A short essay at break!
I typed this up during a break today, it was some group work that I decided to take into my own hands and just get done. check it out if you want 🙂
For this piece of work we had to find a photograph and a painting that shared something in common (this could be subject matter, colours, audience response etc). So we chose two images that were linked by the subject of death. The ‘Falling Man’ and ‘The Death of Nelson’, Whilst these iconic images are from seperate times and the visuals of the pieces are different too, they both conjure up a mix of visceral and emotional feelings as a response. Obviously they both take on the subject of death as they portray particular individuals during their last moments of life, but one is a historic figure of British military history whilst the other is an individual- an anonymous (as far as we know) member of society, who falls victim to one of the worst terrosist atrocities in Western history.
‘The Death of Nelson’ is a visual representation (a painting) of Lord Nelson, who was fatally wounded during the Battle of Trafalgar. This was a historic battle, as the freedom of the country rested in the hands of those committed to the defence against the French invaders. Those of us who know anything about this famous battle know that the defenders were seen as heroes of Britain, and Nelson was no exception. His death was seen as tragic, but at the same time a valiant sacrifice in the name of Great Britain. The colours that really stand out are the reds (from the marines’ jackets and flags) amongst the greys of the gun smoke and distant ships. This gives it a patriotic connotation as well as the message we take from simply looking at (contextually speaking the red-coats of the British soldiers were a universally recognised image, they at the time were one of the greatest fighting forces in Europe and were seen as a force to be reckoned with). We likened the stark use of red in the painting to the film ‘Battleship Potemkin’, as a signifier of unified power.
The ‘Falling man’ is a much more shocking picture, as we are presented with the image of a man in his last seconds as he plummets from the twin towers. I think the thing that makes this far more shocking than ‘The Death of Nelson’ is that his death was without reason, without purpose: A result of a terrorist retaliation way out of his power, this man was just a normal individual (like you and I) who most likely logged in to the office for another day of work. When death comes to those who do not face it (as readily as Nelson did) it is much more of a shock to us, especially when it is as sudden as the tragic attacks of 9/11. Visually the image is very simplistic, and I think that makes it all the more shocking; unlike ‘The Death of Nelson’ there is nowhere else to look, no other character in the image to turn to for narrative or escape; there is no story of great sacrifice or defeat, but merely a panic sticken civilian who chooses a painless death over a slow one. All we have is the grey face of the building he jumps from, with no stand out colours, gestures or messages- making this image both uncomfortably real, as it is harrowing.
Not bad for a 20 minute job (as I had to think on my feet and choose the images too).
Anyways, I gotta be working on the pieces for the East Asian Film Society! expect cabinet updates tomorrow for sure!
Peace out for now! x