Saturday, 22 October 2011

My six favourite photographs

Photography is one of my passions, and today whilst on a long walk with the dog up Caerphilly Mountain, I stopped at a style that overlooked Cardiff and wished I could master capturing the view. For years I have tried, and I have never quite achieved to replicate the oddly part-picturesque-part-M4-induced-city-scape exactly how I wanted. I will continue to try every time I trample past, but it did make me ponder over what was my actual favourite image of all time.

Growing up, it was press images of sporting moments that captured beautifully split-second action, that got me fascinated photography. The images, perhaps, of Wales scoring a try in a rare victory - they were such exciting photographs -  the excitement in the players' eyes, the mud, the emotion, the faces of the crowds; you could sit and pour over the image and live it for much longer than you could watching the replay endlessly on TV.

As I studied photography more, I saw the power this medium had for letting us concentrate on a split second of time delve deeper than the joys/woes of sport.

But what was my actual favourite image? There are many famous iconic images that I love - or perversely think quite stunning, despite being of a rather uncomfortable subject. My mind is cast immediately back to the horrifying stills of the Hindenberg and Challenger disasters - awful, terrifying, in so many ways - and yet the pin-point capture of the split second detail (the ability of photography itself to capture life and keep it forever) is actually almost poetic. This is something I wrote about in a previous blog post, and gave me much mental turmoil in how much I appreciated the medium's capabilities to preserve such shocking moments. The context of a photograph means more sometimes than the actual aesthetic itself.
I love the photograph of Ieuan Evans on his way to scoring a try against England in 1993, because the occasion meant so much to me at the time. This picture remained on my wall for my entire childhood; it takes me back to the exact moment where I was, the thrill, the excitement.

But choosing my favourite images is a personal preference, just like any favourite list. I can pick images others may think awful, pointless, irrelevant, or just plain ugly. Some may even think distasteful. But the power in the image, just like any art particularly more modern, lies often in the context of the piece; and what we, the viewer, bring to the imagery ourselves.

Just six of my favourite photographs:

This is stuff of dreams and science fiction; and yet, a reality of technological triumph. Simply a great image in so many different ways - not just the contrast of the lights and shadows, the framing and composition; but a symbol of achievement and ambition.

Winogrand. One of my favourite photographers; a great master of street images with an incredible skill for the composition and the commentary of the society at the time. The aesthetic 'third of heads' as I like to call it, with this image is a joy to behold.

There wouldn't have been a Winogrand without a Robert Frank. The iconic street photographer's work was once described as a: "meaningless blur, grain, muddy exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness." And it is precisely this what makes his images so wonderfully truthful of life in their very essence. Frank visited Wales and took a series of images of miners and their lives. It is a life now dead and gone.

Ansel Adams. Quite simply a beautiful, utterly incredible, image.

I have no idea who took this photograph, but it is so quintessentially and deliciously Hitchcock - my favourite director of all time.

Andreas Gursky. Architectural abstract images of herculean scale that evoke such impressive wow factor on a visual level, it is almost easy to forget they portray a strong commentary on harsh realities of capitalism and modern life. A photographer who made me interested in the abstract and architecture as photographic themes.

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