Home > Photography & photojournalism > Pictures, a thousand words and other truisms

Pictures, a thousand words and other truisms

Time's Afghani Girl cover

A terrible beauty: Time's instant classic

Further to my posts about the travails of Newsweek, from its arch-rival Time comes a splendid example of what a news weekly can do when it really knows what its business is about.

This front cover is, in my opinion, an instant classic: if you’ve been too busy rehashing that press release or twittering Kanye West or something and have missed all the media hoo-ha about it, it depicts Aisha, an 18-year-old Afghani girl whose nose and ears were cut off on the orders of the Taliban after she ran away from her abusive in-laws.

National Geographic's Afghan girl cover

An earlier classic: National Geographic

The image itself is striking enough: it is reminiscent in many ways of National Geographic’s famous Afghan girl cover from 25 years ago – it’s more unsettling twin.

Time’s cover certainly makes you stop and have a closer look: it’s then it reveals it has that quality that Yeats (in different circumstances) called “a terrible beauty”. The coverline, whether you agree with its sentiment or not, is perfectly judged (I’m talking in terms of layout only here), places the picture in context and provides that all-essential come-on to lure the reader in.

All-in-all, a perfect, simple and pleasing balance of form and content that in design terms is hard to fault.

Over at his excellent blog Iconic Photos I’m pleased to see The Quinessential agrees and has placed it on his online pantheon of classic images, along with comments from Time’s managing editor Richard Stengel:

We do not run this story or show this image either in support of the U.S. war effort or in opposition to it. We do it to illuminate what is actually happening on the ground.

If you love great photojournalism and great photography, and have a half-hour or so to spare while munching your lunchtime sarnies I really recommend checking out the iconicphotos.com site: it has all the classics you probably already know (JFK silhouetted leaning on the Oval Office desk, the hooded terrorist on the balcony outside the Israeli team apartment at the Munich Olympics) , quite a few you might have forgotten (Jesse Owens winning gold at the 1936 Olympics, Thomas Hoepker’s controversial 9/11 photo) and some you may not have known existed (the last photo of a stroke-stricken Lenin, the  first underwater photo).

Definitely a site to bookmark.

UPDATE: As well as the Iconic Photos blog, another photographic site worth checking out I just discovered is this one of beautiful colour photos of 1930s Depression America. I’ve not seen any of these anywhere before.

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