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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Vanessa Winship's Best Shot

Vanessa Winship talks about her best shot in the Guardian today. I am a great believer in the power of the individual image (above the book, the show and so on) and this is one of those immediately recognizable and memorable great images. There are only a handful of these images produced every year, hardly any at all. In 20 years time, a lot of the photography that causes a contemporary buzz will be forgotten, consigned to the rubbish bin of visual history. But this image won't be - this is a keeper, a work that will stay with us when near everything else has been forgotten.

"These two girls touched me, and I can't say why. The image was made last spring in a school playground in Kars, near the Armenian border in eastern Turkey. I had been based in Istanbul for five years, so knew the country quite well, but I began this piece when I decided to come home. It represents a turning point for me as a photographer.

Because I was using a very formal camera, everyone was very still when I came to take the image; the moments before and after were pandemonium. Boys were leaping around, wondering why they weren't involved. These girls are not from wealthy backgrounds; traditionally, girls in rural Turkey don't go to school. What I wanted was to give them time to have a moment of importance.

I had arranged to visit a number of different rural schools. This was the first. I had requested girls between seven and 11, and asked if they would come with either their friends or sisters. They were incredibly keen and excited, asking me questions about who I was and saying basic things like, "I like the way you look" or "I like your hair" - things one might talk about with a group of young girls.

We shared a very short moment. Maybe they touched me because they are very raw. There is no posturing at all - and that is rare. For me, they are the embodiment of innocence."

Curriculum vitae

Born: Lincolnshire, 1960.

Studied: Postgraduate diploma in photojournalism at what is now Westminster University. I failed.

Inspirations: Robert Frank and Josef Koudelka, but also contemporary artists like Helen van Meene and Paul Graham.

High point: Producing books is my real love.

Low point: Hundreds - but I have to stop complaining.

Pet hate: Being told what to do. Having somebody tell me what they think I should be saying is not why I became a photographer.

Vanessa Winship

Sweet Nothings

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Until 5 March 2009

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