The Stories Behind These Photos Might Make You Look At Your Own Pictures Differently

“A photograph is a secret of a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.” — Diane Arbus

A captivating photograph raises questions, but gives no answers. The nature of this medium allows us the opportunity to witness a fraction of a second from someone else’s world. We’re left to mull over the details (both visible and implied) and fill in the gaps of the story. What happened just before an image was taken? What happened immediately after? Was this image one of those happy accidents whose value wasn’t realized until much later, or was it meticulously planned and shot time and time again until it was captured perfectly?

Is it an observation of the external or an analysis of what lies inside?

Some photographs make us wish we were there, others leave us grateful for being anywhere else. Some photographs tell a full story, others leave us wanting more. This time around, we wanted more, so we asked.

Why is this image important?

Photographers Rich PearceBaldemar FierroOlivia McManus, Aidan Lynn-Klimenko and Parker Hilton (the author) all answered that exact question in order to shed light on some of the finer details of their photos.

Olivia McManus

“I exhaust myself as I imagine most artists do. All hail the constant stream of self doubt mixed with an elevated sense of personal importance. I photograph nearly every single day, mostly as a way to occupy head space. Some of these images live on as works of art that will always feel significant to me. Many just sit on my hard drive labeled, 1008654.NEF.

“Regardless of where these images end up, they were all purposeful in their conception and provide permanent glimpses into fleeting moments of my psychological state.

“I can’t say this photograph has any particular meaning other than when I look at it, I think: ‘Oh, I remember that girl. I remember how she felt that day and in that moment. Scared, but awakened. Vulnerable, but thriving. Thin, but growing stronger.'”

Rich Pearce

“This was at the Lovebox festival held in Victoria Park in London. It’s a two-day event with some amazing musicians. I was with a friend shooting for Time Out magazine, and this was taken from the DJ’s stage. Only afterward did I notice the young lady in the middle standing out from the crowd. It’s become one of my favourite shots for that reason.”

Baldemar Fierro

“La Seine, Paris”

“I consider myself a documentary photographer. I don’t go out in search of certain images to express an idea. Most photos raise questions: Where is this location? How did you get there? Or why did you take this photo?

“I choose to give a small amount of info to go on, a simple factual title (most times it’s the neighborhood, city or region) and leave it up to the viewer to visually intake the image and form their own story. I‘m happy when I make a photograph that raises questions, for the viewer and myself. What was it about this image? Why did it have an effect?

“This particular image was created in the way I’ve described and now, years later, I think I understand what about it affected me. Still, I like to leave it to the viewer to form their own interpretation.”

Aidan Lynn-Klimenko

“Traffic came to an abrupt stop just a few kilometers north of San Ignacio, the oasis we heard about at a taco stand earlier that day. We hopped out and walked down the line of cars to find a sizable river flowing across the highway, and the word was that it wouldn’t be drivable for another four hours. As the daylight dwindled and the river continued to flow, our spirits were unexpectedly high. For the first time since crossing into Mexico, we didn’t feel like outsiders — extranjeros — it wasn’t just us stuck here, but a crowd of a couple hundred on either side of the river, and we were all in it together.

“We weaved through the line of weary travelers, meeting new people and listening to their stories as we all waited patiently, laughing and cheering together as we watched the occasional attempt at crossing.

“By the time the water was low enough for us to safely continue on, the sun had set and we’d made a few new friends.”

Parker Hilton

“When I look at this image, my heart sinks. For a number of reasons, but mostly because I kind of dropped the ball. I had just arrived in Nepal to photograph the goings on of the group CardioStart International that trains surgeons and helps perform cardiac surgeries in countries and hospitals with cardiology programs in development. They had attempted to work at the Dhulikhel hospital in Dhulikhel, Nepal once before, but were cut off by the two earthquakes earlier this year.

“When I first arrived, I was taken on a tour of the hospital along with a few visiting nurses and doctors from the program. Certain areas of the hospital were clean and freshly painted. As good-looking as any western hospital. Other sections of the campus looked like this. Still in shambles, un-usable until major construction was done. I don’t know how I would have photographed this differently, but I wish I had photographed it differently. One of my stronger suits as a photographer is that I tend to always have a camera with me, and the fact of the matter is that this image wouldn’t exist if I didn’t have a camera with me… that much I’m grateful for.

“What I like about the composition itself is the dichotomy of the construction workers and the medical staff, both doing good in their own way amidst the rubble and ongoing fuel crisis. This image’s ability to tell a story and capture the reality of one moment at the hospital, to me, make up for any shortcomings it may have aesthetically.

“It’s not always about a pretty picture.”