Welcome, dear reader, to our latest arts round-up! Today’s category is photography, and you’re in for a special treat – for this curated collection of art that amazes and inspires, each CreativeFuture staff member has not only selected a photograph but also agreed to an exclusive interview.
We’ve listed staff favorites in chronological order, so that we can play at being art-historical. But don’t worry, we won’t bore you with too much academic analysis. Our goal is to celebrate the creativity that American copyright law protects, as it so fatefully did in the case of an 1882 photograph of Oscar Wilde.
None of us owns that famous photograph, but others already appear in our personal collections. You can find out which ones below.
Ansel Adams, Jackson Lake in Foreground, with Teton Range in Background, View Looking Southwest from North End of the Lake, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (1941–1942)
Our oldest selection comes from our youngest staff member, Coordinator Connor Leak, who has proved once again that age cannot account for taste. Having admired this print since first seeing it in his father’s office, Connor was pleasantly surprised to receive it as a gift on his most recent birthday.
Ansel Adams is, of course, a celebrated conservationist and advocate for the National Parks. Here’s why Connor particularly admires this photograph, which features ruined driftwood in the foreground and implacable mountains in the background: “It conveys such a powerful story as simply as possible. It shows the harsh contrasts of nature, its fragility and its endurance, its cycle of death and growth, and the harmony found in between.” We weren’t ready for so much philosophy! But we know good commentary when we hear it.
Richard Avedon, Dovima with Elephants (1955)
Showing a high-fashion model and two pachyderm back-up dancers, this photograph was chosen by Senior Writer Bryan Alkemeyer. Bryan first encountered Richard Avedon’s work at an exhibit in San Francisco. A postcard version livened up Bryan’s desk while he was starting a dissertation about animals in Renaissance and 18th-century literature.
Although museum captions (like this one or that one) claim that Dovima wields authority over the animals, that’s not what Bryan sees in the picture. “Avedon’s photograph suggests that large, rough, ungainly creatures can be beautiful, like the elegant model,” he said. “At the same time, it suggests that a beauty paragon might be trapped, like the enchained elephants.” Though the story of the rise and fall of Dovima is tragic, the beauty of this influential photo remains the same nearly 60 years later.
Eve Arnold, Press Meeting at The Ritz for “The Prince and The Showgirl” (1957)
Chief Executive Officer Ruth Vitale was thrilled when Eve Arnold gave her this photograph of Marilyn Monroe, who shines like a star among all the suits. A ground-breaking photojournalist, Arnold nonetheless preferred to use just a simple camera: “I didn’t have to frighten people with heavy equipment, it was that little black box and me and £5 worth of film in my pocket.” We doubt Monroe would have been intimidated, even if she hadn’t already completed most of her filmography by the time this photo was taken.
Ruth admires many of Arnold’s photographs, but this one is her favorite and hangs in her bedroom. “I lusted for that photo for years,” Ruth recalls. She was about to buy a print when Arnold gave her one. “It’s not a regular press shot,” Ruth remarked. “It’s the world surrounding Marilyn, like the rings around Jupiter.” Arnold’s photograph of Monroe sends us all to the heavens on our search for comparisons.
Dennis Stock, Venice Beach Rock Festival (1968)
Community Outreach Consultant Adam Krentzman feels like he was there when Dennis Stock took this iconic photo of a long-haired hippie rocking out on the beach. For all we know about Adam, our secretive free agent, he probably was.
Our suspicions rose as Adam talked about the photo: “Depth of field, f-stop, and framing are less important than the feeling I get from this photo. I don’t know if I see myself as this woman, or if I appreciate her freedom.” Could Adam actually be one of the beachgoers in this photo, making history in one of his myriad disguises?
Significantly, Adam displays a print of the photo in his dining room, leading guests to wonder whether the crowd on the wall includes none other than their gracious host. After a suspenseful meal, they should also take a closer look at Stock’s famous shots of James Dean.
Various Artists, Photographs with Carole Beller’s Hale’iwa North Shore Signs (1996 and onward)
Office Manager Jeannie Lalau shared a photograph that she took of one of Carole Beller’s Hale’iwa North Shore Signs, which welcome tourists to the Hawaiian town. “For us islanders or local people,” Jeannie explained, “this is where you find the best beaches in the world.” We think she might be feeling a little homesick as winter hits the mainland.
Jeannie encouraged us to learn more about the signs’ history. After Beller made them in 1996, they became irresistible photo opportunities for visitors. Vandals destroyed the signs, but then a surfboard maker fixed one himself. Soon after, Beller replaced it, claiming she was defending her copyright, but she also put up another new sign, all at her own expense. We think we may be missing something, but one thing is clear: people love Hawaii. We’ve got to get our own photos with these signs!
Andreas Gursky, Times Square, New York (1997)
Besides Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., New York is the favorite city of Brett Williams, our Executive Vice President of External Affairs. He loves all things New York: The New York Times, podcasts about New Yorkers like The Just Enough Family, New York City’s one-and-only Cronut®… You get the idea.
We almost didn’t need to ask why Brett chose a photograph of the atrium at Times Square’s Marriott Marquis Hotel, but we gleaned some new insights about his connection to New York City: “It reminds me of traveling in my childhood, when atrium lobbies became a thing.” Brett clued us in to architect John Portman’s role in the structural innovation.
Brett doesn’t own the Gursky print, but we found one on sale by auction for $300,000 to $400,000. When we told Brett, he exclaimed, “A steal!” Has he saved enough to buy it, or is he masterminding an art heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven? We know he’d love a sequel set in NYC.
Nick Walker, Album Cover for Playboi Carti’s Die Lit (2018)
This photograph of hip-hop star Playboi Carti flipping over a crowd – while also flipping the double bird –is the selection of Davis Read, our Communications Manager who never wastes time on a subtle message. Appearing on the cover for Playboi Carti’s album Die Lit, the image acknowledges hip-hop’s affinities to punk, as photographer Nick Walker explained in an interview for Complex.
Walker loves to produce work that is “a little unhinged,” as he puts it, and the Die Lit album cover is a great example. Asked about the photograph, Davis commented, “I like the way that it represents a certain subculture and unique setting … It really just captures the aesthetic of this music very well.” He added two words to describe Walker’s work here: “Instantly iconic.” Isn’t it amazing how Davis can aptly sum things up in just 16 characters? He puts that skill for concise yet impactful expression to excellent use on our social media.
Joel Sartore, An endangered baby Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) named Aurora, with her adoptive mother, Cheyenne, a Bornean/Sumatran cross (Pongo pygmaeus x abelii) at the Houston Zoo (2021)
JC Taylor, Senior Director of Policy & Communications, drew our attention to this photograph, which simultaneously expands the boundaries of portraiture and raises ecological awareness. “There’s such a curious expression on the younger orangutan’s face,” JC remarked, “and the mother is weathered and sort of annoyed by this kid crawling on her face.”
The photograph belongs to Joel Sartore’s Photo Ark, a project to save animal species from mass extinction. Waxing erudite, JC mused further about his selection: “You know, it’s got this very Madonna-with-Child composition that I think is very interesting.” We weren’t surprised to discover that JC was recycling material from one of his college presentations. In response to the inevitable question, he reported, “I got a great grade!” We were unsurprised but glad to hear it.
That’s our round-up of amazing photos! Did you count how many are already in our possession? We’ll be adding one more as soon as Brett pulls off his heist – perhaps with the help of Adam, master of disguise.
We’ll feature a new category of art in our next round-up. Maybe we’ll continue the staff interviews, too, especially if you let us know that you’re enjoying them!
Until next time, find some creativity wherever you can, stay safe, and be well. #StandCreative