series) by Roger Ballen

    http://www.rogerballen.com/platteland/

Minamata, The Poisoning of A City (series) by W. Eugene Smith (image #13 of Takak Isayama)

    http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDDWZXTR

Summer Afternoon by Arlene Gottfried

    http://www.arlenegottfried.com/new-gallery/p054do18rwncu5q8leimoo22qha4ua

The Walk to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith

    http://time.com/37534/into-the-light-w-eugene-smiths-walk-to-paradise-garden/

10  El Capitan, Winter, Sunrise, Yosemite Valley by Ansel Adams

    http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/262578