TIME 100 Photos

Matthew Weiner: The Photo That Influenced Me Most

To celebrate the launch of TIME’s new multimedia project – 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time – we asked leaders in a number of fields, from technology to the arts to business, to share the single photograph that most influenced their lives. Purchase the 100 Photographs book now.

I’ve used photographs as part of my creative life the way religious people use icons. I’ve collected postcards, Xeroxes, trading cards, and even made my own prints, usually portraits of people I admire that I keep in my workspace, or sometimes even my pocket. Of course in writing Mad Men and eventually making the show, street and family photographs in particular became a research tool, but I was equally interested in film stills and art photography that stimulated my imagination and helped with the process of time travel

I don’t like making lists because I don’t believe in ranking artists, because in the end there are the greatest hits and the deep cuts, most of which say more about the distribution of art than art itself. I do have a particular attraction to the work of Garry Winogrand because his photographs are filled with stories drawn from real life that reflect his personal curiosity and are the most evocative of the war between self-awareness and voyeurism that I admire in writers as well.

This photograph, taken at Coney Island in 1952, is both private and public, sensuous and playful, and has the great drama of a single human moment that is independent of historical time.

Matthew Weiner is the creator and executive producer of Mad Men.

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