What Was the Last Photo You Took That Mattered?

What Was the Last Photo You Took That Mattered?

Whether you've just bought your first camera, or you've been taking pictures for decades, taking a picture that matters, matters. So, what was your last creation that did?

The aims of our photography has evolved over the years. Where once we were satisfied with an intimate family reception of positivity to our prints, now it seems anything short of tens of thousands of likes, a few hundred comments, and numerous meaningless awards will suffice. That said, your personal reaction and feelings toward one of your photographs is not to be disregarded, and sometimes, it can completely eclipse the white noise of social media, whether it's a roaring success or it slipped quietly into the void.

Sometimes, these images come in the form of photojournalism; sometimes, they capture a moment that resonated with you; and sometimes, it's an image of a loved one. Whatever the reason, if you're lucky, you capture an image that matters. To whom it matters isn't necessarily the point — although mattering to the photographer who took it is fairly central — but rather that it matters at all is the focus. So, my question to you is: what was the last photo you took that mattered? I'll give you some of my own examples.

Earlsmead Football Club, 1951.

Earlsmead Football Club, 2017.

My grandad has been a keen footballer all his life, playing in local teams (and scoring he'll be quick to add) as late as 56 years old. In his younger years, he played for Earlsmead FC, a team in London, and as you can see in the top photo, won the league in 1951. To his and my surprise, in 2017, we found that the team still exists, so I contacted them. To compound the surprise, the owner of the team is the grandson of the owner from when my grandad was in the squad. They were thrilled to hear that my grandad was still alive and kicking and invited him down for a game. It was a great day: the team had a shirt (jersey) made up for him, and Grandad enjoyed every second.

But there was a moment where everything became poignant for me, a palpable nostalgia is the only way I can articulate the feeling, really. More accurately, it was an acute awareness of time. I was standing behind my grandad, a man who was 88 at the time, watching a team he used to play for, on a pitch he used to play on. The moment felt important, so I snapped it. The picture is average at best — I hold it in no high regard, technically speaking — but it matters to me. I look at it and see a man who had his go and was forced aside by time, now an onlooker. It's become an important photograph to me, and for that reason, it matters.

Of over 100,000 photographs I have taken, this average, rather flat, dull (to most) photograph is one of my most memorable to me. It's one of my own shots that is part of an elite club of just a handful of pictures I have created that haven't faded away from my attention or affection.

So, whether you captured a moment you treasure, or you were lucky enough to immortalize an instant that meant a lot to someone else, share it in the comments below along with the story. There are no wrong answers and absolutely no criticism necessary, constructive or otherwise. It doesn't have to be a portrait, it doesn't have to be compositionally flawless, and it doesn't have to be recent; it just has to matter. What is an image you created that really mattered to you or somebody else?

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19 Comments

Many from the last batch I took. If they didn't matter to me I would just stop.

Chris Sampson's picture

This portrait mattered to me. I take tons of photos but avoid asking people to take their photos because I don’t want to hear the negative self-image comments and/or hearing them feel bad about themselves or their appearance. However, on this particular outing I was given full rein to enjoy taking photos, coaching the results and working with her to get through all the shots. Ultimately I always like more photos than the subject of the photo likes and this one was no different. But when she felt great about the photo, wanted to rebrand all her uses of image with one I took, I was complete. Mission Accomplished.

Over the last year or so, I've been selecting and printing photos to put on my walls. Maybe that's a no-brainier for many photographers, but I used to have other things hanging on my walls. So now, the question "is it wall-worthy" has helped me refine and hone some aspects of my photography. Not all photos are destined for walls, so it doesn't apply to everything I shoot. But for the more "art" projects and shots, I think I'm making progress.

Brent Daniel's picture

Great shot! And paying attention to the notion of whether something is wall (or portfolio) worthy, and then asking why or why not, has been important to me too. Great idea.

Gregory Thelian's picture

This is absolutely the most meaningful piece of art I have ever created, not just because of what you can see but because of all the things you can not see in it. This art piece is a study on Bi-Polar disorder and everything about it was done very specifically. There are 8 main points to this piece that illustrates different aspects of Bi-Polar disorder.

1) The Pink and Yellow side represent the manic side, and Blue and Red represent the depressive side.

2) The four colors illustrate the different extreme moods the person goes through.
- Blue: Cold, Distant, & Depressed
- Red/Orange: Anger & Anguish
- Yellow/Gold: Manic Energy and Excessive Spending
- Pink: Hypersexuality

3) The hands of pink & yellow and blue & red are touching because those moods are interchangeable and can switch on the fly.

4) I made the colors very vibrant and easy for you the viewer to see because these moods are so extreme that it is very easy for outsiders to notice.

5) While outsiders can clearly see these moods, the subject's eyes are not visible because they don't always realize or see that they are in these intense moods.

6) Where the hands and the thighs touch create arrows pointing away from each other. This is to symbolize how all of these moods push the subject away from their true self.

7) The negative space in the subject's silhouette is to illustrate the feeling of being hollow and empty inside. A shell of their self.

And the last point in this photo is one that I hate so much and always brings me to tears when looking and thinking about it.

8) In the negative space of the center of this piece is an hourglass. And this represents unknown time. The unknown time of how long this disorder will last, as well as the unknown time of how long the person will last living like this.

Larry Wynkoop's picture

As the husband of someone with bipolar disorder, I can say this is spot on. Well done.

Gregory Thelian's picture

Thank you Larry. I know it's very tough seeing someone you love go through all of this. Are the two of you managing it okay?

Larry Wynkoop's picture

We have our ups and downs like anyone else, but after 19 years of practice I think we've found our groove.

William Howell's picture

This is my latest important photograph.

Robert Tran's picture

Even your “average,” photograph captures your granddad in his element, Robert. On the sidelines with the chalk taking the viewer into the game he loved. Well done and great glimpse into what helped make the man.

Paul Arnold's picture

Two Deputies lost.

Will Murray's picture

I have never taken a single photograph that matters. Nor have the vast majority of photographers.

Just cyphers screaming into a hurricane.

Gregory Thelian's picture

I think you should try taking a photo of something very personal to you this week and then share it here. I would love to see what you come up with.

Will Murray's picture

I regularly shoot things that *matter to me*; I never shoot anything that *matters*.

So it goes.

Larry Wynkoop's picture

Photography has helped me through a lot of difficult personal issues. This image helped chip away at my social anxiety. I feel very uncomfortable in crowds and this has caused me to skip events with my family should have been great memories for all of us. I really want to overcome this, so when I heard about the "Balloon Glow" event in Atlanta, I decided I would take my camera gear and face my fear.

The anxiety started before I even left the house, as I was packing up my gear. As I drove to the train station it increased and when I was about to get on the train it peaked and almost derailed the whole exercise. But I told myself, "Just get on the train and ride into town. If it feels like too much when you get there, you can just get right back on the train and come back home, but you at least have to make it that far."

Once I arrived in midtown, I walked to Piedmont park and found a place to set up for the shot. I got some nice photos, and met a couple of other photographers there taking pictures. But most importantly, I went to bed that night knowing that, at least for one day, I had beaten my anxiety, and if I could do it once, I can do it again. And that is why this mediocre photograph matters to me.

Gregory Thelian's picture

Great story Larry. Anxiety is one of those things that a lot of people don't understand fully. Most people I know, and even myself before I witnessed it, tend to just write it off as no big deal. But the fact of the matter is that it is crippling. Your mind makes you stuck and you simply can not function properly. Great job being able to break away from it and getting out. Hopefully, you will be able to keep beating your anxiety and enjoy more of life with your family. All the best.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Good on you mate. Photography played a role in my own issues. Sometimes the allure of the image outweighs the inner voice of negativity, and every time it has — for me at least — I've come away happy and without an ounce of regret. Great shot by the way!

Brent Daniel's picture

Great article and really important idea. Thank you!

Peter Macfarlane's picture

This is not my best image by a long shot, but it is one that is meaningful to me and many others. I took this at the Western Australian Labor Party Conference recently. My friend and colleague Chanda was speaking to a motion on ensuring new Australians are welcomed into the community.
She spoke of her experiences of racism in England where she was born and the racism she experienced here. It was raw, it was emotional and it came from her heart. This was a moment where she had paused mid-speech recounting something that happened to her. The memory and the pain is there on her face. I only wish I could have done her justice in this moment. When I showed it to her she saw what I had tried to do and told me she loved it.