I recently caused quite a storm in one of my undergraduate level classes. This is not unusual but it was an honest attempt to break through the barriers that students set up between themselves and the rest of the world. I had the students show what they consider the ten best photos ever made. Obviously subjective and frankly to have a little fun. All the usual suspects were represented. Arbus, Adams, Weston, Atget etc. When I showed my list it included a surprise. My #7 pick was the 1953 Marilyn Monroe Playboy centerfold. Most students seemed thunderstruck. I could not be serious. I explained that I was serious and felt that this photo was not only provocative but revolutionary to our society. My coup was realized when I stated that this nude made the nudes of Weston look like cold concrete. I was now speaking heresy. A blasphemer. The photographic anti-christ. We talked it over and I think I won most of them over. I'm interested, for future class discussion, your opinion on this thought. Should a photo like MM be on the list. What would your 10 best list lool like?
Unless you neglected to tell us something, you have left this very wide open. I can think of numerous war photographs that have left a mark on society.
Is the question directed at “fine art” images only?
The class was directed to find their top 10 list and to eliminate newsorthy photographs. Iwo Jima, Zapruder film etc. When they show and discuss in class we begin the process of finding out what is of value to each individual student. The idea of photos that had an effect on society simply came about in the discussion pertaining to the MM photo. So it is "Fine Art" photography.
The photo that made it to the most student list was Migrant Mother. I believe it was shown by almost a third of the class.
It would be difficult to cull down a list of top 10 photos, but one that pops into my mind that I remember from seeing in the paper as a child was a photograph of a police dog attacking a black man during a civil rights march. I don't remember the date or place (Selma or Montgomery, Alabama?) but it is one that has always stuck in my mind.
Strictly from the standpoint of some of the best photos IMHO I would pick The first photograph of the Earth from outside Earth orbit, by Frank Borman during the Apollo 8 mission, (also one of the 2 or 3 most important images ever made) Garrapata Beach by Brett Weston and New Orleans Trolley by Robert Frank.
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I have always liked the shot of the blue eyed child with the red head cover that national geographic shoot those many years ago. I believe she was in a refugee camp at the time.
Do you know the one? It has truly captivated me over the years.
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Yes, a haunting photo for sure. Shot by Steve McCurry. He also went looking for her a while back and eventually found and photographed her again. Her hard life showed in the latter portrait.
Originally Posted by PeterDendrinos
Another that spoke volumes was the infamous Kent State photo of the woman (half kneeling ?) over a slain student on the campus.
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To me, two of the most striking photographs came from the Viet Nam conflict, first the little girl fleeing the napalm down the road, and the image of the Army official executing the north viet captive on the streets...very dramatic and telling
"Fine art" photographs are rarely examples of work that build social awareness. All the pictures mentioned in this thread are from photojournalism. The closest I have ever come to see a photojournalism picture that I could consider also fine art is Eugene Smith's "Tomoko in her bath".
I have to disagree with the MM opinion, you are attributing "special" qualities to an ordinary picture simply because it went against the moral "code" of the prevalent attitudes towards sex in the US. To any other country outside the US the MM shot is nothing more than a pin up, if they knew who MM was...
I am surprised no one has mentioned Caponigro's "Running Deer" as one of the best fine art photos ever made. But notice, this is just a pretty picture, like most of those called "fine art." BY nature the pictures that mostly "stick" in our minds are those who depict something different from our experience. War, alternative lifestyles, poverty, drug addiction, prostitution, human exploitation, etc, etc. While many are great pictures, few IMO can be called "fine art."
Guess we must see these the same way Jorge, have always thought Smith's Tomoko was one of the finest photos ever made, along with the one of his childern walking up the path (sorry, don't recall the name of it). And of course the Caponigro is an amazing image. Nudes just don't do it for me, thus my own bias...(there are exceptions, Weston and our own Thomas)...Just like many portraits do not move me, the see one by Yousuf Karsh and bingo!! We all have different taste in work, if someone likes the MM and considers it on of the top ten...that is ok, but I hope the students learned more that the top ten is just "someone"s top ten...by no means is there any absolute to the question or list.
Originally Posted by Jorge
Pretty sure if everyone here listed their own top ten, the list would be varied and many would question why a given image was on the list....because it was important to the person making the list.
I think this is very subjective, as you say, it depends on what the individual considers 'great'.
For me it is Jeff Widener's shot from 1989 of the lone protester facing down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square. It was shot with a borrowed roll of film, by a man suffering concussion, using a 400mm lens on a 2x converter.
A small guy, carrying a shopping bag in white shirt and dark slacks challenging one of the largest military machines in the world to mow him down in plain sight of the world. That photograph continues to inspire to this day as a definition of the word 'courage'.
As for the MM photo, I don't think it's that revolutionary. It is only if you know who Marilyn Monroe was that it becomes special, otherwise it isn't really any more revolutionary than the artwork which used to adorn the fuselage of WW2 USAF B29 bombers.
Last edited by Andy K; 09-17-2005 at 12:21 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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