A number of my Facebook friends have been
showing their age reminiscing about the past and posting pictures of Captain Kangaroo and those swirly plastic inserts from 45 rpm singles as a way to show how incredibly old we they are... :-) Of course I remember those things, but I got to thinking about the images that stick out in my mind as defining the world during my childhood.
The picture of Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the body of one of the victims of the Ohio National Guard at Kent State.
A Vietnamese girl running and crying trying to escape the napalm flames that had already burned her clothes off her body.
Burning school buses and protests in South Boston and Louisville after court-ordered desegregation (proving that the deep South didn't have a corner on bigotry)
A "Whites Only" sign over a drinking fountain
Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald
People lining stairs to the top of an apartment building in Saigon to be airlifted out ahead of the fall of the city
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.s companions pointing from the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis to where they thought the shot came from
Most of those you can visualize as well because they were still images that everyone saw. Think about the power of that. I didn't include the images themselves here because I didn't have to - I'm fairly certain that any of you that are at least 45 years old will know exactly which images I'm talking about, even if you see them again and realize you don't remember them quite accurately. While that's not the type of photography I do, I have no doubt that it is the impact of still images like that are what inspired (and inspire) me to take my own.
I don't want this to make it sound like I only remember the trauma of the 60s and 70s from my childhood. I'll add the following that have a similar impact, although oddly most of these I remember as moving images rather than still:
The last appearance of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in '65 (I can't swear that I remember the first one)
Anchors smoking like chimneys on the evening news
The 'simulations' that CBS used to run during the Apollo missions and of course the actual images of the
soundstage in the Arizona desert moonwalks and the splashdowns.
Joe Willie limping off the field victorious after Super Bowl III (I was never a fan of him or the Jets, but damn...)
And of course Captain Kangaroo and "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Gunsmoke" and "The Wonderful World of Disney" and "The Wide World of Sports" and all the other stuff that we all watched separately together since we only had 2 or 3 choices of programming.
But in this age of a video camera in every phone and YouTube becoming the repository of our shared visual experience, it is still possible to create iconic still images - the forking smoke plumes of the Challenger disaster, the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Maybe it's just the way I'm wired, but the right single image hits me much more strongly than 10,000 frames of video and I suspect it always will.