The Falling Man

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bjorke, Sep 14, 2007.

  1. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Hijacking cate's comment from that other thread:

    I am certainly a result of cultural encoding, in that I immediately saw the falling man as a horrifying parody of images like this Masaccio that I'd grown up seeing every single day:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    For some reason editors are fond of cropping-away the building, and also of setting the falling man off-center. But for myself, I have never been able to shake the comparison, made stronger but the vertical rays and left-right split tones of the original -- the falling man helpless between dark and light.

    --

    I mention this because I feel that it scrapes at the surface of What Makes Photographs Important. Questions of divinity aside, people today still remember the Roman occupation of Palestine because of the story of ONE MAN whom they feel affinity to, out of the many thousands who were apparently treated just as badly by the occupation forces. This hints to me at truths about fundamental mechanisms of human morality and how they influence our responses to all pictures. YMMV of course.
     
  2. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    The interesting thing about the Falling Man photo is that at first it was flashed around the world and shown in many early edition papers, but by mid-day most had pulled it.
    I have never understood that. To me that photograph held so much information and really brought home the awfulness of the situation for, and the desperation of those trapped above the impact zones. I mean how bad can things be that it is preferable to jump to certain death than it is to stay put? Even today that picture makes the hair on my neck stand up.
    The only time previously photographs had held that feeling were those WW2 photos from Saipan of Japanese civilians throwing themselves off cliffs rather than be captured by US Marines. They had been so indoctrinated by the Japanese authorities that the Americans would do terrible things to them.
     
  3. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    This is the first time I have seen this picture. For me it sums up the useless waste that resulted from the unforgivable act that precipitated it. Having read some of the articles linked to the earlier thread I fail to understand how anyone can censure the victims that may have chosen to escape the choking inferno, and a certain terrible death, that they faced by jumping from the building. It is important that such pictures are taken, and not hidden; for we should not be permitted to forget the evil that occasioned this further example of man’s inhumanity to man.
     
  4. dr5chrome

    dr5chrome Member

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    I usually ignore most of the images and comment from that day. That reason being, I watched it happen with my own eyes.

    I have been in the photo business most of my working life. I had not one little bit of desire to pick-up my camera and take photo's that day.

    I never really did understand the photo-journalist mentality. Do they take such images because they are drawn to it, or do they do it to make a buck?

    On this day I want to believe that a photo instinct kicked in.

    Today, with a clearer head [not too clear yet], I can see the importance of these images for the loved ones who lost their family members that day, anything to grab onto.

    Personally, I dont think any 911 images should be looked upon as iconic images or great work. NO IMAGE can have the realization of being there when it went down, NONE!

    Sometimes I just want to forget it happened, but everything in our world today keeps reminding me of it... I cant get away.

    dw
     
  5. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Dave, this photograph has been the subject of a very good documentary. You can see it on youtube, Part 1 is here, and from that you can find Pts2, 3 etc. If you decide to watch I warn you now, it is quite harrowing.
    'Lonely ten second journeys, a very public way of dying...'
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Of course not. But as most of us weren't there; well, maybe we need to see certain images as iconic.

    That's not a selfish 'we need'. Rather, it's a way for us to begin to appreciate it. Begin only, note.

    Responding to the original post, the iconography draws me immediately to the Tarot. Two cards: the hanged man, and the lightning-struck tower.
     
  7. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    In Canada, CBC Newsworld, as part of their documentary film series "The Passionate Eye" is showing again a documentary about this photograph, the photographer, people who were there, the families who thought he may be related to them, and the families who didn't want him to be related. Well worth seeing.

    http://www.cbc.ca/passionateeyemonday/fallingman/

    It airs again on Sunday, September 16, 2007 at 10pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld.

    Murray
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 14, 2007
  8. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    My wife and I watched from the west coast. My wife watched the towers being built in the 1970s. They were a part of her sense of the place of her home town. People not from NYC were blase about it that morning. Then came the barrage of media coverage, and the zillion replays of the towers falling. One columnist later described the obsessive coverage as a form of pornography.

    I totally respect your position on this. Yeah, we all needed to see it, in order to have at least some abstract idea of what happened, but being there must have been such a different experience. I think this calls into question the whole nature of how we get information, and how we process it. I only saw two-dimensional images on a TV screen. Probably a whole book could be written on the differences.
     
  9. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Well said..

    This photograph breaks my heart.

    I'm glad Richard Drew had the presence of mind to make it. I'm not sure I would have been able to shoot had I been there. It's a difficult photograph to look at.

    I was at the playground with my very young children at the time this photograph was made... on a beautiful day, and this man died... for us? I don't ever want to forget his sacrifice. His life ended, I would guess, far too soon, at the hands of people who imagined and carried out an extraordinarily brutal act.

    This is an important photograph.
     
  10. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    As someone who escaped the attack on the Pentagon, that whole day was beyond surreal. It felt like I was trapped in a bad B-movie that I just couldn't get out of. I have a certain feeling about those who express sympathy in a particular way, but experienced it vicariously through TV. I realize that it affects everyone on a different emotional level, and perhaps some of my dissociation from the emotional impact comes from the fact that I was a direct participant, and it's what I had to do to get through the day. More than just that day, actually, as we had to return to work the very next day, and go back into a building that was still on fire. I was also very fortunate to not know anyone directly who died at the Pentagon; many of my co-workers though were not so fortunate. A friend of mine was one of the first responders and spent the first 72 hours or so on-site working continuously to treat the injured and recover the dead. He's now 100% disabled, needs a wheelchair for mobility out of the home, and still suffers from PTSD six years afterward.

    Photos like that one touch me deeply on one level, but don't, on another. It's a response like the one that the famous Eddie Addams photo of the Vietnamese colonel shooting the prisoner in the head evokes - great emotional sadness and anger, but at the same time, looking at it there's this emptiness you can positively feel, like there's something missing that you KNOW should be there, but don't know what it is...
    I think it's a response to profound tragedy, to help you keep your mental balance and survive it.
     
  11. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Trying to think in terms of this person having to make a rational decision, then follow through on it, is terrible beyond belief. I can't imagine the horror it brings to the families.
     
  12. donbga

    donbga Member

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    I beg your pardon. People not from New York were not blase about the destruction of the Twin Towers. My co-workers and I watched the live TV coverage with almost disbelief as the events unfolded. We were all immediately incensed and angry with what we saw. It was not until after the fact that most people became aware of the victims that jumped and the terrible deaths that they encountered due to the viscous and cowardly acts of the Islamic Facists that caused this catastrophie.
     
  13. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I find the suggestion that there is some hierarchy of legitimacy for having feelings about these events based upon the presence or absence of various conduits by which one experienced them, problematic.

    Feeling the heat of the fireball is no assurance that one is better able to identify with or empathize with, the direct victims of the attack.

    I have my own story about how the fourth wall of the tv screen was breeched that day...reminding me that this wasn't 'reality tv." I'm grateful that in a small way I was shaken by the shoulders and made to see that the events were not abstractions but I don't think those without a similar experience can't know what it was like...

    None of us knows what it was like to be on one of the planes...or a member of the FDNY...or the falling man.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2007
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  15. dr5chrome

    dr5chrome Member

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    ,,i think you are missing the point, as well as the post below yours. Folks who were there don't go bragging, I certanly don't. each person in either city has their own story. No one is saying "only NYKers and DCers get bragging rights".
    Everyone across the world had tears that day, this extreme brutal act.

    What I experienced that day will not be spoken here and all I will say is that I was there. I felt, I saw, I feared for my life and the people I knew, I breathed in the death of 2800 people.

    Yes, this image may be important to history. Those that experienced these events directly have quite a different take than someone watching the TV.

    The same truths hold true for those who directly experienced the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, The atom bombs in Japan, etc..

    dw


     
  16. dslater

    dslater Member

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    Dave,
    I think the primary reason for the censure was to protect the families of the victims. Imagine how seeing that picture in the paper or on TV would make you feel if that was a picture of your wife, your child, or your father.
     
  17. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I'm remined of the tarot cards as well. I didn't remember the names.
     
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  18. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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  19. Terence

    Terence Member

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    jstraw, I agree that everyone was affected in their own way that day, and that we all empathize with the families of those lost. It's not the legitimacy of feelings that has a hierarchy. It is the life-altering experiences of that day that have a hierarchy. To imply everyone experienced even remotely the same thing is like saying people IN a car accident experience the same thing as those who WITNESS a car accident. I would equate my own experience to that of a pedestrian that dove out of the way of a fatal accident and then tried to assist the injured and recover the dead.

    To imply you and I experienced that day in even a remotely similar way is simply BS. You didn't watch people brace themselves in a window with your own eyes, hear the thump when the bodies hit, run for your life when 2 WTC came down, experience complete darkness for 20 minutes until the cloud cleared while you were choking on dust and feeling the rumble as the other tower collapsed, not knowing if it was coming your way, see the huge see of abandoned shoes left by people who kicked them off and ran for their lives, spend the afternoon clawing at debris with your hands or a bucket, guided only by the chirping sound of the firemen's personal emergency beacons, finding only small parts of bodies. Similarly, I did not experience the loss of a family member, and cannot begin to imagine the trauma of those who did. I certainly attended enough funerals of friends and acquaintances.

    I am far from the top of it, but let's face facts, there IS a hierarchy of what people took away from that day. I have the chest X-rays and respiratory function test scores to quantify some of what I took away. I was lucky. Others only ended up with a death certificate.

    In the same way I can imagine what the folks in the planes and the towers felt, you can imagine what I experienced. But you can't KNOW what I experienced because you did not experience it. You don't wake up hearing the rumble of a falling building in a dream. You don't cough from respiratory ilnesses. You don't occasionally catch a whiff of the Trade Center fire when someone is torch-cutting steel and accidently ignites a piece of plastic. You didn't lose your North Star for getting home from the bar (keep the WTC on my right and I'd hit the PATH train). You probably don't look at every airliner flying over your city thinking it's just a little TOO fricking close, and why dont they change the airport approach patterns.

    I'm not sure why you find it problematic to recognize those differences.
     
  20. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Pardon me, but I think you are confusing the word "censure" with "censor." Certainly "censuring" a person (or a photograph) does not protect the families of the victims.
     
  21. catem

    catem Member

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    After reading the article posted by Jim Chinn I understood that the 'censure' was coming mostly from the families (and those concerned for the families) - some of whom saw the way the people chose to die as suicide - many people have a powerful belief that suicide is a sin, and that the suicide of a loved one is a kind of betrayal (however forced upon the person it might be).

    Also, the article made clear how terribly painful the photograph, in particular the search for the identity of the man in the photograph, was to many families.

    It also pointed out that the photograph was one of a sequence, and the whole sequence gave a very different picture from the supposed elegance (and iconic nature) of that one frame.

    I do sometimes wonder if there are other ways that convey experience more accurately and more powerfully than such a single image in time. I found the article itself far more rounded, and more powerful - sometimes photographers forget the power of words over images to convey harsh and complex truths. I also think documentary moving film can, at times, do far more for truth and understanding than a single image.

    edit: here's a quote from John Steinbeck I've grown rather attached to recently..

    "I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything." ~John Steinbeck

    I wouldn't say I hate cameras, but I see his point.
     
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  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    This aspect had not even occurred to me. Those who jumped had a choice of two horrible deaths. To overlay some sort of religious template on this, accusing them of the 'sin' of suicide, is to display much of the same mentality as the suicide bomber who 'glorifies' an equally diseased and vile interpretation of their highly personal version of God through murder.
     
  23. catem

    catem Member

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    Roger, suicide is seen as a sin by many Catholics the world over (I'm not a Catholic, by the way).

    I think to compare the complex feelings of grief that families must have felt - and grief usually in any case includes anger towards the one who has died, however 'unfairly' - to the motivations of the suicide bombers is hardly appropriate.

    I didn't really want to get into a discussion of this subject anyway, as I said in my initial post on the other thread which is quoted by Bjorke at the beginning of this one.

    As my words were used I thought I would make a contribution, which I have - but I'll leave it at that, now.
     
  24. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I respectfully apologize. You are right. There is a hierarchy of experience.

    I'm not sure though, that I understand the purpose of 'you don't know...you weren't there...' statements.

    It's important to remember that there are things one cannot know if they're too intimately associated with an event. This is why fathers of murdered children don't sit on their killers' juries. It's also why it surely must be painful and frustration for those that watched the bodies fall, discuss the politics of that day.
     
  25. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Cate,

    I'm sorry to have drawn you into an area you did not want to have to visit, but I'd stand by the observation that what we have here is a straightforward conflict between reality -- whether the horrible reality of two alternative vile deaths, or the simple reality that all sentient beings desire happiness and the causes of happiness -- and the religious beliefs that suicide is a sin or that jihad is holy.

    I'll go for reality every time.

    Yours,

    Roger
     
  26. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I am a Catholic, but I find it hard to really categorize jumping as suicide in the strictest sense of the word in this case. Faced with certain death from flames or falling the outcome is the same. As the writer alluded, perhaps it was one last act of defiance or the chance to choose ones final fate.