Every major historical event since the beginning of photography has bequeathed an iconic image — in the 20th century, the picture of the little boy with his hands up in the Warsaw ghetto, or of prisoners in striped uniforms, for the Holocaust; the picture of the naked girl running down the road after a napalm attack for the Vietnam war; the picture of birds in an oil spill for the Persian Gulf war.
What will be the icons for September 11? What elements determine this process of reduction and iconization? And in what ways will the process be determined by aesthetic factors? It was fascinating to me that the four photographers interviewed by Charlie Rose agreed that the icon would be the picture of the three firemen raising the flag on top of the rubble, because it echoes the famous photograph of American GI’s raising the flag at Iwo Jima. In their search for the one lasting image, the panelists were looking for the conventional, not the new.
In the aftermath of an event as monumental as this one, we may need, eventually, to reduce the number of available images to just a few lasting ones that will structure our cultural memory. But we are not yet at that point.
All very true. I keep staring at the photos — once I’ve danced around them to make sure there’s nothing there that is too difficult. I don’t look often, but when I do, I stare. I stare to remember. I stare to find context. I stare to create memory.
I have every book of photos and have been meaning to write reviews of them here but I still dance around them.
Like Hirsch, I went to the Here Is New York gallery and stared. I bought a half-dozen photos that meant something to me, that touched my memory, but they sit in an envelope on a high shelf upstairs.
Hirsch is right: We need time to find out what the images and icons will be. As much as I admire the photo of the firemen raising the flag — and argued with others that it should not be mangled by committee for a PC statue — I know that that is not the image; it is the obvious one; it tries to find context in earlier images instead of this event. No, there will be a new image that means Sept. 11 to us. We will know it when we see it, when we stare at it long enough and see our memories and meaning in it.
: While poor Thomas Nephew recovers from the flu, send some hits his way by looking down the page at his reports on German blogs.
Made me think that it would be great to have more international reports on blogs. I’d love to see what’s happening in tech-forward Scandinavia and we have two great candidates to give us those reports in Bj¯rn StÊrk and Frederik Norman. What about Eastern Europe (Nick Denton)? France? Spain? Wherever.