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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1 comment:

  1. It's incredible how different a perspective we can attain just by seeing a scene from a different angle. To me, this new photo is also more insightful than the original. I agree with your analysis about what else the photo shows, but also think it's important to note that this photo was taken from ground level while the better known photo was take from the air. The fact that this photo was taken from the ground makes it more accessible. It seems as if we're standing there and a part of the scene rather than merely observing the scene from above. I'm surprised that this wasn't the more famous photo and think it's interesting that the aerial, less-accessible pictures was so popular for so long.