September 24th 2010
The year is 1963 , future pulitzer prize winner & photojournalist Malcolm Browne is photographing the realities of life in Southern Vietnam . On June 11th he captures what is widely accepted as one of the most infamous photos of all time, The Self Immolation of Thich Quang Duc. The image, like so many others, provides more questions than answers. Who set him on fire? How is he possibly still sitting there? Is this self inflicted penance? Why are the other monks behind him standing idly by?
We also see in the photo a sense of time, depicted naturally through the use of black and white film, and specifically by the old car in the back round. The photo also seems to suggest a preconceived intention of some sorts, it does not appear that this act sporadically accrued. Both Thic Quang Duc (despite literally being on fire) and the other buddhist monks appear to not necessarily be surprised by the action.
While in fact the Buddhist monk , Thich Quang Duc, sat down in the middle of a lively intersection in Saigon, Vietnam, had two fellow Buddhist monks douse him with Gasoline and light him on fire. While being engulfed in flame, it is said he never moved a muscle.
Personifying Self Sacrifice, Suicide, Self immolation, all perhaps to show the highest from of protest. In truth, the act was meant to bring attention to the hardships of Buddhist life and practice in Saigon, brought on by the crippling policies of there Catholic Vietnamese Government.
Knowing the background, we can interpret this photo in many ways,. It can be construed as a brash affirmation of the times, a satire on what it actually takes to draw attention to ones struggle, or perhaps a radical demonstration of spiritual backbone. Regardless the impact is undeniably felt.
The beauty of all art is interpretation. Whether it is poetry, sculpture, or in this case photography, its granger is tested on its ability to convey...