New York, September 11, 2001.
It was journalistic instinct that pulled Richard Drew to the Twin Towers when everyone else was running away. The veteran photographer did what he always did – take pictures. And from the scores of photographs he took that day came the iconic image that would become known as The Falling Man.
It’s a disturbing image that is seldom published. I know of it because of an article I came across in Esquire Magazine by Tom Junod. Journalism at its best, even when capturing the most horrific scene you would never want to imagine.
The photograph is an anomaly, one frame of many in a sequence that shows the true horror suffered by dozens of victims forced to choose how they were to die on that sunny September morning. The person in this particular photograph appears calm, accepting his fate. An anomaly of a single click of the shutter.
The photograph is also an accident in symmetry. The Falling Man is vertical, in line with the architectural lines of the Towers. To his left, the North Tower, to his right, the South Tower.
It’s a controversial image, the discussion of which can quickly devolve into a bitter geopolitical debate. Some think the photograph should never be published. I understand that. Some will say that Tom Junod’s article doesn’t tell the whole story. Of course it doesn’t. How you feel about the photograph, how you feel about the story, is your business.
But you will feel something. You will feel something very strongly.
It’s the power of photographs. It’s the power of words.