What makes a photograph memorable?


The photograph “Afghan Girl” was taken by Steve McCurry appearing on the June 1985 cover of National Geographic. This portrait’s striking nature has made it one of the most recognizable images of a generation. Despite being a portrait the girls striking expression and startling eyes create a sense of intimacy. Light collects around the subjects eyes as she stares directly into the camera — her striking green eyes with large limbal ring’s have become one of the photographs most noteworthy features. The eyes are often said to be the most important element of the portrait as they are the “windows to the soul”. Due to the strong juxtaposition between her haunted continence and blazing eyes this girl has become the face of the refugee figure.


The flag raising of Iwo Jima became one of the most recognizable photographs of WWII, one of the most reproduced images of all time, and the only photograph to win the Pulitzer Prize the same year of its publication. This image is striking due to its historical connotation and emotional implication. Iwo Jima was one of the fiercest battles in WWII’s Pacific Theatre. This photograph represents struggle, triumph, and comradery. The American flag instantly draws the viewers attention as the focal point of the image. Interestingly, a large degree of chance was involved as photographer Joe Rosenthal had to capture the image quickly without use of a viewfinder.



The most recent of my examples comes in the wake of 2012’s Sandy Hook shooting. Shannon Hicks captured the juxtaposition of safety and fear present as police escort children to safety. Many of the children express terror  as they exit the building creating a moment of intimacy and extreme emotion. Similar to Iwo Jima flag raising this photographs historical context –  the documentation of one of America’s most tragic mass shootings – will cause it to be remembered for years to come.



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