Two photos taken just seconds apart by John Tlumacki of the Boston Globe. The first reads as determined heroic action. The second as confusion. Yet different media outlets are using both of these photos somewhat interchangeably as the iconic image of the day.
An uncropped wide view of the first shot shows both the heroism and the confusion. I think this is a better photo. Colors, framing, and mood are all perfect. At the same time, I can see why this view isn’t getting circulated as much. It’s a bit too complicated to be the “iconic” image. We like our icons to have clear messages.
Interestingly, there’s an even wider view of this exact same scene. Also by a Boston Globe photographer. From almost the same angle too, just further away. In fact, David Ryan’s photo is at almost exactly the same instant as Tlumacki’s first photo.* This photo, while not having any of the iconic punch of the other photos, is also being used a lot as a standard image for the day too. There’s less emotion in it but it sets the scene.
*You can even see Tlumacki in this photo. The officers are in almost the exact same pose and position.
So consider this a reminder to look carefully and note the differences in these photos before they all blur together. Especially in how the meaning and message of the photo changes depending on the cropping. In a decade, we’ll have conflated the different views into one image in our minds the same way we did for the four different Tank Man photos.
I wonder whether we’ll choose to remember this image and this day as being defined by heroism or confusion.
NOTE: I originally posted this on Tumblr but it’s worth reblogging and reworking it here.