Monday, November 25, 2013

A New Angle

It's incredible that capturing a photograph from a different angle can add a new dynamic to history. Below is a photo of the Tiananmen Square protests taken by a photographer named Terril Jones. In the background, standing in between two tree trunks, we see the iconic Tank Man, but from a completely new perspective. Jones hadn't published the photo until recently.

The other published versions of this photograph are taken at eye level, and all show the tanks as they are only a foot away from the lone man. This photo allows us to relook at the event and gives the moment more context. From this perspective, where the tanks are still far away, we see that the Tank Man is standing, preparing himself for a confrontation long before the tanks reach him. He looks small amidst the chaos and rubble, but his presence is clear and strong.

The most striking aspect of this photo is most definitely the context that we gain. The photograph of the Tank Man that was widely circulated before Jones' version appeared shows us a brave man standing his ground in front of a row of tanks. What it does not show us, however, is the rubble that surrounds the man or the bulldozer cleaning up the destruction beside him. The original photo does not show us the men running away from the scene. Perhaps these men wanted to be brave with the Tank Man, but were too afraid to stand before the tanks. Different parts of this moment's story suddenly unfold, strengthening our knowledge of the protests and of history. In a way, this new perspective on a famous photograph enhances its meaning, showing even deeper valor than we had even assumed before. We can see what the Tank Man saw around him, a man on a bike staring and passing by as the tanks rolls forward.

How incredible that so much can be gained from one photograph taken by a man standing at a different angle.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I recently discussed an article in one of my classes about a comment that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu made regarding Iran. The comment was made during an interview with BBC Persian when Netanyahu attempted to get the Iranian public to oppose Iran's leaders and their nuclear program. He stated that, “If the people of Iran were free, they could wear jeans, listen to Western music and have free elections,” to which young Iranians on Twitter reacted immediately. Their indignant remarks spanned from comments questioning Netanyahu's intelligence to photos demonstrating how very wrong Netanyahu was. Here is one of the images mentioned in the article: 

 The man by the Twitter handle of Sallar sat in his home somewhere in Iran, probably wearing jeans, and tweeted this picture. This photo could've been taken by anyone anywhere in the world, be it in the United States, Israel or Iran. The world community has become so similar in so many ways, and still there seem to be walls built around our sections of the world that keep us from seeing any other nation for what they actually are. Despite the widespread outrage in response to Netanyahu's comment, I'm almost certain that somebody (or likely a large number of people throughout the world) agreed with him and the way he thinks Iranians live their lives. Despite the tyranny of their government, the people of Iran do, in fact, wear jeans and listen to Western music. This is just hidden by the image we have created of Iran, among many other Islamic nations throughout the Middle East. It makes us sure that their nations are dark and robotic.

Our image of Iran and other parts of the Middle East is outdated. In a region so plagued by conflict, it is difficult to imagine people living normal lives and coming home to listen to pop or rock and roll, but these people really do exist, as we can see from the image above. How can we work to build bridges between nations and improve communication to end conflict when we don't even understand the countries that are constantly in the news? With media coverage often discussing conflict, nuclear weapons and warfare, it is easy to assume Iran is a "bad" place. Even Netanyahu, prime minister of a nation much closer to Iran than the United States, seems to hold this distorted image of the nation. But behind conflict and government lie real human beings who have families and wear jeans and listen to Western music, just like us. In order to find the humanity in another culture, we must learn to look past the images that media and our society provide.

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