The Photograph That Stays With You

I wonder if we all have a photograph that stays with us through life. One that we see at a pivotal point in our cultural awareness, that we can never shake from our memory. One that moves us, maybe shocks us, appeals to us, talks to us and connects with us. A photograph that makes us go beneath the surface of the image. That makes us want to find out more. Perhaps about the photographer or the subject of the image, or both. 

A photograph that we cannot shake, that keeps reappearing throughout our lives. Perhaps an image in which meaning changes as we grow older. One that we interpret from the perspective of the image first seen only to re-interpret over subsequent viewings. An image that questions our social, economic, or political understanding. One that questions our emotional or intellectual growth.

An image that may inspire us to become photographers showing us the way, or illustrate everything we do not want to do as a photographer. The photograph may be an image we love or one that we hate. It may be one that we admire or disrespect. It may be an image that forces us to absorb the technical knowledge that informed its creation or one that rejected all forms of technical achievement.

A commissioned image or a self-initiated image. A posed studio creation or a moment captured unexpectedly based purely on response.

In summary a photograph that stays with you.

I do and this is it. What’s yours?


Shell-shocked US marine, The Battle of Hue, Vietnam, February 1968.
Photograph: Don McCullin

You can read an interview with Don McCullin here:

© Grant Scott 2020

Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Focal Press 2014) and The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Focal Press 2015). His next book New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography was published by Bloomsbury Academic in 2019.


  1. Mine is of the mother trying to give her little boy to someone at the railway station in Kosovo. Taken by the monumental Tom Stoddart. The lady’s beauty and that of her son hidden within the tears and anguish on her face. Fortunately the story had a happy ending that she could never have hoped for.

    1. You might like to check out Tom’s contribution to a previous A Photographic Life podcast. Just put his name into the search panel to find it.

  2. Mine is the image captured by young photographer Mel Parry of the Aberfan disaster in 1966. In the image Village Policeman Victor Jones is carrying Schoolgirl Susan Maybank from the wreckage of Pantglas School – if you don’t know this image you can find it here – – Its an image that was ‘echoed’ in 2015 with the photograph of a Turkish Policeman carrying the body of the young Syrian boy Alain Kurdi from the beach at Bodrum. Its interesting that a period of just under 50 years separates the two images and and neither has lost their power…..

  3. Mine is one from Sebastian Salgado’s series of the Sierra Palada gold mine. Where a miner has struggled to the top of the ladder, laden with land and beneath him are humans as worker ants. I saw his exhibition at the RPS (when it was still at the Octagon in central Bath) in the early 90’s and the photo still haunts me.

  4. I am a beginner on this photography journey, and of the images I have seen and had brought to my attention, I think there are two images that have stuck with me and they have made me consider the ethics behind photography as a result.
    The first one is Kevin Carter’s image of the starving child and the vulture.
    The second one is Mike Well’s image of the starving boy and the missionary. The common factor between the two images being the impact on the photographers taking them.

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