Global image my reply

I chose the photo of a 'Tank Man' by Stuart Franklin.

It's one of the several photos of the same man blocking a column of tanks in Beijing in 1989.

Stuart won the World Press Photo Award for it. Film had to be smuggled from China in a box of tea.

It was an evidence an event that seemed to be the continuation o the events in Easter Europe that had led to great political changes. However unlike in other socialist countries, it had slim to none effect on the Chinese politics.

It has all the powerful impact of many other photos that helped in some way and to some extent pave the way to great changes - ending wars, breaking down authoritarian regimes, etc, but in China the Tiananmen Square protests led to nothing.

It could have been an image of great hope, but despite the strength of the person facing the tanks and the worldwide impact of the photograph, it seems to me to be the image of a heroic defeat.

I thought o that photo recently, while going through lines, after lines, after lines o bizarre security/customs/god-know-what checks in the Pudong airport in Shanghai recently.

I was laughing nervously when I realized I simply couldn't access Google (which I wanted to use to find places of interest near me in the city) or Facebook (to post some photos o the Bund at night).

Even as someone who grew up in the Soviet Union in the 80s, current China surprised me in an extremely unpleasant way. I was pretty much shocked by the rigid authoritarian atmosphere.

Of course I didn't expect the society with a level of freedom close to Netherlands or Canada, but seriously it was much worse than I expected.

It seems to me that the Tank Man in the end couldn't get in the way of the government machine. It might have not rolled over him, but ignored him completely.

And even the image, as famous as it was in a day now seems to be almost forgotten.

My reply

I think this image has such depth, it is showing war in a way you wouldn't usually see. There is almost a calmness to the image yet still showing forthcoming destruction. The way the person with a bag is stood in front of the tanks is very powerful, almost suggesting that they will stop at nothing to get to there destination. It almost dehumanises the person and instead they are a representation of everything at that time, the landscape the tank itself but most importantly a passively aggressive stance on war as a whole. The way the little man is forgotten on the false promise of a better future for the masses. The way the person is slightly turing to the left facing the dark park of the image also has a strong conniption with a heaven and hell paradigm, walking from the bright white safety of the right hand side of the image to an unknowing future of the shadow. This image would have great global impact without much contextual reference. But I do still feel that for the image to be unstop on a global scale, people would have to have at least seen or heard about a tank and its destructive powers. Even though there is war all over the world, there would still by places this image would get lost in translation.


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