Sunday, 30 September 2007

The power of a photograph

I wrote a post on the difference between great photography and important photography a while back. On a similar theme, I've just watched the Clint Eastwood double-bill on Iwo Jima: "Letters from Iwo Jima" and "Flags of our Fathers". 2 great movies that must be seen together, IMO, that also follow the modern war-movie trend of gory over glory.

That aside, the American side of the story (Flags) is all about the power of the famous photograph of the raising of the flag atop Mt Suribachi. Truly a powerful image that probably inspired a nation. A a moment, though, the context is not evident from the picture and it is often taken well out of context - not to mention that it was a replacement flag anyway.

The thing that struck me most, however, about the photography came as the credits rolled (which, for once, I watched to the end). Alongside the credits is a slideshow of some of the original photos from that battle, almost all of which turn up in scenes in the film. What amazed me was that in the middle of a war zone, with limited equipment, the attached photographers could produce images of such quality and emotive power. A real display of artistic and technical ability in very difficult circumstances. Despite all that, it is one image taken in a moment of pause that lives on.

For more on Iwo Jima, there is a very useful website on the whole thing, with many of the other photos taken alongside the famous one.

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