Archive for February, 2008
Moments and missives from our world
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Kamil Kaplan faced a ghastly decision on Sunday in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Four stories above the ground, in a building going up in flames, he dropped his nine-month-old nephew Onur Celar in his hands of a waiting policeman. “If the cop wouldn’t have been standing down there, I would have just taken the boy and jumped down with him in my arms to save him.” Little Onur, wearing horizontal striped jammies, survived the fall. Nine others in the building perished.
Chris Assaf posted a piece that looked at similarities between these photographs and a series by Stan Forman from three decades ago. Forman’s frightening photographs helped to bring attention to lax fire safety codes in Boston, and as a result, served as a catalyst for regulatory changes. Tiare Jones and Diana Bryant were the focus of Forman’s photographs. Tiare lived, but Diana did not survive the fall.
Ludwigshafen mayor Eva Lohse, spoke about Sunday’s events: “The terrible images of children being brought out of the flames will remain with us for a long time.” Connecting with the audience / reader / viewer on an emotional level is a key for an image to have impact.
Free, open and fair elections are the cornerstone of American Democracy, but… in my little corner of Georgia, voter intimidation was acute. My wife cast her first vote as an American, and then closely monitored me as I made my choice, with Josh of course helping slide the yellow card into the machine.
The West Wing aired its final episode the night before Alison became a citizen. I am an unabashed fan of the show and one of my favorite exchanges came with Leo and Jed in a Nashua flashback as season two kicked off.
Leo: …I’m tired of it. Year after year after year after year, having to choose between the lesser of who cares. Of trying to get myself excited about a candidate who can speak in complete sentences. Of setting the bar so low, I can hardly look at it. They say a good man can’t get elected President, I don’t believe that, do you?
Jed: And you think I’m that man. Leo: Yes. Jed: Doesn’t it matter that I’m not as sure? Leo: Nah. ‘Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you.’ Put another way: Fake It Til Ya Make It. . . .
This is the time of Jed Bartlet, old friend. You’re gonna open your mouth and lift houses off the ground. Whole houses, clear off the ground. Cue the uplifting score from Tommy Schlamme please…
2008 will bring some form of change to the Oval, but no elections in my lifetime may have more impact on a country than what South Africans faced in 1994 during that beautiful country’s first democratic election. Why the South African reference? Well, somebody in this house was born there. Visitors to the Associated Press bureau in Johannesburg see this photograph as soon as they enter, the defining image of a momentous election, starkly and simply recorded by Denis Farrell. His recollection of the day was later collected, and the most important paragraph closes closes the piece .
“A year later a call announced that the Soweto queue picture had been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I didn’t get it, but for me the greater honour was having Nelson Mandela’s signature on the photograph that defined for me the end of an era and the dawning of a new one. Every day in the office I see it, framed and signed and taking pride of place. Every day it reminds me of those whose lives were sacrificed for peace.”
Walter Fuller celebrated the final hours of his 99th year on Saturday with friends and family along the Georgia Coast. His spirits were high, having his bride of 63 years sitting nearby, watching great- grandchildren playing at their feet.
“PeePaw” has been on my wedding site for a while, dancing in his wheelechair with his granddaughter Shannon just four months short of his 99th birthday. When I asked him on Saturday what his key was to living so long, with a smile he exclaimed, “I found a wonderful wife.”
Words of wisdom from a man beginning his second century.
Across Europe on Valentine’s Day, lads will present their ladies with red roses, a gesture of appreciation — (or attempt to get out of the doghouse / hope for a good night kiss on the first date) — that will have been directly affected by the ongoing violence in Kenya. Huh? How? More than a third of all cut flowers sold in Europe are imported from Kenya.
The beautiful East African nation has been a stable point in a rocky neighborhood, as it is bordered by Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. The Great Lakes region of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi are just a 2 to 3 hours flight away over Lake Victoria. The three largest engines of Kenya’s economy are tourism, tea and horticulture. Nightly flights to European capitals make it possible for Geert in Amsterdam to buy a dozen roses for his wife, with those roses sourced in Africa just a few days earlier.
So, tourists are switching plans for their Kenyan safari, going instead to neighboring Tanzania or 2000 miles down the continent to South Africa. The floral industry is looking for ways to make some headway in the middle of chaos. Jane Ngige, head of the Kenya Flower Council, explained “We are arranging for armed police escorts if the roads are blocked again and we might even have to airlift flowers out.”
A floral airlift. Instead of exporting 45,000 fresh flowers each day, Kenyan floral producer Mahmud Abdulla was having difficulty managing half of that number. “I don’t have the flowers. Next week is the busiest of the year and many of the other farms are going to struggle too. Maybe we can recover by Mother’s Day but who knows?”
Thanks go to Rob Crilly of The Times of London, whose piece this morning provided me with the quotes.
Forty years ago today, Eddie Adams photographed one of the lasting images of the 20th century in Saigon. In what was described as a “minor battle,” Adams photographed the exact moment that South Vietnamese national police chief Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan put a bullet at the head of a Vietcong prisoner standing an arm’s length away.
Adams was standing about 5 feet away from Loan. Adams later told the story of what happened as he and a crew from NBC came upon the scene. “”We saw that the South Vietnamese had just grabbed this guy . . . we saw them walking him down the street. And so, like any newsman, we followed up on the story; we continued photographing in case someone took a swing at him or he fell or whatever. So we just followed them down to the corner where they stopped for a minute, and . . . some guy walked over – we didn’t know who he was – and . . . pulled a pistol out. As soon as he went for his pistol, I raised the camera thinking he was going to threaten him. I took a picture. That was the instant he shot him. I had no idea it was going to happen. He put the pistol back in his pocket and walked over to us and said, “He killed many of my men and many of your people.” And walked away.
Adams was haunted by the image for decades, and wanted no part of the political furor that erupted in America after the image was published. He did not want it to be included in exhibitions, and struggled talking about what became his – and one of the world’s – best known images. Adams said, “this picture has hurt me in a lot of ways. “What I ask people who see this picture is, “If you’re this man, in the middle of a war- and people die in wars- how do you know you would not have pulled the trigger yourself?” “There are two people died in that picture, the man who got shot, and (the General)… I got to know him and came to respect him later in his life. The photograph destroyed his life, and the intention was not to destroy his life, the intention was to show what happened. And I don’t like the responsibility on my shoulder for destroying anybody’s life. He concluded, “you never know who is looking at your pictures or how your pictures are going to affect other people’s lives.”
The Digital Journalist site ran an appreciation of Adams after he died in 2004. Adams true legacy may be his annual workshop, now entering its third decade, which brings 100 young photographers together with the many of the best editors and photographers in the nation. I attended it in 1993, and learned a ton in the long weekend at his farm in mid-state New York. I made a complete rookie mistake, having a wardrobe malfunction as I accidentally left my clothing for the weekend in my flat nearly 1000 miles away. Oops.