Friday, March 01, 2013


Earlier this week Michael Johnston (The Online Photographer) touched on the question of achieving fame as a photographer. He pointed out that even those who are famous are often known by a handful or even just one image. He suggested to become famous you needed to have and promote your "greatest hit(s)". He gave the example of Steve McCurry and his famous photo of the Afghan girl. He listed two other photographers that I didn't know and even when he posted the photos by them that he was thinking of, they didn't resonate with me. One I had never seen (or had completely forgotten) the other was familiar but unappealing and I didn't associate the photographer's name with it.

But I think Mike's onto something with the greatest hit thought. The difficulty is that one does not decide which of one's photographs is going to be a hit, others do. In order to be a hit I believe a photo has to touch something in the viewer, create an emotional response or, as Brooks Jensen of Lenswork says, tell a story. It is my experience that many people create such images, often accidentally. The reason they aren't "greatest hits"  in a wide audience is that unlike Steve McCurry's Afghan girl they don't get on the cover of a magazine, they don't get wide exposure. I suspect there are a lot of them sitting unknown in shoe boxes, family albums or hard drives. Such an example (IMO) is above. The simple gesture, the obvious pride of the dad telling his young daughter "look a the camera", a basic human experience distilled to its essence.

Not familiar with the work of Laura Currie? Don't feel bad. Very few are. She was my wife's great aunt and when she died we inherited her negatives. Now I'll be honest here, she was a seamstress, not a photographer and many of her photos are run of the mill snapshots made with a cheap box camera. She had a bad habit of tilting horizons in her landscapes but she also had momentary flashes of excellence, this photo of her brother with his first daughter being one. Ever since I first scanned it, it has stuck in my mind as firmly as any greatest hit by a truly famous photographer. So here's to Aunt Laura's greatest hit and her 15 minutes of belated fame. If you agree that it's a hit, leave a comment telling why.

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