Ed Kashi: ‘This image was a breakthrough. I began to see the world anew’
November 13, 2021 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography
By Grace Holliday
Sat 13 November, 2021
Sky high: Ed Kashiâs best phone picture
âThis image was a breakthrough. I began to see the world anewâ
Ed Kashi regards his shot of a California aerial tram ride as a personal turning point. For three decades, on assignment in countries including Nigeria, Iraq and Pakistan, he had taken countless images of civil discord and extreme suffering. âI had absorbed that trauma â many photojournalists do. Often our singular goal is to get as close as possible to the most horrible things on Earth and document them,â Kashi says. âI needed to rehabilitate myself, to make a photo that was soft, beautiful and candy-coloured â to expand my emotional range. This image was a breakthrough. I began to see the world anew.â
Kashi describes this period as the âPlasticine era of Instagramâ, a time when the smartphone was transitioning from âa fun, novelty toy to a viable tool for an image makerâ.
The shot was taken at an amusement park in the US city of Santa Cruz on a day trip with college students, during the afternoon session of a photography workshop Kashi was conducting. âWhen Iâm âonâ as a photojournalist, Iâm always looking for and responding to visual clues, whether itâs the horizon or the light,â he says.
Spontaneously boarding the aerial tram, he reached for his iPhone 5 instead of his usual 35mm camera. Even in an amusement park dedicated to pleasure and fun, he saw darker undercurrents (not least the plastic figure taking a ride). âThe people in the shot arenât beaming,â he says. âTheir facial expressions suggest that perhaps theyâre hungry, or tired, or just had a fight. Thatâs just being human.â And, as the cabin rose, a thought heâd had in far more serious contexts urged him on: âThe photo gods have bestowed this upon me â donât screw it up.â
View more of Ed Kashi's photography here