As I listen to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, by The Beatles (don’t judge; I also have Snoop, Guns n Roses, Pink Floyd, and Rod Stewart in the same playlist; you can judge me on Rod Stewart, though), I can’t help but think of Harry Benson’s photo of “the pillow fight”, where The Beatles are pillow fighting in excitement after learning that their song became the number one song in the United States. The photo was taken at the George V Hotel in Paris, 1964 (with a Leica, no doubt).
Harry Benson calls this his “one photograph”: the one shot that defines a photographer’s body of work. It’s that one photo that can never be duplicated. I mean, every photo can never be duplicated simply because you can never capture the same exact thing more than once, but what he’s referring to is based on context. Not much thought went into taking this “one photo”. In fact, Benson didn’t even want to follow The Beatles around on their tour. Despite this nonchalant act of photography, Benson believes that one should strive not to take the same photo more than once; a philosophy that I adhere to, as well.
This “one photograph” (henceforth OP) concept got me thinking to such extent, that I became a bit demoralized. I thought about how today’s society, in this “iPhone era” (as Kai Wong, puts it), thinks about photography: as a means of showing the self, as opposed to the human condition. I guess one could argue that “the self” is part of the human condition. This is a view into today’s society. That’s not to say that photography should not be used for mundane things, but when taking photos of the mundane, make sure that that is the intent. Society, in this social media realm (which is practically everybody), uses photography as a sort of “visual chit chat”, without giving much thought.
Regardless on how I feel about society, the concept of OP can be exhausting as well as exhilarating, especially when you strive for it. It doesn’t mean that once you have such a photo, that you’re done, or that this is your definitive. It merely means that the OP now has an identity.
I like to think that “Ragazza nel nogozio” (“Girl in the shop”) is my OP. It is one of those photos that cannot be duplicated consciously, therefore, it is something that won’t happen again (I have my theories on time-travel, but even then, you’ll just wind up creating another time stream, and — never mind). Is it to my full satisfaction? Absolutely not. I would have preferred that the three ladies in the background weren’t there and that they don’t become part of the subject/narrative, but I can force the subject to simply be the little girl peeking out from the shop. Thoughh this shot was “intended”, it was not “expected”. The girl was trying to get my attention while Carline was in the store (looking for a purse or something), so I took a few shots with my Fujifilm X10 while she was running in and out of the store. Once she realized that I was taking photos of her, she hid in the store. Realizing this, I stood away from the door and crouched with my camera ready, believing that my “absence” would pique her interest. After a few seconds, voila!
I consider this photo of Kebrena as also an OP: the combination of the lighting, clouds, and her pose, makes this portrait dramatic. Making Kebrena look almost siren-like (the mermaid type, not the bird one) in some Greek mythology scene. But in this case, I didn’t intend nor expect anything, and though the pose can be duplicated, the light, cloud, and pose combination gives me this unique feel to it. But I think there are degrees to OP-ness. Yes it’s subjective, but that’s most likely driven by the creator and not the public. Even though OPs don’t define the creator, what the creator sees in it is personal, as if saying “THIS is what’s indicative of me”. It is this, that makes the OP associative.
As of this writing, in a few weeks, Carline and I will be going back to Venice, and I intend to deliver a print of my OP to that ragazza, if I can find her. That’s my intent, though I don’t know what to expect.