Wednesday, May 1, 2013

…”It keeps a moment from running away”…

I keep telling friends that I need to get a dashboard cam.

Every day on the way to work I pass a house with live peacocks strolling around the front yard and no one believes me.
On the way home there’s a tree with a man cut into it. I could never properly describe this to you; it truly has to be seen to be believed.
But I’m not dexterous or foolish enough to try and take the photo while I handle my car so for now, these things remain a myth I made up until I provide photographic evidence otherwise.
Almost everyone has a camera these days, and they’re not afraid to use it, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad.
Odd life photos, pictures from space, surgical cameras, friends and family members show us a slice of life we might never be able to experience firsthand. We learn how big and small our world is. We can truly share a smile.
Yet, there have always been questionable moments. From smiling faces giving the thumbs up with lynched and burned bodies hanging in the background to morons taping and posting fights or other illegal behavior on to controversial even if informative photos from R. Umar Abbasi, Frank Fournier, Kevin Carter, and Robert Wiles.
I don’t believe the intent is malicious.. How does anyone really know in the moment that they think to snap the shutter, will this freeze a moment that will spread knowledge, ring an emotional bell, inspire awe, or inspire criticism and outrage?
I posted this video on my other blog because I thought it was well done and a cute reminder that the camera should capture humanity, not be an excuse to turn away from it. Imagine how different life might be were it not for war, civil rights, or other historical photography.
With so many moments in recent and not as recent memory that have changed history, our lives, and our perspectives, I think it’s fair to show at least a little respect to at least one medium that has been a powerful tool in all that.
My post title is said to be a quote from Eudora Welty about photography and it seems pretty accurate. Whether it’s a lucky shot taken at just the right time, or a more deliberate staging, with the right image we can be moved to (try to) understand, explore, and question our environment and ourselves.
It may not always be an image we would like for someone to capture, but it’s likely to be an image that has a lasting impact because someone did.
 R. Umar Abbasi’s took this picture of Ki Suk Han, a Queens resident who struggled to pull himself back up on the platform after being pushed off by a panhandler.
People were angry with Abbasi for not helping, and his story of hoping his camera flash would warn the train conductor of trouble ahead didn’t exactly help, but no one else rushed to Han’s aide either, or this might have been a photo of a daring rescue.

Frank Fournier’s picture of Omayra Sanchez, a 13 year old girl who was trapped by debris following an earthquake in her native Columbia and eventually died after three days.

Kevin Carter’s took this picture of starving child in Sudan, and was later called just another vulture on the scene. The photo brings to our attention the severity of the situation. But rather than address it, we wonder why someone else (in this case Carter) isn’t doing something.
Robert Wiles caught Evelyn McHale moments after she landed on a UN vehicle when she jumped 1050 feet to her death in 1947. Andy Warhol later used the image to make art.

A few other photographs I was thinking of including Malcolm Browne’s image of Thich Quang Doc self immolation protest in 1963, Huynh Cong Ut’s running girl, and Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, where three of the men pictured later died during that very battle, already neatly compiled here and here.
And moving pictures (moving, indeed)...
This (still being verified for authenticity as I write this) video shows the recent National Air Cargo plane crash in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 7 US Military personnel. Six of the seven aboard were from right here in Michigan, the seventh from Kentucky.

Known only as “Tank Man,” he quite literally stood down an army in 1959 all by his lonesome

This guy thought he was filming an incredible fire of a fertilizer plant in Texas; ended up being a horrific explosion

What Abraham Zapruder thought would be one kind of moment in history turned into a recording of something else. WARNING: If you have not yet seen this, please note that it is incredibly graphic.

And to try and lighten up a bit, dash cam of a very lucky driver

For more, check these out – at the library or your local bookstore -
  • Powerful Days: The Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore by Michael S. Durham
  • Inferno by James Nachtwey
  • Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America by James Allen
  • VanDerZee, photographer 1886-1983 by Deborah Willis (Deborah Willis has compiled quite a few books of photography that I have enjoyed)
A collection of pretty interesting caught on tape moments here

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