Yep, that’s me meeting Dave Rudin for the first time and showing him my portfolio prints at the Original Pancake House in Las Vegas, NV (before it burned down). 

Okay, I’ve been meaning to do this post for years. I get asked about it often enough and will mention it a few times, but I’ve never explained myself. Just to set the stage, there are no quantifiable factors that determine the best photograph or even best photographer. You can assess whether or not a photograph or photographer is good using photographic critique, but even there you can still get stuck in the quagmire of opinion, which can lead to interesting debate hopefully. I think it’s a good thing to talk about photography and that is what I will do here. I’m going to talk photo.

In an attempt to begin, we must battle with the concept of “BEST”. The notion of GREAT is more easily argued, but BEST? What makes it the best? How do you factor out all the great photos by iconic photographers made from as far back as the first photo ever taken? There are wartime images by Nick Ut or Mathew Brady that are certainly iconic once in a lifetime images. Dorothea Lang showed us the disparity of the Great Depression and the hardships Americans faced and endured. Or maybe we can look to celebrity or sports figures with Neil Leifer‘s iconic photo of Ali standing over Liston. 

Is Amos Nachoum’s “Facing Reality” the best wildlife image ever? Or is it this one by Henley Spiers “Between Two Worlds“? How do you tell? Is it being in the right place at the right time? Is it a matter of creativity? Waiting for your shot like a sniper? It can be any and all of these. But the one that I’m calling the best All-Time was a created shot. It was a deliberate choice of model, location, camera, style of edit… everything.

All-Time Best Photograph Ever made 

And yes. I confess. Dave Rudin is a friend. Is there some bias here? Maybe, but I’m going to say no. I have lots of friends who are photogs and I knew this shot was my fave all-time before I ever met Dave Rudin. And now, I’m going to break it down why:

It is a Nude

I had a photography professor teach me that I should shoot what I love. I decided two things. One is that there is no other thing on earth more beautiful to photograph than the nude form of a woman, (particularly if it’s the one you love, I think). There is no sun to rise or set, no flower to bloom, and no puppy cute enough to distract me from God’s gift to the world of the nude female. And second, I heard a quote at some point that said something to the effect of… that there is no photo to exist whereby it can’t be improved with the addition of a nude.To me that makes the nude like bacon. Add it to anything and it becomes great. I have yet to try that with ice cream, yet, but I can imagine. (Bacon… not the nude). So there you go. That factors out any photo that doesn’t have a nude model.

It is Technically Superior

This is the least of my qualifiers just because most people can set their cameras to auto-everything and come out with good sharpness and exposure. Nonetheless, it’s still an important one as many photogs still fail at this despite advanced camera features and automatic functions. What happens if your subject is moving? The camera doesn’t know that. It will give you a correct exposure for any given light, not the stillness of your subject. What happens if your subject is in two extremes of light and darkness, set in stark shadow, but you also need the surrounding sunlit landscape. 

It is Compositionally Sound

You can use rule of thirds, The Golden Spiral, or Triangles. It simply fits! Composition makes or breaks an image. It naturally defines compelling and composed images that are unconsciously aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You may not realize it, but your eye naturally follows lines and you are more engaged in images with leading lines, good geometry, shape, patterns, and symmetry. This image is anchored by the hole in the rock, which supports the model’s weight and forces the her body to shape around it in intriguing and interesting ways.  

Spiral follows curvature of the model and then tightens at the hole in the rock which is the anchor point of the whole shot.

Model is set diagonally across the grid. Head takes upper right quadrant. Torso occupies the middle, and hips/legs take the lower left quadrants. 

The model’s shape follows the height leg of each right triangle, intersecting the base at the hand and almost right on the hip.

Diagonals lines parallel the torso and arm while the other two lines dissect the nipples and hips. 

It is built by Dave Rudin

This photograph is made entirely and masterfully by a skilled artist. He selected his model,the  time and location, the specific rock “prop” within that location, his camera/focal length, and finally his edit.All these were deliberate choices made by the photographer. Carlotta Champagne is one of the most prolific models in the business with a million plus followers in IG. Her attitude, shape, and pose lends itself to this composition in a way that helps elevate it to greatness. Another model may not have been able to pull this off. Her head angle and eyes reflect an attitude that Dave may not have asked for, but being a professional model, this is what she brings to the table. Think of your all-time favorite movie. Now imagine Frodo cast with Eric Stolz and Gandalf played by Gene Wilder. See what I mean? @carlottachampagne was perfectly casted.

I don’t know, or at least don’t recall, if Dave framed her like this in camera or cropped her in post. I have no idea what her feet are doing, but I am not missing them. I don’t even care. The crop is perfect. The hole in the rock looks almost like a fulcrum with almost tangent levers in two positions. One can level out across the photo from left to right, whereas the other lays down diagonally and I like it. It reinforces the importance of that hole, because outside of it and the model, there is nothing else. This is a minimalistic composition as almost half the diagonal is empty space (the wall). I can also appreciate not cropping away all of that upper wall depression in the right. Dave photographed what was there instead of trying to make it too perfect. Perfection is reality.

Carlotta Champagne on Model Mayhem

I will also add that this image was shot using film. Dave is a traditionalist when it comes to his artwork. He did this shot a year before we met. He contacted me not long after I started this blog in 2007 and asked me to lunch since he would be in Las Vegas, visiting from Brooklyn. I’ve always appreciated that. So yes, there may be some bias that I don’t see, but I’m telling you… this is the best photograph that I have ever seen. Period. Hands down. Drop the mic. Turn out the lights and go home. This debate is over. Check out my original blog post below

A Morning with Dave Rudin 

16 September 2007