Art & Design Magazine

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

By Utpalpande @utpalpande

On the occasion of World Photography Day, VSUAL pays a tribute to some of the best photographs and photographers that have shaped the field of photography and in doing so have raised it to the level of an art form. We start our journey with a documentary by Magnum Photos followed by photographs and photographers who have become timeless icons.

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

A core principal which framed the establishment of Magnum Photos in 1947 was the belief that photographers should have a point of view in their imagery that transcended any formulaic recording of contemporary events. This tradition continues today with the new series of photographic essays being produced by Magnum and Leica. The voice on this movie is that of Alice George, former head of Magnum.

Now we take a look at some photographs that have become testaments to our struggles, joys and passion and in doing so have become icons in themselves.

Afghan Girl [1984] | Photographer: Steve McCurry

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

And of course the afghan girl, picture shot by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Sharbat Gula was one of the students in an informal school within the refugee camp; McCurry, rarely given the opportunity to photograph Afghan women, seized the opportunity and captured her image. She was approximately 12 years old at the time. She made it on the cover of National Geographic next year, and her identity was discovered in 1992.

Omayra Sánchez [1985] | Photographer: Frank Fournier

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Omayra Sánchez was one of the 25,000 victims of the Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) volcano which erupted on November 14, 1985. The 13-year old had been trapped in water and concrete for 3 days. The picture was taken shortly before she died and it caused controversy due to the photographer’s work and the Colombian government’s inaction in the midst of the tragedy, when it was published worldwide after the young girl’s death.

Portrait of Winston Churchill [1941] | Photographer: Yousuf Karsh

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

This photograph was taken by Yousuf Karsh, a Canadian photographer, when Winston Churchill came to Ottawa. The portrait of Churchill brought Karsh international fame. It is claimed to be the most reproduced photographic portrait in history. It also appeared on the cover of Life magazine.

The Plight of Kosovo Refugees [1999] | Photographer: Carol Guzy

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

The photo is part of The Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize-winning entry (2000) showing how a Kosovar refugee Agim Shala, 2, is passed through a barbed wire fence into the hands of grandparents at a camp run by United Arab Emirates in Kukes, Albania. The members of the Shala family were reunited here after fleeing the conflict in Kosovo.

Stricken Child Crawling Towards a Food Camp [1994] | Photographer: Kevin Carter

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

The photo is the “Pulitzer Prize” winning photo taken in 1994 during the Sudan Famine. The picture depicts stricken child crawling towards an United Nations food camp, located a kilometer away. The vulture is waiting for the child to die so that it can eat him. This picture shocked the whole world. No one knows what happened to the child, including the photographer Kevin Carter who left the place as soon as the photograph was taken. Three months later he committed suicide due to depression.

Segregated Water Fountains [1950] | Photographer: Elliott Erwitt, Magnum Photos

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Though some forms of racism do occur in todays world yet nothing can be compared to the racial segregation faced by the African Americans during the 1950’s and 60’s. This is a picture of segregated water fountains in North Carolina taken by Elliott Erwitt. Erwin is a advertizing and journalistic photographer who is known to take pictures with a touch of humor and an eye for the humane. This picture does not only tell the story of injustice faced by the one Black man in the shot but the injustice faced by a whole group of African Americans and other minorities during that time.

Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation [1963] | Photographer: Malcolm Browne

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

June 11, 1963, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk from Vietnam, burned himself to death at a busy intersection in downtown Saigon to bring attention to the repressive policies of the Catholic Diem regime that controlled the South Vietnamese government at the time. Buddhist monks asked the regime to lift its ban on flying the traditional Buddhist flag, to grant Buddhism the same rights as Catholicism, to stop detaining Buddhists and to give Buddhist monks and nuns the right to practice and spread their religion. While burning Thich Quang Duc never moved a muscle.

Che Guevara [1960] | Photographer Alberto Korda

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

This is a well known photo of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. It was taken on March 5, 1960, in Havana, Cuba, at a memorial service for victims of the La Coubre explosion. The photo was not published internationally until seven years later.

Bliss [2000] | Photographer: Charles O’Rear

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Bliss is the name of a photograph of a landscape in Napa County, California, east of Sonoma Valley. It contains rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds. The image is used as the default computer wallpaper for the “Luna” theme in Windows XP. The photograph was taken by the professional photographer Charles O’Rear, a resident of St. Helena in Napa County, for digital-design company HighTurn. O’Rear has also taken photographs of Napa Valley for the May 1979 National Geographic Magazine article Napa, Valley of the Vine. O’Rear’s photograph inspired Windows XP’s US$ 200 million advertising campaign Yes you can.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire [1911] | Photographer: International Ladies Garmet Workers Union

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Picture of bodies at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company. Company rules were to keep doors closed to the factory so workers (mostly immigrant women) couldn’t leave or steal. When a fire ignited, disaster struck. 146 people died that day.

Planting of the American flag at Iwo Jima [1945] | Photographer: Joe Rosenthal

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima is a historic photograph taken on February 23, 1945, by Joe Rosenthal. It depicts five United States Marines and a U.S. Navy corpsman raising the flag of the United States atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

It’s virtually impossible to shortlist a few photographs and call them the greatest. The photographers below represent the best in each genre of photography. Their greatness is measured in their contribution to the growth of photography as a legitimate form of art. Some of them are known to the mainstream and some names are as unknown as some of the greatest painters but all of them helped in growing photography but as a commercial venture and as a sacred art.

Ansel Adams

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Adams was an American photographer and environmentalist, best known for his black-and-white photographs of the American West, especially in Yosemite National Park. With Fred Archer, Adams developed the Zone System as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print. The resulting clarity and depth characterized his photographs and the work of those to whom he taught the system.

Adams primarily used large-format cameras despite their size, weight, setup time, and film cost, because their high resolution helped ensure sharpness in his images. Adams founded the Group f/64 along with fellow photographers Willard Van Dyke and Edward Weston. Adams’s photographs are reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books, making his photographs widely distributed.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Bresson was a French photographer considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. He was an early adopter of 35 mm format, and the master of candid photography. He helped develop the “street photography” or “real life reportage” style that has influenced generations of photographers who followed.

Cartier-Bresson achieved international recognition for his coverage of Gandhi’s funeral in India in 1948 and the last (1949) stage of the Chinese Civil War. He covered the last six months of the Kuomintang administration and the first six months of the Maoist People’s Republic. He also photographed the last surviving Imperial eunuchs in Beijing, as the city was falling to the communists.

Annie Leibovitz

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

She is often regarded as the non-commercial commercial photographer. Her defining moment was the famous Lennon – Ono Rolling Stone Cover. Initially, Rolling Stone wanted only Lennon on the cover but he insisted that both of them be on the photo. Leibovitz asked Lennon to take off all his clothes and curl up next to her. Ono offered to take her top off but Leibovitz told her to keep everything on. It portrayed a cold Ono and Lennon a clingy one which, according to Lennon, was exactly what their relationship was. It has marked her style as a photographer. She aims to portray celebrities for what they do than for what they are.


A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

John Rankin Waddell has photographed some of Hollywood’s most famous people and has shot some world-renowned campaigns, including Nike, Umbro, Reebok, Marks and Spencer’s, Rimmel, L’Oreal, Hugo Boss, Levis, Shiatzy Chen, Thomas Wylde, Longchamp, Aussi, Madonna for H&M, Dove, BMW, and Coca Cola.

His many subjects have included Britney Spears, Kate Moss, Kylie Minogue, Spice Girls, Madonna, David Bowie, Björk, Juliette Binoche, Lily Allen, Kevin Spacey, The Rolling Stones, Vivienne Westwood, Cate Blanchett, Damien Hirst, Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair and M.I.A.

David LaChapelle

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Weird beautiful vibrance is how I often describe LaChapelle’s style. Because of his extensive commercial work for commercials and fashion, his contribution to the art is often overlooked. In reality, LaChapelle is a pioneer in taking photos that mixes colors, weird situations and humour in one situation. The result, as odd as it may seem, is an accurate depiction of the mayhem of human mind.

Irving Penn

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Penn was always ahead of his time. So ahead, in fact, that many of his works were never published until decades after it was taken. A clear example was his effort to make a statement about the beauty of female form.

He wanted to depict the reality that although many women do not don the perfect proportion of breasts, waist and hips, they are still beautifu. He did this by photographing women whose physical shapes range from thin to plump were shot in 1949-1950, but were not exhibited until 1980.

His still life compositions are skillfully arranged assemblages of food or objects; at once spare and highly organized, the objects articulate the abstract interplay of line and volume. His later works are made on aluminum sheets coated with a platinum emulsion rendering the image with a warmth and maturity that untoned silver prints lacked.

Helmut Newton

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Newton was a prolific, widely imitated fashion photographer whose provocative, erotically charged black-and-white photos were a mainstay of French Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. He established a particular style marked by erotic, stylized scenes, often with sado-masochistic and fetishistic subtexts.

His 1980 “Big Nudes” series marked the pinnacle of his erotic-urban style, underpinned with excellent technical skills. Newton also worked in portraiture and more fantastical studies.

Robert Mapplethorpe

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Mapplethorpe is known for two things: large-scale photography and critical insight.

While others rely purely on aesthetics, Mapplethorpe’s photos always seem to tell a story or provide a glimpse of the human sensibilities often lifted from daily ordinary situations.

Criticisms of him largely lies on his choice of subject which is highly stylized black and white portraits, photos of flowers and nude men. The frank, homosexual eroticism of some of the work of his middle period triggered a more general controversy about the public funding of artworks.

Herb Ritts

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Ritts was an American fashion photographer who concentrated on black-and-white photography and portraits in the style of classical Greek sculpture. Ritts photographed notables such as, Christopher Reeve, Michael Jordan, Dalai Lama, Mikhail Gorbachev, Francesco Clemente, George Clooney, Cher, Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Taylor, Brad Pitt, Ronald Reagan, Julia Roberts, Steven Hawking, Nicole Kidman, Edward Norton, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dizzy Gillespie, Elton John, Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas, Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, Cindy Crawford, and many others.

His greatest contribution to photography was his ability to glamourize nude photography. Before him, nude photography was taken with either disdain or malice. He changed all these when he managed to get famous and decent celebrities to pose nude.

James Nachtwey

A VSUAL Tribute: World Photography Day

Nachtwey is considered to be the greatest war photojournalist of all time. I will not bother mentioning his awards and recognitions, let us just say he has them all. The remarkable thing about his photos is his ability to add drama to real-time photography. Often, photojournalists are not expected to capture the drama of life and life, they are only expected to capture facts and events that matter but not Nachtwey.

Perhaps the most famous story about him was when he got injured during extensive coverage of the United States invasion of Iraq. He, along with Time Correspondent Michael Weisskopf rode in the back of a humvee with the United States Army “Tomb Raiders” Survey Platoon. An insurgent threw a grenade at their humvee which Weisskopf grabbed to throw it out but it exploded in his hand. Just as when you thought you get a free pass for having a grenade thrown at you, Nachtwey had the presence of mind to take a photo of the medics treated them before passing out.

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