Photo: “Sacred Sunrise” by Peter Lik
By Michelle Reyes
Barring the real thing, there is nothing like a photo to capture the essence of a moment, place or person. Some photos are so perfectly shot they virtually insist that you examine all the fine details. They’re almost hypnotic in their power to make you lean in to learn more.
And they have emotional depth. They can be uplifting or tragic. But they tap something in our humanity.
One photo that I have always found moving, no matter how many times I see it, is a particular shot of the glimmering towers of the New York City skyline. The photo, by a New York University student, captures the city in all its magnificence – and for me it resonates more than all the others I’ve seen of that classic skyline.
It’s a photograph that I was mesmerized by long before I called New York home, and it is a shot that is often replicated and very recognizable.
Sometimes photographs are universally evocative and become icons. But sometimes, less-famous shots, by less-famous photographers (like that NYC skyline shot), strike a chord in you – there is a strange, personal connection rather than a universal one.
For me, when I look at that photo of the NYC cityscape, I see a city of infinite possibilities, the successes of all the ambitious people who came before us, and the aspirations of the generations of New Yorkers yet to come. I feel as if this photo perfectly encapsulates the notion of hope.
At the other end of the emotional spectrum, there are startling images such as that of Aisha, a young Afghan girl pictured on the cover of Time magazine in August 2010. Her dark hair is swept to the side showing her mutilated face: her nose missing, a gaping hole in its place. This was done to her by her husband after she’d run away from a domestic dispute. The photo, taken during the war in Afghanistan, was immensely successful in bringing intense attention to the mistreatment of women in that country. That one image sparked a lengthy Internet discussion.
Then there are the magically transporting photos of our own Peter Lik, that take us away to exotic locales: glowing beaches, desert dunes, sprawling canyons and shrub-filled forests all over the world. I find his photos stunning, uplifting and, yes, incredibly evocative. And they remind me how badly I desire to travel and how important it is to see our world.
In the meantime, I allow myself to dream, and look to photos to transport me.