Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Back in the day photographers liked to repeat the saying 'If you can't make it good make it big'. The photo taken by Omar Sobhani/Reuters is from a story in the New York Times, and deals with the reburial of the remains of the first president of Afghanistan Mohammad Daoud Khan.

Of course these days everyone makes it big. None bigger than Andreas Gursky, but then I may have missed something along the way. When Gursky's photos were shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art I was struck by the photos that, while large, were smaller than the immense images he also produced and were in the show. There came a point with the size of his images where the image began to come undone. When being immersed in a large image the photographer needs to retain resolution to maintain the bond with the actual event. Size restraint was called for.

In my commercial photography career I became aware that some of the people I was assigned to shoot would die and my photograph would be the image that became their most remembered identity. I recall when the first African American judge on the California Supreme Court died and his family requested a large picture to display at his public funeral and also at his law school. On another occasion a renowned scientist, who was also related to one the most prominent families in California, passed away and an image I made of him ran with his obituary in a number of scientific publications as well as in the New York Times. These instances made me aware of my responsiblities to the subject.

When Mohammad Daoud Khan had his photo made it probably seemed similar to other such occasions. Imagining that the image, blown up to heroic proportions, would be held aloft by strutting soldiers of another Afghan government was out of the question. And who could predict that the shaved head look of 30 years ago would seem so contemporary.

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