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Tuesday, 18 March 2008


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Stunning image.

I remember seeing a B&W photo from the Viet Nam war, of a cemetary with a young (asian?)woman literally hugging one of the gravestones. I've never been able to find it again, not who made it, but it is as engrained on my memory as though I saw it yesterday.

A very powerful image I'll always remember. Arlington National Cemetery has to be one of the most overwhelmingly sad places on the planet.

Along this theme, Magnum, this week, has launched a series of photo essays on its "Magnum In Motion" site titled "WARS". See: http://tinyurl.com/224x7w

Brought tears to my eyes. A fitting follow-up to "Forget Not".


It brings up a strong feeling of "repulsiveness" within me... What the greed and the hunger for power of the already, out of the fireline "rich" causes to the normal people in any country.... it's sickening...

How does one ever explain this to their kids?

Masters of War, by Bob Dylan says it all!

It immediatly reminded me of the song "I am stretched on your grave and I'll lie there forever" as sung by Sinead O'Connor and a number of other artists including the English folk singer song writer, Kate Rusby.

It has a most moving and memorable lyric, which I believe is derived from an anonymous 17th century Irish poem, "Táim Sínte ar do Thuama".

There is an article on Wikipedia about the poem/song.


Here's a very poignant remembrance of the fallen soldier James John Regan via the Arlington National Cemetery website:


Wonderful, moving photograph. But on another level, if it were mine, I think I would convert it to black and white. What do you think? And how about the man in the upper-right background? I wouldn't, but would anyone think to crop him out?

Regarding my previous comment about cropping out the man in the background -- Ten years ago I would have taken him out almost immediately, but today, with all the talk about excessive digital manipulation, I think I would be forced to leave him in, so not to make the composition so "right" that it seems posed or over-manipulated. I guess that's a price we're paying for these new wonderful tools we have.

I'm sorry. but I would like to add just this one last thing to this subject. I think that producing this print in B&W would make a very significant difference. To me this photo explains what the photographer saw and felt, but in B&W, I believe it would have made us better understand what the woman was feeling.

I know there are croppers and non croppers, but just crop out the background on top and the guys on the right and the photo becomes more to the point. You eye just goes out of the photo with out cropping.

Much like the picture at the Viet Nam Memorial you didn't take, Mike, I could never take something like this - it would be intruding too much on her personal space.

As I was looking at this photo to evaluate it from a photographic perspective when I realized that my eyes were tearing. So, regardless of what should or shouldn't be cropped or whether or not it should be in B&W, it works and has impact just the way it is. I wouldn't risk changing a thing.

Unfortunately this is a sad commentary on the real effects of failed leadership from broken souls.

Reading Moore's account of how he came to take this photo literally brought tears to my eyes. It is incredibly powerful. I disagree about B&W - I think the use of colour speaks to the "now" of the image. Rendering it mono would make it more timeless and somehow less specific - while it could then represent all "wars" (if war is what the Iraq conflict is... ), it would fail to connect as strongly to this specific conflict which history may well come to judge as harshly as Vietnam. The soldiers are doing their duty and sacrificing their lives in the service of their country - but was their country right to send them at this human cost (and at the cost of countless thousands of Iraqis whose stories are not documented)?

Talking about evocative images that you see once and then never forget ... have a look here:


By the way, this photograph's author also appeared in T.O.P.'s "Random Excellence" column, a few weeks ago.

-- Olaf

If I seem cold and removed from the meaning of this image, please know that I served in Vietnam, and since that time have visited many of my buddies' graves. And this, unfortunately, is just another war with the same tragic endings. James Reagan lived just 5 minutes from my home and, like most of my Long Island neighbors, was probably against this war, but still proud to wear the uniform.

"Touch a Name on the Wall"
a song by Joel Mabus
© 1988 Joel Mabus

Well, I guess you could call it our summer of freedom,
the year that we both turned eighteen -
We hitch-hiked to Denver, straight out of high school
man, we were sights to be seen.
And that was the year that you dated my cousin, 'til
they took us away in the fall.
Now I dearly wish you were standing here with me as
I touch your name on the wall.

Touch a name on the wall,
Touch a name on the wall.
God help us all
Touch a name on the wall.

Every time I come here I wear my fatigues, to honor
the men that I knew.
I touch every name that came from my outfit, and I
read them out loud when I do.
Now some people say that they all died for nothing,
but I don't completely agree -
'Cause this brother here didn't die for no country - He
died for me.

Touch a name on the wall,
Touch a name on the wall.
God help us all
Touch a name on the wall.

Now, usually walls are made for division
- to separate me from you.
But God bless the wall that brings us together,
and reminds us of what we've been through.
And God damn the liars and the tin-plated heroes who
trade on the blood of such men.
God give us the strength to stand up and tell them -
Never again!

I remember when this photograph ran in the New York Times. It can still be seen as part of a Memorial Day slideshow on the Times website here:


The caption reads: "Mary McHugh visited the grave of her fiancé, Sgt. James J. Regan, who was killed in Iraq in February. He is buried in the new Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery for those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan."

By the way, the Times cropped the photo as some of you suggest. I remember reading somewhere the editors explaining this decision, though I do not recall where. However, the result is probably explanation enough.

"Unfortunately this is a sad commentary on the real effects of failed leadership from broken souls."

Your comment moved me, Edward.

Such is the power of the certain images to evoke feelings, memories and thoughts for better or worse.

"What the greed and the hunger for power of the already, out of the fireline "rich" causes to the normal people in any country.... it's sickening..."

Sgt. James Regan enlisted in the Army in February 2004, well after the start of the Iraq war. This would seem to make it unlikely that he shared the "class warfare" line of thought. The Newsday article posted on the Arlington site states, "Though Regan died in combat, his family's support for the Iraq war remains strong." Sgt. Regan's father is further quoted as disagreeing with critics of the war. He states, "You cannot put men in the field of battle and then change your mind and go out as a whip-dog. Let the men do their job."

Sgt. James Regan's loss is tragic, and we should honor men like him.


Crop out the distant observers? No I think not. The picture as posted represents the attitude of the vast majority of Americans. Just as in Viet Nam (a war effort I am all to familiar with) those distant figures who are simply watching and doing nothing represent what's going on in America today. Off in the distance, involved only visually and for the vast majority having no understanding of the true costs of our nations choices. The prostate woman on the other hand is right there and fully involved in the moment and the consequences of the choices we as a nation have made.

Reminds me of the old story about the ham and egg breakfast... "the chicken is involved but the pig is committed".

I'm totally opposed to cropping in this case not based on the "its gotta be in the frame when the shutter opens" philosophy but rather that it actually tells the whole story. Well at least for those of us who have been there and done that it does. For others it's no doubt a distraction.

It is a powerful image and both (the one posted by Greg) show that no matter our country, religion or race, war deprives families, communities and countries of loved ones and people who matter. These images (and others) continually remid us that war should always be an absolute last resort (if ever), with clear objectives, entry and exit strategies so as to maximize success and minimize casualties and other adverse effects. Something clearly lacking in the current conflict.

I also agree with Patrick's assessment of the bystanders as representing the American citizen's general stance on the war (and Bush's admonishment to basically ignore what's going on and keep shopping).

I'm embarassed to admit that at times I forget we're at war. But, you can't really tell, can you? Every mall still has the same Veteran's Day and Memorial Day sales and we still use those days to go camping or have BBQs or watch sports.

It's photographs like this, and others, that remind us of what's going on and the cost involved. I think there should be more, lest we forget.

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