Thursday, May 10, 2007

Photography's role in capturing history

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Last weekend was the 70th anniversary of the Hindenburg crash. The photo of it in flames started me thinking about how photographs help us remember events in our lives. Since the birth of photography 150 years ago photographs have etched memories in our minds from major events even if we weren't there or not even born yet. When I think of the Civil War I see Matthew Brady's images of dead soldiers lying on the battlefield. When I think of the Vietnam War I see Eddie Adam's picture of police chief General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Vietcong prisoner on a Saigon street in 1968 during the opening stages of the Tet Offensive. Or on a lighter note, when I think of my Seattle Mariners defeating the New York Yankees in the 1995 playoffs, I think of the photo with Ken Griffey, Jr., poking his smiling face out of a pile of happy Mariners.
We all have similar images from these events because photos have taken us there. I bet we all have different images in our minds of Lewis and Clark's journey across the West or Christopher Columbus "discovering" America because photographers weren't there to capture those events.

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