What would our century be without Baba Wawa?

Barbara Walters' photo of the century features -- Barbara Walters!

Published October 19, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

The ubiquitous Barbara Walters makes an unusual appearance in the November/December American Photo magazine. In a feature called "Indelible Memories," the editors "asked 44 history makers to choose the photos of the century." Now you can quibble with the magazine's definition of "history maker" (Naomi Wolf?), but most of the photos represent epochal moments: Joe Rosenthal's image of the Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima, Richard Avedon's "Dovima With Elephants" and astronaut William Anders' photo of the Earth rising over the moon.

Yes, there is some self-promotion here. Muhammad Ali picks Neil Leifer's photo of Ali bellowing over a prone Sonny Liston in 1965, and President Clinton chooses a rather charming black-and-white of himself, Itzhak Rabin, Hosni Mubarak, King Hussein and Yasir Arafat preparing to sign the 1995 Israel-Palestine peace accords (Arafat the only one with no tie to straighten). Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner picks the nude photos of John Lennon and Yoko Ono that adorned the cover (and insert) of Rolling Stone in 1968, which allows him to pay homage to one of his heroes and plug his magazine at the same time. But Walters' selection of an undistinguished snapshot (photographer unknown) of her and Fidel Castro in 1977 seems downright bizarre given the nature of the assignment. There are hundreds of better photos of Castro ("this enormously controversial and, at the time, fascinating individual," she writes), a man who truly has helped shape the century. But apparently none of those included Baba.

By Sean Elder

Sean Elder is a frequent contributor to Salon.

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