Saturday, September 11, 2010

On Seeing.

I am not prone to writing, or even commenting on 9/11. Yes, it had an impact on me. I was four days in to my freshman year at college. The towers were visible from my dorm room. Friendships formed fast. However , I never felt close enough to the tragedy to comment. This story struck me, emotionally, but also intellectually, as I am writing a lot about seeing these days. Why did the emergence of this photograph so profoundly effect this fire fighter's father? What does it say about sight and photography?
This story is about a father who lost his son. Although he was certain that his son, a firefighter, died in the events of 9/11, he was left with no evidence. No body, no phone call to say good bye. In short, it was if his son had disappeared. The father went on a mission to find evidence, and came upon the photograph above. The blurry, out of focus photograph shows a firefighter moving through cars. The determination on his face is evident, his focus is forward. This is but a moment, yet we can read so much into it. Like a soldier, he moves towards certain peril.
This photograph provides an end to Gary Box's life. Some would call it closure. I think perhaps it is more profound than that. The image provides a springboard for the mind.
In John Berger's The Sense of Sight, he speaks about the last drawing he made of his father. He says of this drawing "It works because from being a site of departure, it has become a site of arrival (151)" The photograph, while confirming the fate of the firefighter, also provides an outlet for the family. With each viewing, they will see something new. Perhaps something in the expression, or the slope of his shoulders. In short, the final glimpse of Box's life takes the family from darkness into possibility. The power of the image is so much more than what we see. It is what we project, and where the image leads us.

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