“Most images don’t stay with you, so when one does, I know there’s something important about it.”
It’s easy in a world that can be so instantaneous and ephemeral to get image fatigue – we see so much that we develop a distance and risk losing our empathy. Thankfully the photographers we work with strive to create imagery that continues to move us.
Every news story will have a key image but there are a number of elements that combine to make a picture affect you. It can be sympathy or outrage, or it can be about access or perspective. Most images don’t stay with you, so when one does, I know there’s something important about it.
Bringing back stories
If a photographer goes to war zones or natural disasters, events are likely to unfold that will create very striking and powerful pictures, but for me it’s the photographers who aren’t necessarily looking for the most obvious moments of conflict or tragedy whose images resonate. They’re looking for something to convey what’s happening on a human level.
This year we’ve seen a terrible human crisis affecting Africa. Both John Moore and Daniel Berehulak, at great personal risk to themselves, spent many weeks documenting the drastic situation and efforts to combat the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. They took time to cover the story from every angle. Their imagery has featured in many international reports and helped raise much-needed awareness about the severity of the epidemic.
That’s what a lot of our photographers do; they seek out and deliver stories from around the world that make people realize what’s happening and hopefully lead to action and change. The best images make you stop and think. John Moore’s picture of a wife looking on helplessly as her husband has fallen to the floor in an Ebola isolation ward is a powerful and moving image and if it makes a viewer donate or help in some small way, fantastic. If it motivates a government or an NGO to step in, all the better.
An alternative approach
When BP’s oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, Ben Lowy was there. As well as general coverage of the disaster, he produced a beautiful close-up study of the oil in the water, which is abstract and intriguing.
There’s a dichotomy in these pictures because although the image is beautiful, it’s a terrible situation. You have to look at it and really think about what it is you’re looking at and for me it resonates all the more for that.
When it comes to sports photography, this shot by Alexander Hassenstein stands out to me from the hundreds of thousands captured at the London Olympics. He clearly took the time to consider where to position himself for the best angle and to technically think about what would produce a great photo. He portrays the movement, the excitement and the energy of this sport in this moment giving it a fine art quality.
It’s not always the literal picture that has the most impact. It is often an alternative approach that creates images that have staying power.
High production values
As amazing as the ability to capture a defining moment as it unfolds is, the ability to carefully plan and construct an image is of equal value. I’ve worked with a lot of portrait photographers during my career and Lorenzo Agius is one of my favorites.
The thought and preparation that goes into his shoots is phenomenal and his portrait of Florence Welsh is typical of his approach. The composition is beautiful, the styling impeccable and the lighting exquisite. What I equally love is that it’s an unexpected approach to the portrait. To take somebody and depict them in a way that’s less seen and create a portrait that is out of the ordinary takes work.
Pause for thought
It’s very easy to think that film has overtaken imagery but what you can’t do with footage is take a quiet moment to contemplate what you’re looking at because by its nature, it’s constantly changing or moving. A still image – just like a painting or a statue gives you a moment to reflect.
Whether it’s a sports moment of an athlete at the top of their game or a child who has lost their entire family to a typhoon calling for help – all we can hope for from a great picture is that it gives the viewer pause for thought.
10 years in 10 frames gallery:
Chris Hondros (2005)
“As a parent, the pictures that hits me the hardest are children in suffering or pain. This shot by Chris Hondros is a brief moment but it’s desperately moving. You just want to be able to get to that child and help them.”
Spencer Platt (2006)
“This is an image that tells a story in one picture. You’ve got a group of young affluent Lebanese, driving through the devastation in Beirut. It shows that contrast between the have and the have-nots.”
Brent Stirton (2007)
“There are only 700 mountain gorillas left in the world. More than 100 park rangers have lost their lives trying to protect them. This image caused international outrage and started to tell the story of what was happening in the Congo and raise awareness.”
Veronique de Viguerie (2008)
“The most arresting images from our photographers are often those taken within extraordinary circumstances. It’s hard to win the confidence of those people (Somali pirates) who are very dangerous. To have that strength and also come back with amazing images as well, that says something.”
Lorenzo Agius (2009)
“The photographer had really thought about what they wanted to achieve that day and the portrait shows a great deal of production value.”
Benjamin Lowy (2010)
“There’s a dichotomy there because the picture is beautiful but it’s a terrible situation. Hopefully because it is aesthetically attractive, it will find itself being more widely disseminated and provoke thought.”
Layne Murdoch (2011)
“It’s like the heaven’s have opened and are shining upon this golden moment. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you can’t fail to appreciate this singular moment and how majestic it must have been to be in the stadium at that time.”
Alexander Hassenstein (2012)
“This photographer would have shot thousands of frames during the Olympics, but in this one shot he really took the time to consider the position and what technically would produce a great photo.”
Dan Kitwood (2013)
“It’s very hard not to take in the gravity of the situation when you see the scale of the devastation– a man amidst the wreckage, now homeless.”
John Moore (2014)
“The personal story here conveys what’s happening on a human level and if this image moves you to donate or help or if it motivates a government of NGO all the better.”
In his role as Creative Director, Assignments and Special Projects, Anthony art directs key commissions with the Getty Images Reportage and Assignment roster of photographers. His responsibilities range from managing all aspects of larger commercial projects through to developing bespoke pitches for corporate and agency clients. He liaises with the Getty Images editorial and marketing teams on numerous public facing projects, and has been the editor of Getty Images’ annual Year in Focus for the last three years.Download the free Year in Focus book on iBooks