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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Power Of The Still Frame

I think it is quite interesting that even in this high tech, rapidly moving society in which we live, still images, not movies or video, seem to come to mind when we think about historic events. At least that is the case for me. As examples what I am referring to, what images come to mind when you think about the following events?

The Kent State Shootings :

Photo By John Filo

The Vietnam War:


Photo By Eddie Adams


Photo By Nick Ut

Tiananmen Square:


Etc, etc, etc. I think it is fascinating that while most of the world would rather go to a movie than look at still images, when asked to recall major events I think people are still most affected by single photographs. Certainly there were film clips made of all these events, but that is not what sticks in our minds. The only exception I can think of offhand is the Kennedy assasination and the Magruder film. However, the reason for that may be the subsequent use of the film as forensic evidence and its use to try to suggest second assasins and the like.

The ability of the single frame to freeze time, convey emotion, and to stick with us is, to me, a truly amazing phenomenon and testimony to the potential power of a photograph. Despite being 'old' technology, the single image has not been displaced by movies or video. The true challenge is for each of us to discover how to harness the power that can be had in a single frame. And I suspect that method is going to be quite different for each of us. Nonetheless, it is clearly the goal to which we all aspire.