Ansel Adams is said to have stated, “Twelve significant photos in any one year is a good crop.”
Great advice. Especially for us in this digital age!
But, what exactly is a significant photo?
I had my own ideas, but I thought it would be fun to find out from other people what they thought made a photo significant. So, I headed to the local Apple Butter Fesitval last week and started asking around!
Here are the calendar photos that the folks in the video were referening to:
Lenspiration’s 2020 Calendar is now available! View it here.
This was a great experience! And what I learned from it was a little different than I was expecting.
I thought everyone would say that significant photos were the ones that captured the people who were significant to them: their friends and family and vacation memories. But that wasn’t exactly the case. When it came to looking at pictures and taking pictures, most people seemed to enjoy less people-centered subjects. Perhaps it’s because I started off my survey by showing them scenic pictures in a calendar. Or perhaps it’s because I was surveying rural West Virginia.
But this did not by any means indicate that family was not important to them. On the contrary, family relationships were highest on everyone’s “significance” list, whether young or old, male or female, artistic or not artistic.
So this brings me to an interesting conclusion about what makes a photo significant. The subject of the photo is not necessarily what makes a photo significant. If it did, then everyone would think that only the photos of the things that were significant to them would be significant. No, it’s much deeper than that. The significance of a photo lies in something else. Perhaps the message or story that it communicates to the viewer? When friends and family are subjects in a photo, they do communicate a very strong message of significant, and so thus, pictures of friends and family are significant in their own way. But the significance that the subjects provide is communicated to only a very narrow audience.
Thus, for a photo to be significant to a much larger audience, it’s significance must lie in something beyond the range of signifiance that the subject is able to offer.
So, what makes a photo significant? I’m sure it will be forever undefinable, but what I have learned from my survey is that it lies in more than just the subject!
And this is really fun to contemplate because it means that anyone, anywhere, regardless of what type of photography they enjoy or specialize in, can take a significant photo!
So let’s take the time to cull through all the photos we’ve taken in the past 12 months, choose the 12 photos that we think are the most significant, and then share them on the latest photo assignment, 12 Significant Photos!