Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Three Years, Nine Hundred Posts

with 22 comments

This is another of those tl;dr self-deprecating, self-congratulating posts.

Back in 2009 when I started this blog, I would have laughed if you told me I would still be updating this 3 years later. But not only that day has arrived, but another milestone — 900th post mark — is also just around the corner.

1. I am still single; some of my readers still racist; and I still receive ads for some mail-order Slavic brides, but a few things has changed since the last time I posted a sappy self-serving post. Now I tweet (although I have always called been a twat) and my email is posted on this site which leads to….

2. Some quite interesting emails. I have been invited to some photo galleries and conferences, asked to talk at a few, and offered a book-deal. I work full-time (65h+) so I am mostly unable to go, and as for the book-deal, I cannot imagine any profits after copyrights.

3. Last time I ranted about people inquiring to buy poster-sized photos off IP. They still inquire, but worse are other emails — including one from a lawyer of a wealthy collector — which ask me to hunt down who own whose copyrights. As romantic as the image of me wearing a homburg and a trench coat might be, I am not running a detective agency out of IP. But creme de la creme was that one where a high-school student asks me to do (not help with, but do) his school project.

4. In these three years, I have become more introspective, and consequently I have asked myself a few times that why I blog — especially in those dreary rainy days. Perhaps it was because collective wisdom of internet was often dubious. Initially it was because no one site has thorough analysis I wanted in an age where you can find anything scattered about online. Since then, many magazines have made great effort towards archiving photojournalism, making my retiring easier when that comes. Especially throughout last year, I seriously considered giving Iconic Photos up finally, although a famous photographer’s death would always draw me back in — partly because of some incompetence and penny-pinching refusal to re-publish the deadman’s photos by most media these days. Blogging is like me trying to give up smoking — not so easy to quit, easy to relapse.

5. History today is visual, and careless use of photos is all the more lamentable because of that. I see mislabeled, misattributed photos in textbooks and magazines all the time. Copyeditors are fired when there are many factual and typographic errors but with photos, editors don’t know better, and the reading public doesn’t know better either. That makes me sad, and makes lives of photomanipulators and propagandists so much easier.

6. Another attack towards sanity comes from armchair history books such as Collapse and Why Nations Fail — the latter being the flavor du jour of the faux intelligentsia. I’m fine with people reading such simplified versions of history, and of making equally tenuous assertions and bending the long arc of history to suit my own hypotheses, this blog is oft guilty, but when Harvard or MIT professors start doing that, it spells trouble.

7. Tweeting often makes me first to respond to many photography stories, but the proudest I was was when I published a year in photography review a day ahead of TIME magazine. Take that.

8. On copyrights, that perennial thorn, I just want to say this: when this site was smaller, no one cared, but now, I have to (a little). Now, I am doubly careful when I post about living-photographers, but I am not going to change my postings because of it. While I can’t say I approve of all hacktivism going around, and I will be the last person to support incoherent psuedo-intellectual justifications for either side of the copyrights issue, I embrace the fact that internet remains an anarchic place. And, I  don’t know whether this will come out as arrogant or not but I believe IP does some photographers service by introducing their work to people who would not otherwise know about them.

9. Like all great stories, this one is perhaps apocryphal: an English literature professor getting fired because he admitted that he had never read Hamlet. I had a moment like that a few weeks ago when I admitted that I have never heard of Robert Frank until six months into this blog. People were mildly surprised, and some asked what my qualifications are for blogging here when I haven’t heard of Frank before. Snobbery much? I recognize certain photos, without knowing their photographers — a condition I believe shared by a lot of people here.

10. I have said before that the best thing about this blog is the looks I got from friends (at times some girl I am trying to impress) when I say in a understated tone that a few thousand people read it everyday. In these three years, blogging has gone from nerdy to kinda passé, kinda cool (they: you are still doing what?). But the story I want to share was about a brag backfired spectacularly only last month — a hipster I was trying to impress took one look at the blog, and became quite unimpressed with the blog (presumably realizing that Iconic Photos are not made for Instragram or Pinterest generation) and with me by extension. I literally  heard her thighs snapping shut.

Finally, I will leave you with these words of wisdom from Time magazine:

We hear it sometimes that photographs are losing their power. In a world where every other cell phone has a built in camera and and all the people you know just posted their summer vacations, their snow angels, and their tonsillectomies online, there are just too many pictures out there. Plus, those picures are so easily manipulated and photoshopped, how do you know when to trust them anymore? And anyway, we’ve seen it all before. You can almost believe all that, right up until that moment you come across one picture that speaks to you, the one that takes your imperfectly formed feelings and judgements and snaps everything, if you’ll excuse the expression, into focus.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

April 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

22 Responses

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  1. Congrats🙂 ….and great Time quote btw.


    April 30, 2012 at 11:10 pm

  2. “On copyrights, that perennial thorn”
    “I literally heard her thighs snapping shut.”

    If only I could come up with statements like this once in a while!! Keep on going, although I use Pinterest, I very much enjoy reading your blog.

    alex h.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:44 pm

  3. Your work is appreciated. Internet and photo trends move too fast to chase. Hopefully there will always be room for slower, considered work like yours.


    May 1, 2012 at 12:52 am

  4. Best photo blog ever! Keep up the great work.

  5. Don’t worry IP.
    I’m a girl.
    And I’m still impressed.


    May 1, 2012 at 5:14 am

  6. Hey, if you still have passion for it, then do it. I am a woman, and I just started to follow this blog. I am proud to say I am a history lover, I have that passion for it, specially for the WW2 era. I can see your heart is in it this blog, you have that fire. Once the fire burns out, then put the blog to rest.
    Oh and don’t worry about still being single, you haven’t met someone with that same type of blaze. Once you do, you’ll know it.


    May 1, 2012 at 6:52 am

  7. I can empathise with a lot you say in this post.

    Anyway, thanks for writing, and keep up the blog! I’ve never seen anything quite like it, great photos, and well-written too.

    Lillie Langtry

    May 1, 2012 at 10:04 am

  8. Thanks for the blog. It has been quite interesting for me.

    Congratulations on the milestone and the upcoming milestone.


    May 1, 2012 at 11:48 am

  9. So funny!


    May 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm

  10. Congrats! Can’t wait for 1000


    May 1, 2012 at 10:58 pm

  11. Great post. Love the blog. For the record, I don’t own any of my photos, so feel free to take what you want (if low-res is good enough). I only ask that, if you manipulate them, please *don’t* credit me, as it no longer would be my expression, but yours. Cheers!


    May 2, 2012 at 7:50 am

  12. For some reason, the link above didn’t post my site, or name, only my avatar. Ok, so there’s that! I’m “yickth,” aka, Eric Seaholm. http://www.seaholm.com


    May 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

  13. Llevo tres años enganchado a este blog. Enhorabuena.
    Excelente la foto de la “Benemérita” elegida para celebrar el aniversario.


    May 2, 2012 at 7:52 pm

  14. ¡Guardias Civiles! Thanks so much for your blog man. It gives us a LOT of things to think about. There are plenty of hidden stories behind those pictures – as in this case, I guess just a 2% of the readers would know who those guys with funny hats are – and the gift you give us is quite impressive: revealing some of them.

    I follow your blog almost since you started blogging about it. Please, keep up the good work.

    Regards from Spain


    May 2, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  15. Congrats on your 900th post!

    Not sure what blog left the referring link to yours that led me to here, but your blog has been a pleasant refresher course in world history for me. Many thanks for the invaluable history lessons.

    G. B. Miller

    May 3, 2012 at 10:13 am

  16. I don’t think I have ever come to this blog and not learned something new. That is why I return.
    Keep up the excellent work.


    May 6, 2012 at 2:22 am

  17. Thank you for introducing me to the world of photojournalism and photographers that I likely would never have heard of otherwise. I find your essays, images, insights and sometimes pithy candor refreshing. Again, thank you.


    May 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm

  18. I enjoyed reading this post. It’s amazing, the snobbery out there, but it’s your blog, so you make the rules. Congrats!


    May 8, 2012 at 2:47 am

  19. I just came across this website via Reddit, -I can’t wait to go through all 900 entries. Great work!

    Dan Berry

    May 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm

  20. I love this blog. It has a kind of grandeur, a sense of history. And the fact that you only recently learned who Robert Frank is, and admit to it, makes me all the more impressed.


    May 23, 2012 at 5:49 am

  21. Strange that the photo heading this post is not credited. Is not Cartier Bresson shot ?

    Brian stevens

    June 24, 2012 at 11:59 am

  22. […] Congratulations — and keep up the great work. […]

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