Your most memorable photographs

Written on December 1, 2011 by in Artistry & inspiration

I’ve been having a debate with a photographer friend about what makes a photograph. Not in the literal sense — I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard of cameras ;-) — but what makes a photograph the amazing creation it is? Is it technical excellence? Emotional quality? Beautiful composition? Shock factor? 

So, at dinner the other night, I asked my hubby, “What is the most memorable photograph you’ve ever seen?” He chose, in rapid succession, three:

  1. Afghan GirlSteve McCurry, cover of National Geographic in June 1985 (below left)
  2. Srinagar – Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1948 (below center)
  3. Kent State massacre – John Filo, 1970 (below right)

Interesting, I thought. They’re all by photojournalists: one, a portrait, and the other two, in the moment.

I asked my father the same question, and he replied:

Two spring to mind. Jackie holding JFK in the back of the limo in Dallas, and the fireman wiping his brow of the dust from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

Again, photojournalism. The point my photographer friend had been trying to make — that emotional impact outweighs technical excellence — had definitely been made.

Then, my father added something: “Of course, my baby pictures are right up there. And you in [your grandmother’s] shoes and hat.” 

While our family photos don’t rank among world-changing photographs, I understand why they would be memorable to one man reflecting upon his life. So, I asked him if there was a difference between being memorable and excellent (or the best).

Memorable means stands out in memory, usually a visceral or emotional response. ‘Best’ can mean most beautiful, maybe not as jarring but something that brings comfort. We remember what startles us, we cherish what makes us feel better.

Nicely put, Dad. 

So, if emotional impact is required to make something memorable, I wondered what would happen if I used a different adjective to modify photography. I then asked blog readers, Facebook friends and the TwitterverseWhat is the most extraordinary photograph you’ve ever seen? 

Do you think it changed people’s responses? Stay tuned.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. […] Written on December 3, 2011 by Kate Watson in Artistry & inspiration As I mentioned in Thursday’s post, I have been debating a friend about what makes a photograph: emotional quality, technical […]

  2. […] I mentioned in Thursday’s post, I have been debating a friend about what makes a photograph: emotional quality, technical […]

Trackback URL

Provocative philosophies on passion and profit, plus my latest mentoring and workshop offerings for visual arts and photographers.

The Inspired Way
Need a little inspiration to find your ideal life? Check out a new, free guide by 22 creative women (including me):