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Thursday, July 14, 2016


Another amusing item coming out of this recent picture is that people are apparently misremembering their icons. I am nearly certain that these young media guys flogging the THIS IS THE ICONIC PICTURE OF #BLM!!!11!!1!! narrative are vaguely remembering this picture by Bernie Boston:

And lazily googling around a bit until they come up with this picture from Marc Riboud:

And now that enough of them have done this, the circle is complete. The latter picture, which I have I am pretty sure never seen or heard of, and which these people most likely also never have, is supposedly the "iconic" one, rather than the first one, which is probably the one they actually sort of half recall, and which is (or at any rate was) most definitely iconic.

Lewis Bush over at Disphotic most definitely makes this error, pointing us to a youtube video of some sequence from a contemporary movie which is clearly a quote not of the Riboud picture but of the Boston picture (but he identifies it as a quote of Riboud). Even better, if you poke around you come across at least one still from the movie offered up as comparisons with the new photo from Baton Rouge. Again, I think people are half-recalling Bernie Boston's picture, lazily googling around, and coming up with another wrong picture.

Of course, now that the careless twenty-somethings running the asylum have declared the Riboud picture the "iconic" one, it actually is.

Not sure what to make of this, but this kind of sloppy visual memory coupled with modern web search seems to be doing something to our visual culture. It's making it, I suppose, somehow more plastic, more changeable. We are actually watching one photograph's position in the zeitgeist get replaced by another one, or by several. That's interesting. I may have more to say about this, anon.


  1. "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend"...
    (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962)

  2. Please don't ever use the word 'zietgeist' again in you writing. It has been overused by slacktivist individuals such as yourself and normcore as kale chips.

    That said, both of these photos were widely seen and recognized as significant photo-journalism in their day. Neither completely described the power of the emotions associated with these events. Hence the need of journalists to write about the entire stories of the day.

    Photos alone can never tell or describe a story.

    1. Thanks for your contributions, it's good information. Obviously the fact that I have no memory of Riboud's picture is not definitive, it's valuable to know that it is a well known picture.

      The business about writing the complete story, well, you, me, and Susan Sontag all agree, so I think we're on pretty solid ground. Nice to know.

      And for accusing me of being a slacktivist: fuck you.

  3. Forgot to say: Riboud's picture got a lot of traction with us older folk as it was used on the cover of the Penguin edition of Norman Mailer's "Armies of the Night".