I and other photographers often refer to “iconic” images. To me the ability of a still image to be “iconic” is what separates still photography from video.

I grew up watching TV and am honestly a TV addict. I can not count the hours of “moving pictures” I have seen. Do any clips of video stand out or stick in my mind? No.

An “iconic” image is one that you remember. It is symbolic of an instant moment that is meaningful. I can describe many images that are iconic and even if you don’t know who the photographer was, you will remember the image.

There is an iconic image 1970s that has made an impression on me and influenced my interest in documentary photography is an image by Bill Owens from his book “Suburbia”.I was aware of this image long before I knew anything about Bill Owens. The photograph is of a little boy with a crew cut. He is sitting on a “Big Wheel” at the end of a driveway and he is holding a BB gun. The drive is in a new housing addition, the kind that was popping up everywhere in the United States in the ’60s and ’70s. The houses are all nondescript ranch houses.

The scene is a slice of Americana of that time. It speaks to me because that little boy could have been me. I am about the same age as that little boy. I remember riding one of those plastic “Big Wheels” around the drive way. The plastic toy, the housing development and everything about the picture illustrates life post-WW II.

The photographer, Bill Owens, had been a news photographer for papers in California, and he became fascinated with the rise of suburbia, so he documented it.
Although I knew of Bill Owens documentary work in “Suburbia”, it was not until later that I found out something else about this photographer whose work inspired me. Bill Owens also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica. Bill Owens explains how his Peace Corps experience led to his work as a photographer:

I became a photographer during my Peace Corps work in Jamaica in 1964. I saw a photographer come to the village where I was volunteering and I thought to myself “That is what I want to do!”. So I bought the famous “Family of Man” photography book and the History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall and started taking photographs right there in the village I was in. I bought a used Leica in Jamaica that had a hole in the shutter and I fixed it. When I returned to the states I enrolled in photo classes in college in San Francisco and after that I started working for a daily newspaper. My experience in the Peace Corps really influenced my whole career because it was partially the “Culture Shock” I experienced when I returned to the US which informed my Suburbia project which I made in 1972. The contrast between the small villages I was volunteering in Jamaica and the new housing boom that was happening in the Bay Area really stood out to me, so in many ways my later Suburbia project and really my whole concept of being a documentary photographer was rooted by my experiences as a volunteer for the Peace Corp. I am working this year on making a portfolio and book about my photos from Jamaica that I took while in the Peace Corp. You can see some of the work on my website  {http://www.billowens.com }  in the Jamaica section.” - Bill Owens 2011