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.
This photograph is also known as "Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, August 1914." These young German men are on their way to two dances, of course — the one they know about, and World War I. With their industrially produced clothes and fancy hats, the young farmers show us how European life had changed by the start of the 20th century — but their feet are still in the mud, and their heads are cut off by the horizon. Someone once told me that pictures are just light and time. Here, as elsewhere in his work, August Sander captured a hell of a time, and a hell of a light.
John Green is the best-selling author of Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars and other novels.