Photography

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newspaper editors to print a photo trilogy showing the tragic moments leading up to the death of a young mother. At the time the photos were printed, in over four hundred newspapers across the nation, there was great controversy. Readers expressed in phone calls and letters to the editor. Some editors chose not to print the photos at all. Ephron argued that since death is part of life, readers should not be sheltered from it. She asked why photos from fatal car accidents show the wrecked vehicles and not the victims. Mangled steel is worthless; a human life is priceless. Why not capture on film the loss of that which is truly precious? (Ephron, www.haverford.edu/) The so-named Boston Photographs were taken in 1975 by photojournalist Stanley Forman.. I made all kinds of pictures because I thought it would be a good rescue shot over the ladder, (Ephron, 433) Forman said in explaining why he took the pictures. In the first frame, there is a fireman with his arm around a woman he is attempting to rescue from a burning apartment building. The woman clings to her child. The fireman is reaching for the rescue ladder an arm s length away. It appears that everything will be all right, that the woman and her child will be saved. This picture, by itself, does not foreshadow the tragedy to come. It is a dramatic photograph, to be certain, but one that would assure the viewer that confidence in the bravery and skills of firefighters is not misplaced. The second photograph shows the fire escape pulling away from the building. Whereas the first photo makes the reader want to cheer, the second one reminds us that something can go wrong. The rescue is not successful until everyone is on the ground and safely away from the burning building. The photo shows, too, that the firefighter did everything he was supposed to do. His training prepared him for a moment such as this. More than anything else, this photo shows that courage and skill are not always enough. No one could have anticipated that the fire escape would pull away from the building. It is a picture that at once captures the good fortune of the woman in being rescued and the horrific moment when her luck turned. The third photograph is the most dramatic because it shows the woman and her child falling through the air. The child, naturally, looks frightened. Her arms and legs are splayed and we see the speed of her descent with her shirt, which the air has pushed up to expose her round, babyish tummy. Her eyes are open and her mouth is distorted by a grimace. The mother s fall is even more dramatic because she propels through the air headfirst. The viewer cannot see her face but can only imagine the horror reflected in her expression. It is impossible to know what the woman was thinking. Did she know that she was moments from death? Did she think about her child? Did she ask for God s help, or curse His failure to protect them? The woman is barefoot and she is wearing shorts. On a summer s day, it would be expected that someone be so attired at home. Yet the woman seems particularly vulnerable when dressed this way. She seems so exposed although, of course, long pants and shoes would not have made any difference to her survival. Who was this woman? We cannot really know anything about her from the picture. We can see that she is young, with the long, gangling limbs of a teenager. She looks like a child and yet she also has a child of her own. The picture causes us to reflect on death made more tragic by the fact that, for this mother and child, they come too soon. The falling flowerpots add to the poignancy of the photos. The apartment building, obviously older, represents urban life as experienced by someone who is young and poor. The flowers represent an attempt to add a little beauty to the surroundings. What sort of person is it who puts a flowerpot on a window ledge high above the city streets? The flowerpots give us a tiny glimpse into the character of the young woman. We feel...
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