"To take a photograph is to participate in another person (or thing's) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt."
Photography is an influential medium. In a moment it can capture a memory for a lifetime. A lovely young woman I knew passed away at a very young age. A camera fanatic in her too short life she thankfully photographed a lifetime of memories. Her work sustained those who loved her in the difficult days that followed her departure from our lives.
At her funeral, I made a conscious decision to earnestly photograph the details of family life and the world that surrounds us. It's one promise I've kept since. And I'd have to say the thousands of images I have captured for posterity are the first things I would save if my house was on fire. Since my babies no longer live at home, and my husband can take care of himself, they are the most treasured items I have.
I doubt, however, that they mean much to anyone else. However, there are photographs that would be a tragedy to lose on a much broader scale. We've all seen those "WOW" pictures, none of which you will find in my albums. These are the images that affect us emotionally and appeal to us aesthetically. With one glimpse they give us a story that would take hundreds of words to tell. They can take something simple and give it power. They can provide visual beauty that impacts almost as intensely as their message.
There are the 1945 Life photos of the sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square and of a weeping Graham W. Jackson Jr. playing the accordion the day after FDR's death. Or the one from 1961 of Freedom Riders on an interstate bus escorted by armed Mississippi National Guardsman. Or a tiny Kim Phuc running naked down the road near Trang Bang after a napalm attack in Vietnam in 1982. These have imprinted themselves in our minds.
Not all great photos tell a news story, of course. Amazing photos fall into many categories. Here are just a few examples that cover all the bases:
The Atlantic in Focus: The Great Wall of China
Smashing Magazine (Really) Stunning Pictures and Photos
HuffPost 2012 Amazing Photography From Around the World
All That Is Interesting 10 Most Iconic Photos of LIFE
The Best of Life: 37 Years in Pictures
Chasejarvis The Best Photos of 2012
Time Picks the Top 10 Photos of 2012
DPS 21 Great Shots (And How They Were Taken)