Monday, 17 September 2012

The Falling Man: To show or not to show

The Falling Man photograph by Richard Drew

We had a great discussion today in Journalism class about the decision newspaper editors have to make when considering whether or not to publish disturbing or offensive pictures or videos. The example we were talking about was racist and anti-Semetic posters that were put up in Winnipeg and directed towards Sam Katz and other prominent Winnipeggers.

Some argued that the pictures of the posters should not be published because it only helps the creator of them get more publicity while others argued that it serves a print story better to have a picture with it so the reader can have a better frame of reference when reading an article.

Opinions varied widely this morning on the topic and I believe there is no right or wrong answer. Personally I would have published the pictures as I just think the story is stronger with a picture.

As it was recently the eleven year anniversary of 9/11 I immediately thought about something I saw on TV recently. Whenever a September 11 anniversary takes place news networks like CNN and CBC often show documentaries about that day and this year I watched a few. There is one image from that day that turns my stomach like nothing else. It is the image of people falling out of or jumping out of the World Trade Center (WTC) windows.

I still remember the morning of 9/11 and watching it all unfold on the TV in my parents house. The entire scenario was so over-the-top that it didn't seem real to me. I felt like I was watching a blockbuster disaster movie.

Then I remember the first time that day I saw an image of a person falling from the building. My stomach turned and I looked away in horror and absolute disgust. It was the most unimaginable and disturbing thing I had ever seen and for me it was the first time that it felt real. This was really happening and people were jumping to their death. It also struck me that it was so bad on some of those floors that jumping from over 90 stories was the better option.

The Falling Man is a picture taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew. It shows an unidentified man falling from one of the WTC towers. Drew has admitted he has received lots of criticism for the picture but said that his job as a photojournalist was to document what happened. Others have claimed the picture is exploiting this man's death.

Is The Falling Man picture disturbing- Absolutely. But it is also powerful and shows the absolute despair of that day.

Theologian Mark D. Thompson said of The Falling Man that "perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph."