by Skip Cohen
I apologize for the rant this morning...Wait a minute! No I don't. My only apology is to those of you who know your photography history and so many of the great names in imaging we've lost over the last few years.
I'm frustrated over so many of you not knowing a thing about the history of photography, especially those artists who blazed the trail for you and left a legacy to be appreciated rather than squandered. And, I'm not talking about the greats from fifty to a hundred years or more back, but many of the great contemporary artists of this century.
Here's what got me going on the subject...
I was teaching a workshop a short time ago and talked about Mary Ellen Mark. When I asked how many people knew who she was, only two hands went up! Mary Ellen may have passed away a year ago, but we're talking about one of the most recognized women in photography.
There's so much you can learn by taking the time and wandering through CyberSpace looking up famous names from photography. In fact, here's a lesson I learned from Mary Ellen during a podcast I did with her a few years ago.
She was talking about why she loves shooting with film so much and mentioned a lesson she teaches all her students. She makes them tape over the LCD on their cameras. Why? So they can't "chimp." I'm paraphrasing a little, but here's her point:
"Shooting digitally, your tendency is to look down to see if you got the shot. When you confirm that you did, you move on. However, as a photo-journalist, what if the most powerful image is yet to come? What if that tear in grandma's eye and her expression changed, taking the image to another level? What if in walking away and moving on to your next subject, you actually missed the best image? So, I teach my students to hang in there longer and never assume they've got the best shot."
I started "Why?" as a new feature on the SCU site to help more photographers understand the stories behind the favorite images of some of the most respected artists in our industry today. I can't turn back the clock and chase down photographers who are no longer with us, but stay tuned. I'm going to be sharing a new image every week along with a short sound byte about the images from the artists themselves.
In the mean time Google a few of these greats or click on the link I've given you below. They're no longer with us, but somewhere along the line they are responsible for some aspect of the way you shoot today...
Herb Ritts, Richard Avedon, Arnold Newman, Francesco Scavullo, Monte Zucker, Eddie Adams, Don Blair, Dean Collins, Yousuf Karsh, Arnold Crane, and Galen Rowell.
This list isn't mean to be all inclusive. It's just a quick peek inside my head thinking about some of the greats who many of you never met or heard speak. I'll wrap it up with one more name many of you don't know, Ray DeMoulin. He didn't earn his living as a photographer, but as a champion for photographers and at some point in his career he worked with every name I've shared above!
Note: Photo Credit of Mary Ellen Mark - "Mary Ellen Mark in 2000" Credit Chris Felver/Getty - from the NY Times article by William Grimes.
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.