9/11 and the power of photography


These photographs or still images are, for me, not only photographs documenting a moment in time and furthermore a moment in history, that acts metaphorically as an epicentre of an earthquake; but as Douglas Kellner states, this event created a media spectacle ‘that dominated public attention…intended to terrorize the U.S., to attack symbolic targets…as well as to undermine the U.S. and global economy.’[1] The important fact is that in this situation, photographs, and the use of photography play a hugely important role in the media spectacle that was intended and created by these attacks. Kellner suggests that ‘al Qaeda have used spectacles of terror to promote their agenda in a media-saturated era’, and this is why the memory of 9/11 and the photographs which act as sources to this horrific event are so successful and important in twenty first century culture and memory.[2]

I could literally go into so much detail with these particular photos, and for me, it is this power and depth that photographs possess, that is so important for historians and the likes when studying history through photography. Photos have the power to immortalise moments in time, as well as to document the particular event, and as Shakespeare succinctly wrote ‘So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, /So long lives this and this gives life to thee.’[3]

[1] Douglas Kellner, 9/11, Spectacles of Terror, and Media Manipulation: A Critique of Jihadist and Bush Media Politics, p.2.

[2] Douglas Kellner, 9/11, Spectacles of Terror, and Media Manipulation: A Critique of Jihadist and Bush Media Politics, p.1.

[3] William Shakespeare, Stephen Geenblatt and Andrew Gurr, The Norton Shakespeare (New York: Norton, 2008), p. 1952.  

An interesting website to look at further is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/twin-towers-_n_3907233.html?utm_hp_ref=september-11-anniversary where is shows the photographic differences from immediately after the attacks, to how it looks now. It’s just interesting to see the difference.


2 Responses to “9/11 and the power of photography”

  1. You may also be interested in the photographs of Joel Meyerowitz, http://www.joelmeyerowitz.com/photography/book_aftermath.asp, taken after ground zero was turned into a crime scene. Meyerowitz was primarily known as a colour street photographer prior to this collection.

  2. Relating to the power of capturing a moment in time I found this photo also captured on CNN news with what seemed to be a face coming out of the smoke – interesting what we can gather from a photo at a particular point and relate it to the horrors of what what happening at that moment when the photo was taken

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