When you manage large volumes of photographs, terms like provenance, metadata, and image resolution become common and everyday. Where was an image taken, when, and by whom? What is its subject? Who owns the image, and where can it legally be reproduced? What resolution does it have, and what is its DPI and color depth?
When you’ve worked as a photographer, single photographs make you wonder about the world swirling around that fraction of a second’s click of the shutter (or, image sensor, in the case of digital photography) — how did the photographer meet this person, and how long did they spend together? Did the photographer catch a natural moment in time, or was the photo posed — was this a single lucky frame, or one of many attempts? What did the person in the photo do for lunch that day, and where did they sleep that night — and will they be back to this same spot tomorrow?
A single photograph tells so many stories, and working with images exposes you to those invisible to the naked eye. Internally embedded within the file itself there’s an entire world of digital information about how the photo was created and how it can be used; and when you’ve taken images, as so many of us have now, you start to wonder about the dynamic world behind the static image. When film editors go to the movies, they can’t help but see the cuts and fades, the artifice created through editing; the same happens to photographers, from amateurs to professionals, with photographic images.
Despite all this, there still exists an essential storytelling quality of every image, beyond the metadata and even backstory — created solely through quality of light, composition, iconic reference, and projected meaning. A single image can incite a revolt, reunite a family, or remind its viewers of our common humanity, just through what you think you know by looking at it. And this storytelling ability of photographs remains perhaps their greatest strength.
This summer at Acumen Fund, we’re asking the team to select photos that they’ve connected to in some way — whether because of where it was taken and when, or by whom; because of what they know about the world surrounding this millisecond in time; or, because they like the way the image is composed, and subject, captured. This will be a regular feature, called Photo of the Week, and check this space for future selections from Acumen’s community!
Being new to Acumen, as I am, I have a relatively limited knowledge of the people and work that many of our images represent, and I’m only just getting to know the stories of how these images were created. But I’m lucky to have such a rich pool of images recording Acumen’s investments, events, and community members to choose from.
I chose this image at the top of this post because it reminds me of a very simple way the impact of our investments can be measured – in a farmer’s pride in his crops. Micro Drip, working in Pakistan’s Tharparkar Desert, can help make this delicate moment possible through drip irrigation, and its attendant growth and savings; Micro Drip shared this photo with us. I love the way the frame is filled by his healthy crop of plants, focusing our attention on him; the uniform colors, set off by his red pen; his delicate touch of the fruits of his labor, which I can almost feel in my own hands; and I love how I can read the happy expression on his face even with the dark exposure and oblique angle – or, at least, I think I can.
Looking forward to the photos other members of the Acumen team highlight in the coming weeks!
And if you want to get in deep with photographs and their meaning, check out Errol Morris’s writings in the NYTimes.
Lucy Lindsey is a Summer Associate working for the Communications team in the New York office at Acumen Fund. The Summer Spotlight series features posts by Acumen Fund Summer Associates from around the world.