Few objects can arouse a heavier emotional response than a photograph. I use the terms ‘arouse’ slightly out of context from the melancholic subject matter of this particular article, perhaps ‘provoke’ or ‘aggravate’ may be a more fitting verb for many when faced with Richard Drew’s image of ‘The Falling Man’.
Yet as I draft this particular text I am drawn to leave this initial statement unchanged as it’s perhaps not the contents of this photograph that formulate a somber or despondent reply, but the recollection of the many other images and narratives played out on that single fateful day 10 years ago in September 2001.
Most can’t but help to gasp in disbelief each and every time the events are replayed whilst the recollection of 9/11 relentlessly fails to fade into the annals of history; ‘The Falling Man’ is a picture perfect example of how imagery can ignite a chain reaction of emotional responses without even touching upon the specific points of the subject that traditionally we may recollect as iconic references to the events.
When I look at the photograph of ‘The Falling Man’ it is not devastation or horror that I see, but peace and beauty, a colour photograph of near monochrome tones, the falling man himself reversed in almost every sense, emotionally, laterally, even visually, his appearance off-sets that of the ominously positioned face of the tower, black on white, white on black.
An overwhelming sense of beauty and prowess figures throughout, offsetting the general consensus of fear, disbelief and horror when sat in situ with the circumstances that this man is all but an unfortunate part of, yet I can’t help but feel that the two things go hand-in-hand. A 21st century Yin and Yang, an impression that two forces that cannot exist without each other. As darkness cannot exist without light, the beauty of ‘The Falling Man’ cannot BE without the ugliness of the events of 9/11.