The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blatant Messages to Society

On May 8th, 2010 at 9:20 in the morning, the Staten Island Ferry crashed into the Staten Island St. George Terminal.  Despite the 252 rush hour commuters that were on board, a mere 35 people needed to be brought to the hospital and only 37 total people were injured.  The photograph above, boldly illustrates the results of the ferry accident and how the crash impacted lives of the public.  It shows the power that a single individual photo can have on a society at large.   Specifically, it presents a vision of passion and unity.

In times of hardship, communities often band together to try and solve a problem or to simply get through the tragedy before them.  During the May 2010 ferry crash, this exact kind of moment happened on the shore of Staten Island.  The photograph above is centered on an emergency rescue worker leaning over an injured ferry rider.  The woman’s pain and distress depicted upon her face is skillfully countered by the rescue worker’s calming and confident demeanor.  His body language suggests that he is skilled in his profession and that he takes pride in the work that he does.  Even though his job is to provide a necessary lifesaving service for other people, the picture clearly shows that his work is more than just a job to him.  The careful placement of his hands as he leans in to hear the woman demonstrates his true desire to make her feel cared for and secure.  This photo makes a serious and blatant statement to the public of America.  It “provides a model for negotiating the tension between individuality and collectivity” (Hariman and Lucaites 88).  The rescue worker is proof that one individual can actually make a difference in another person’s life.  This single rescue worker is making the woman’s awful experience just a little more bearable.  The photograph encourages the general public to be more open to lending a hand to simply help another person out.

Furthermore, the picture encourages people to take pride in what they are doing.  So many people in America do only enough to scrape by.  For instance, most students only complete the minimum amount of work required in their classes.  Many employees only carry out the tasks that their bosses require them to do.  The mentality of society seems to be that a person should not strive to exert more effort than necessary when a minimum is considered satisfactory.  The man in this photograph goes against this common mentality.  Even though the woman is already effectively strapped in to the stretcher and is ready for transport, he remains with her.  He is not physically needed anymore; however, he stays with the woman because he knows that it is the right action to execute.  He is going that extra mile, and does not even appear overworked or annoyed for deciding to do so.  This individual picture proves that as a collective group, Americans can afford to put their best effort into situation that they have the ability to impact.

Just as the United States is widely known as the “melting pot” in society, New York City and surrounding areas provide the perfect example of that notion.  This single snapshot portrays an African American rescue worker effectively distributing aid to an injured Asian woman.  When in an emergency situation, very few people care about race, sex, or culture.  Race plays no role in the rescue worker’s ability to provide aid to the woman.  The injured woman goes on to recover after being taken to a local hospital, which further demonstrates the rescue worker’s ability at administering care.  This image provides a single snapshot in how society currently views race, and how they should continue to view it.  In the past, where you were from and the color of your skin meant everything.  Now, race does not matter nearly as much as it used to.  Society has learned that an African American man is just as capable as saving a woman’s life as a Caucasian man is.  The public understands that skin color does not equate to your mental intellect or physical capabilities.  This photograph is the link between societal views and displaying them in action to the world.
Mary Rometti

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