NYThroughTheLens: What Makes A Memorable Photograph

Vivienne Gucwa


When does a photograph transform from a snapshot into something more transcendent? This is probably one of the most complex questions that photographers encounter.

I firmly believe that subjective taste plays a large role in deciding what is or isn't memorable. One could debate the existence of a collective subjective taste. However, rather than debate about collective subjective taste, I can share how I differentiate between a snapshot and a more memorable photograph.

When I took this photo, it was one of many I took of the this street corner. This happens to be one of my favorite areas of Chinatown and I wanted to convey the all-encompassing mood of the street on a rainy summer day. Summer days in New York City can be oppressively humid and this was one of those days. The air was thick and the evening's cooking smells hung over the wet buildings and streets slick with warm rain.

What differentiated this photograph from the dozens of other photographs I took of the same corner? Why did this one resonate, while the others fell short? The deciding factor was the series of actions that sparked a narrative I wanted to convey, when I set out to document what a moody, rainy summer day felt like in Chinatown.

The series of actions that occurred all at once were: the woman in the foreground turning the corner carrying a lavender umbrella and a bag of groceries, the two people huddling under an umbrella in the distance moved to the edge of the sidewalk to avoid the open doors of stores, a person leans out of one of the open doors to enjoy a cigarette while watching the rain, a man crossed the street with bags of groceries while another person leisurely leaned in front of a store to seek some semblance of relief from the humidity.

All of these actions occurred against this brilliantly colorful backdrop resplendent with light and reflections. This all told the overarching narrative I was trying to tell with my camera about how this part of New York City feels on an achingly hot and humid evening in a rainstorm.

Check out more of Vivienne's work at her blog, NYThroughTheLens.



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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