Photographer John Bryson may not be planning to photograph Ernest Hemingway on that fateful day in 1959, but when he did, he ended up with one of the most celebrated photos of the literary giant that was ever taken.
On February 1, 1959, American photojournalist John Bryson paid Mary Hemingway a visit in Ketchum, Idaho to photograph her for a freelance assignment. The plan was to take photos of her as she whips up some dishes from the fish and game brought by her husband, esteemed novelist Ernest Hemingway. One small change to the plan lead to the famous photo above.
Bryson stayed awhile and also began taking photos of Ernest Hemingway. The story goes that as they took a walk outside, he suggested for Hemingway to kick a beer can. Luckily for him, the author obliged. Two years later, Bryson’s photograph was first published in LIFE magazine on July 14, 1961, the issue dedicated to the celebrated novelist after he took his on life just days before. The caption for the photo reads:
“At 60 and still full of the Old Nick, Papa Hemingway booted a beer can high in the air along a Idaho road. This was, he said “The best picture I ever had taken.”
Our intention with the Influential Photographs columns is not to glorify or demean the subject of the photo. Our intention with this column is to highlight the most influential analogue photographs of history. The photographs we feature are considered icons, for their composition, subject matter, or avant-garde artistic value.