September 11, 2007

The Falling Man

http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0903-SEP_FALLINGMAN#story
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Falling_Man
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1404525
The above are some web sites re the falling man. I attended the talk tonight at campus. Tom Junod discussed how his own Catholicism came into play when he wrote this article and comes across in his work. He said that this photograph is how we take another look at what we thought we understood...He refers to Susan Sontag's book "Regarding the pain of others" and said that he had been critisized for describing the photo as beautiful/perfect. He read us a passge from Sontag's book, "looking at images of suffering is a moral obligation." What he meant about describing this photo as "beautiful" though was how this person, was symmetrically lined up right between the north and south towers, and how he looked to be falling so peacefully, when in fact he was not, it was "chaos theory in action." In some ways he says the picture is an illusion, which corresponds to our readings. The photo then seemed to have disappeared from the pages of newspapers and journals for people to review. He was told that there were no "jumpers" just people who were "blown" out of the window by impact. He said that on some level this was a blatant untruth. The images of people were considered taboo. He touched on photographer Richard Drew's philosophy's about how he viewed himself as a historical witness and how anything less is not acceptable (as if he would put his camera down to stop a shot) because the minute he would do that, he would be comprimising his own work. The man in the photo was at first believed to be Roberto Hernandez, a man of great faith from a very Catholic family. The family through interviews made it was clear that they did not believe that this was in fact Hernandez, for jumping would have been seen as suicidal, against the Catholic religion. (the "easy way out.") It was later discovered that this man was someone else, the son of a preacher, a father, a husband. Junod wrote about why this picture made people so uncomfortable. He showed us other photos and discussed the thought that there would be "no war without photos." For the Falling Man, people diverted their eyes on purpose. He discussed how this man was all alone, and how it forces us to think about the question, what would we have done? Could that have been me? "Clearly this was the result of an attack." I interpreted Junod to mean that we too have "a moral obligation" to view such images and that was part of the reason why he was compelled to write his story.

3 comments:

g-man said...

I was unable to attend the talk because I was out of town (I requested that it be recorded, so we'll see...). But I don't see anything here that might be considered misrepresentation.

My question is: what do you make of these claims? Do you think he is correct in his assessment? What light do the things we have been reading and discussing shed on his remarks?

Here is a bit of a quandry to consider. If we have a "moral obligation" to look at images of suffering, don't we also have a moral obligations to make those images? And if the fact of their making turns out to be a solicitation for the staging of more suffering (9/11 was such a staging), then aren't we placed in something of a moral paradox - an impossible situation in which making or not making an image of suffering causes more suffering?

Meg said...

I agree with Junod on some levels but remain uncertain in terms of "moral obligation" How far does one need to carry this out?? I understand what he meant that he thought this photograph was "perfect" in nature symmetrically and it showed a sense of peace ironically if you will...even though it was the quite the opposite..and when he defended Drew's philosophy about having an obligation to record history as it were, made sense to me..but i remain on the fence as far as the moral obligation argument. Yes, in some respects its good to "protect" us but Jesus what about the reality of it all?? I believe Drew would agree with you when you ask about making images of suffering since he looked at it as recording history..images in time. Sure a moral paradox exists...but the suffering is there regardless and the media often dictates certain boundaries for us, and in some ways this is good. For example, they could show a lot more but at least in this country we have some standards in place. What about for those families, whose parents aren't policing what the kids are watching and these horrible images appear...sometimes we have the moral obligations NOT to show such things...

Juli said...

Deciding what to show or not to show in the public media is a never ending debate. However, is the debate operating by different rules for different situations?

I believe when it comes to the news, we get all hot and bothered over whether not they should have shown something. (I am thinking the VTech shootings, specifically.) Do we hold them up to higher standards than the smut they put on MTV? If anything, the news is showing actual images that unfortunately represent aspects of our real lives. yes, they can be sensationalized, but would we rather the news show the airbrushed images of reality? Then, would we end up charging our media is doing us a disservce by showing fabricated images?

By demanding unsettling events and images are censored for the greater public, what are we saying about how much we value truth? Under the guise of protection, are we in actuality living in denial about the nature of human existence?