Alfred Eisenstaedt’s kissing sailor on the announcement of the ending of World War II, Joe Rosenthal’s raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima and Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother are iconic images seared into our American consciousness forever, in part because they captured and represent a time and spirit of important events.
While most of us will never make an iconic photograph that stands the test of time, we can make photographs that represent our day and unique time on Earth, just as those who preceded us did with cave drawings and, later, photographs. Like human’s earliest art, photographs offer us glimpses into the world in which they lived.
Snapshots that may seem insignificant at the time they are made leave a record. They speak to a time. For instance, growing up I never imagined a time when there wouldn’t be a telephone booth on every corner. I used to pull off the highway during cross-country trips to find one. Unless you go to a living history museum, it is rare to find a functioning phone booth.
I am reminded of an assignment I gave students in 2004 to see if they could capture a candid picture of more than one person using a cellphone in the same frame. Now, the challenge would be to make a picture on a city street or any gathering of people where someone is not using a cellphone. Times have changed.
Maybe someday, people—if civilization as we know it survives—will look back at photos and laugh in amusement at the thousands of ugly cell towers dotting our landscapes. I hope so.
Links to Iconic Pictures
See if you can capture a scene that speaks loudly to today’s times—a photograph we or our ancestors might study in the years to come with amusement or astonishment.
Email your best image (just one, please) with caption information, including an explanation of how it affects you, to GPH@pur.coop. We may share submissions on our website and social media channels.