This is a terrible photo. It’s taken with a point-and-shoot about as old as shoulder pads and legwarmers. It has splashes from water and glare from the sun (just in case you hadn’t noticed.) It’s also one of my favourite photos of all time.
Why? Well, for all the reasons that photographs mean something to us. Really mean something to us. We can (and I do) work on improving composition and balancing exposure. We can play around with aperture, shutter speed and ISO and we can definitely, steadily, professionally work on improving what our images manage to say to complete strangers.
The splashes in this image remind me how the spray from that snarling, raging waterfall blasted my skin that day. The glare brings back the sunshine, the squinting and the heat, despite the fact that we were only an hour from dawn. The blurred colours and clouds reflect the disorientation from sleeplessness and soundlessness as I surrounded myself in the sensations of Iguazu Falls.
Above all, this photo reminds me of how I spent my time feeling truly alive, snapping at the chance to capture a memory rather than crafting a product for others to enjoy….Breathless, hair sticking to my face, hope and youth spiralling into the drops of water that formed white breaths in that tropical sky.
Looking back, I’m so glad that my photography has improved over the years. But I hope I never forget how to enjoy what is real while I’m there.
In this case, the answer to what makes a good photo?
The memory it inspires.