“A photograph is usually looked at - seldom looked into.” -Ansel Adams
I am sure of three things: I wasn’t in Japan when the tsunami struck in March. I wasn’t blocks away from the World Trade Center when the planes crashed on 9/11. And I also wasn’t present for Hurricane Irene, among other events.
Many of us look through graphic pictures of these events on news sites when catastrophe hits, clicking through the slide-shows and later watching the video footage of each event in its entirety. I always wonder: what if I was there?
I imagine standing blocks away from the Twin Towers. The sound of a loud, buzzing jet engine streaking above me, crashing, and then exploding would propel me to look back at the view I was likely admiring 10 minutes prior.
Broken windows with flames coming out of them would explain the smell of smoke perfuming the air as people ran around frantically calling their family members, hoping for an answer. I would never forget this. And how could I?
I would physically feel the shock of terror, hear the voices of fear and loss of hope, smell the destruction, taste the smoke, and catch a glimpse of the view—my own personal video footage, and essentially, my own snapshot.
With my camera phone—or camera if I had one—I would zoom out and take a picture of history. A woman next to me would be doing the same thing. And across the street, I would watch an old man take his own snapshot; each person with a different view, a different angle, a different encounter, and thus, a different story.
A picture can tell us nothing more than what we have captured in limitation. Every picture is evidence of how little our eyes permit us to see, and exposes us to what we may have missed.
The 45 Most Powerful Images Of 2011 by Buzzfeed virtually showcases pictures that have been judged to be the most powerful images of 2011. Photographs of destruction, riots, conflicts, massacre, death, and mourning comprise a plethora of the images provided. Very few pictures of victory and success are displayed, however.
What this tells me, is that as a people, we are more moved by destruction and loss than we are by achievement or tranquility. In my mind, there are two problems we are facing: Nature against people, and people against people. We cannot fight back against the earthquakes and the tsunamis, but we are always willing to fight against each other.
In 2012, I hope to see pictures of development, innovations, achievements—pictures of developing countries blossoming. I want to see pictures of starved children being fed, of shattered cities being rebuilt, of enemies shaking hands.
I want to be uplifted by stories, not saddened by them. I want people to be empowered and inspired, not despondent and defenseless. At the very least, I want to see the clouds spread and the sun shining.