【原文标题】Most Influential Photos
这或许是一张最著名的剪影照片。雅克布斯•“科”•伦特米斯特在为《幸福》杂志拍摄的迈克尔•乔丹的照片中，捕捉到这位篮球明星跃在半空扣篮的瞬间。他的双腿展开，就像一个芭蕾舞演员，左臂探向空中的繁星。一张绝美的照片，但如果不是耐克公司按照照片中的姿势为它旗下的年轻体育明星设计了一个标志，这个形象恐怕也不会持久发挥影响力。在为第一代Air Jordan运动鞋寻求设计灵感的过程中，耐克公司付给伦特米斯特150美元，作为临时使用这张照片的费用。很快，“飞人”的形象被印在运动鞋、服装上，出现在全世界家庭的墙壁上，最终成为有史以来最成功的商业形象之一。耐克公司通过飞人标志开创了新的营销模式，运动员本身就是极富价值的商业资产。Air Jordan品牌——如今也有其他超级明星代言——在2014年创造了32亿美元的收入。与此同时，伦特米斯特把耐克公司告上法庭，声称版权遭到侵犯。无论官司最终的结果如何，他的照片把至高无上的体育明星与一项数十亿美元的生意联系在一起，一直持续到今天。
Boat of No Smiles
It’s easy to ignore the plight of refugees. They are seen as numbers more than people, moving from one distant land to the next. But a picture can puncture that illusion. The sun hadn’t yet risen on Thanksgiving Day in 1977 when Associated Press photographer Eddie Adams watched a fishing boat packed with South Vietnamese refugees drift toward Thailand. He was on patrol with Thai maritime authorities as the unstable vessel carrying about 50 people came to shore after days at sea. Thousands of refugees had streamed from postwar Vietnam since the American withdrawal more than two years earlier, fleeing communism by fanning out across Southeast Asia in search of safe harbor. Often they were pushed back into the abyss and told to go somewhere else. Adams boarded the packed fishing boat and began shooting. He didn’t have long. Eventually Thai authorities demanded that he disembark—wary, Adams believed, that his presence would create sympathy for the refugees that might compel Thailand to open its doors. On that score, they were right. Adams transmitted his pictures and wrote a short report, and within days they were published widely. The images were presented to Congress, helping to open the doors for more than 200,000 refugees from Vietnam to enter the U.S. from 1978 to 1981. “The pictures did it,” Adams said, “pushed it over.”
Untitled Film Still #21
Since she burst onto the art scene in the late 1970s, Cindy Sherman the person has always been obscured by Cindy Sherman the subject. Through inventive, deliberately confusing self-portraits taken in familiar but artificial circumstances, Sherman introduced photography as postmodern performance art. From her Untitled Film Stills series, #21 (“City Girl”) calls to mind a frame from a B movie or an opening scene from a long-since-canceled television show. Yet the images are entirely Sherman’s creations, placing the viewer in the role of unwitting voyeur. Rather than capture real life in the click of a shutter, Sherman uses photography as an artistic tool to deceive and captivate. Her images have become some of the most valuable photographs ever produced. By manipulating viewers and recasting her own identity, Sherman carved out a new place for photography in fine art. And she showed that even photography allows people to be something they’re not.
Susan Meiselas traveled to Nicaragua in the late 1970s as a young photographer with an anthropologist’s eye, keen to make sense of the struggle between the long-standing Somoza dictatorship and the socialist Sandinistas fighting to overthrow it. For six weeks she roamed the country, documenting a nation of grinding poverty, stunning natural beauty and wrenching inequality. Meiselas’ work was sympathetic to the Sandinista cause, and she gained the trust of the revolutionaries as they slowly prevailed in the fight. On the day before President Anastasio Somoza Debayle fled, Meiselas photographed Pablo de Jesus “Bareta” Araúz lobbing a Molotov cocktail at one of the last national guard fortresses. After the Sandinistas took power, the image became the defining symbol of the revolution—a reviled dictator toppled by a ragtag army of denim-clad fighters wielding makeshift weapons. Eagerly disseminated by the Sandinistas, Molotov Man soon became ubiquitous throughout Nicaragua, appearing on matchbooks, T-shirts, billboards and brochures. It later became a flash point in the debate over artistic appropriation when the painter Joy Garnett used it as the basis of her 2003 painting Molotov.
Firing Squad in Iran
Few images are as stark as one of an execution. On August 27, 1979, 11 men who had been convicted of being “counterrevolutionary” by the regime of Iranian ruler Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini were lined up on a dirt field at Sanandaj Airport and gunned down side by side. No international journalists witnessed the killings. They had been banned from Iran by Khomeini, which meant it was up to the domestic press to chronicle the bloody conflict between the theocracy and the local Kurds, who had been denied representation in Khomeini’s government. The Iranian photographer Jahangir Razmi had been tipped off to the trial, and he shot two rolls of film at the executions. One image, with bodies crumpled on the ground and another man moments from joining them, was published anonymously on the front page of the Iranian daily Ettela’at. Within hours, members of the Islamic Revolutionary Council appeared at the paper’s office and demanded the photographer’s name. The editor refused. Days later, the picture was picked up by the news service UPI and trumpeted in papers around the world as evidence of the murderous nature of Khomeini’s brand of religious government. The following year, Firing Squad in Iran was awarded the Pulitzer Prize—the only anonymous winner in history. It was not until 2006 that Razmi was revealed as the photographer.
Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter
Mainstream American culture had little room for homosexuality in 1979, when Robert Mapplethorpe photographed Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter in their full sadomasochistic regalia. At work, gay employees were largely closeted. In many states, expressing their love could be criminal. Mapplethorpe spent 10 years during this era documenting the underground gay S&M scene—a world even more deeply shielded from public view. His intimate, highly stylized portraits threw it into open relief, perhaps none more so than Brian Ridley and Lyle Heeter. Both men are clad in leather, with the submissive one bound by chains and the dominant partner holding his reins in one hand and a riding crop in the other. Yet the men are posed in an otherwise unremarkable living room, a juxtaposition that adds a layer of normality to a relationship far outside the bounds of what most Americans then considered acceptable. The picture and the series it was part of blew open the doors for a range of photographers and artists to frankly examine gay life and sexuality.
Nearly a decade later, Mapplethorpe’s work continued to provoke. An exhibit featuring his pictures of gay S&M scenes led to a Cincinnati art museum and its director’s getting charged with obscenity. (Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989, one year before the trial began.) The museum and its director were eventually acquitted, bolstering Mapplethorpe’s legacy as a bold pioneer whose work deserved public display.
Behind Closed Doors
There was nothing particularly special about Garth and Lisa or the violence that happened in the bathroom of their suburban New Jersey home one night in 1982. Enraged by a perceived slight, Garth beat his wife while she cowered in a corner. Such acts of intimate-partner violence are not uncommon, but they usually happen in private. This time another person was in the room, photographer Donna Ferrato.
Ferrato, who had come to know the couple through a photo project on wealthy swingers, knew that simply bearing witness wasn’t enough. Her shutter clicked again and again. Ferrato approached magazine editors to publish the images, but all refused. So Ferrato did, in her 1991 book Living With the Enemy. The landmark volume chronicled domestic-violence episodes and their aftermaths, including those of the pseudonymous Garth and Lisa. Their real names are Elisabeth and Bengt; his identity was revealed for the first time as part of this project. Ferrato captured incidents and victims while living inside women’s shelters and shadowing police. Her work helped bring violence against women out of the shadows and forced policymakers to confront the issue. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act, increasing penalties against offenders and helping train police to treat it as a serious crime. Thanks to Ferrato, a private tragedy became a public cause.
Androgyny (6 Men + 6 Women)
Photography is a perfect medium for recording the past. But until Nancy Burson’s Androgyny, it was useless for predicting the future. Two decades before the shape-shifting enabled by digital photography became ubiquitous, Burson worked with MIT scientists to develop technology that let her craft this composite image of the faces of six men and six women. The effect was revolutionary. Photographs could suddenly be used to project how someone would look, not just how they once did. Burson’s composite work led her to develop pioneering software that could digitally age faces—the first time these images could be based on more than guesses. The Federal Bureau of Investigation acquired Burson’s software to create present-day images of people who had gone missing years earlier, and it has been used to locate numerous missing persons.
It may be the most famous silhouette ever photographed. Shooting Michael Jordan for LIFE in 1984, Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester captured the basketball star soaring through the air for a dunk, legs split like a ballet dancer’s and left arm stretched to the stars. A beautiful image, but one unlikely to have endured had Nike not devised a logo for its young star that bore a striking resemblance to the photo. Seeking design inspiration for its first Air Jordan sneakers, Nike paid Rentmeester $150 for temporary use of his slides from the life shoot. Soon, “Jumpman” was etched onto shoes, clothing and bedroom walls around the world, eventually becoming one of the most popular commercial icons of all time. With Jumpman, Nike created the concept of athletes as valuable commercial properties unto themselves. The Air Jordan brand, which today features other superstar pitchmen, earned $3.2 billion in 2014. Rentmeester, meanwhile, has sued Nike for copyright infringement. No matter the outcome, it’s clear his image captures the ascendance of sports celebrity into a multibillion-dollar business, and it’s still taking off.
Immersions (Piss Christ)
Andres Serrano said he did not intend his 1987 photograph of a crucifix submerged in his own urine to offend; indeed, when it was first displayed in galleries, no one protested. But in 1989, after Piss Christ was exhibited in Virginia, it attracted the attention of an outspoken pastor and, soon after, of Congress. Angry that Serrano had received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Senators Al D’Amato and Jesse Helms helped pass a law requiring the NEA to consider “general standards of decency” in awarding grants. The uproar turned Piss Christ into one of the key fronts in the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s, alongside the work of Serrano’s fellow NEA recipient Robert Mapplethorpe, and divided a nation over the question of whether the government had the right to censor art.
The battle over Piss Christ has left a dual legacy. The campaign to place the picture outside the boundaries of acceptable art contributed to its fame, inspiring other artists to push limits even further. But those provocateurs are less likely to do so with help from the government: the decency-standards law passed because of Piss Christ was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1998.
On the morning of June 5, 1989, photographer Jeff Widener was perched on a sixth-floor balcony of the Beijing Hotel. It was a day after the Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese troops attacked pro-democracy demonstrators camped on the plaza, and the Associated Press sent Widener to document the aftermath. As he photographed bloody victims, passersby on bicycles and the occasional scorched bus, a column of tanks began rolling out of the plaza. Widener lined up his lens just as a man carrying shopping bags stepped in front of the war machines, waving his arms and refusing to move.
The tanks tried to go around the man, but he stepped back into their path, climbing atop one briefly. Widener assumed the man would be killed, but the tanks held their fire. Eventually the man was whisked away, but not before Widener immortalized his singular act of resistance. Others also captured the scene, but Widener’s image was transmitted over the AP wire and appeared on front pages all over the world. Decades after Tank Man became a global hero, he remains unidentified. The anonymity makes the photograph all the more universal, a symbol of resistance to unjust regimes everywhere.