Defining a great image

You might get lucky and take a great photo but doing this over and over is another matter. There's a distinction between a good picture and a great picture. While the terms may be used subjectively, you can create good images by simply being proficient with the craft. In fact, we are inundated with good images but they are mostly meaningless. This is especially true in television, it's principal purpose seemingly being to awe, and distract us, dispelling any kernel of thought while keeping us transfixed. The blur of motion, color, impossible perspectives, and hypnotic slow motion has habituated us to expect more, an addiction to instant visual gratification. We've grown too impatient to linger on any one view or take. A few seconds is all we are allowed, lest we lose interest. Contemplation has become anathema to modern video.  Paradoxically, instead of being uplifted, you feel like you're getting bludgeoned. The effect is anesthetic. The vacuous stream acts as a central nervous system depressant. Your cognitive function is arrested. You are left empty and drained. In the wake of this torrent, a still photograph is an oasis of calm. There is far more to be gleaned from a single great image, than by a stream of empty visuals refreshing every second.  A really great image will maintain our attention because it defies explanation. Stripped of a verbal equivalence, we must rely on our intuition. The image becomes an experience onto itself, apart from the original subject. It's transformative. It may compel or inspire, or at best, completely still the mind. A few of the great photographers I think of are Jacques Henri Lartigue, Sebastiao Salgado, Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, Max Yavno, Gary Winogrand, Edward Weston, and Robert Mapelthorpe, among many others.


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