The difference between ordinary and extraordinary

We were flopped on couches after the cocktail evening for jurors and IPA winners at head judge Susan Baraz’s NY apartment. It was November. (How long ago that seems.)

We were discussing the extraordinary exhibition Hossein Farmani and Susan curated for the Paris UN Climate Change conference in 2015. Renowned photographers from around the world had submitted work to create a ‘condensed, compassionate plea’.

The curation process wasn’t straight forward (it never is). One shot in particular was ‘not such an impressive work’ recounted Susan. It was an image of the back of a young Indian girl’s head, overlooking a field.

‘Why this shot?’ she wondered.

Then she read the text. 17,500 farmers had committed suicide due to their inability to grow crops on drought-riddled land, including the girl’s father.

‘The image was enhanced with such a powerful statement behind it that the work became my favorite, most gut wrenching piece in the exhibition.’ She said.

Having a good back-story is vital to supporting personal work and more than doubles its weight.

It can help someone understand and connect more deeply with it.

It can make all the difference to a shot being ordinary or extraordinary.

It creates a talking point.

So when the curator, the viewer, the art producer, the creative or your client asks ‘why?’ of your series or shot, by golly you’d better have a compelling answer.

Every week I’m holding my weekly live Q&A in my free Facebook Group. We can talk about the personal work you’re creating. We can discuss your response and what to change and think about as cities move in and out of lockdown at this time.

It seems that 5 years after the UN climate change exhibition nature answered the pleas of those photographers, and many of us around the world. Streets are empty, wildlife is returning, and water is cleaner.

In spite of the terrible loss of life, it seems very appropriate today to celebrate Earth Day.

May this Earth Day find you healthy and well.


“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable”.

-Helen Keller