I have seen art critics get into harsh disputes in order to answer the question of what creates a great image. From Bresson’s “decisive moment” defenders to Roland Barthes’ “punctum” fans, this question sounds as complex as asking “what is beauty”? But, please, do not think I see beauty as a common sense aspect of some stimulus that generates positive feelings, for example. I think of beauty as something more broad, as a state of fascination, that can be generated by both positive and negative emotions. In that sense, beauty is a feeling in itself that arises from a mental interpretation of physiological changes.
That being said, I also argument that great images many times have both elements that elicit positive and negative emotions. Take as example this great image made by the Turkish photographer Bülent Kiliç, winner of the Word Press Photo 2015.
It is impossible to deny that your first reaction is of sadness and sorrow, but look at it for a minute or more. Now you will start to see that beyond that first impression of negativeness there also elements of poetry, and even romance. A great image creates that contradictory sense in oneself, many times creating this urge to react while leaving us speechless and mesmerized by it. This conflict feeling is what makes us stop in time so that we can dive into the image in an attempt to understand it, recreating the story behind it while transforming our self into something different. This is the power of a great image.
Below you can watch the interview with Bülent Kiliç talking about the image.
Until next time!