Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Falling Man by Tom Junod: Esquire: September 2003

An old, but absolutely luminous, article by Tom Junod about this photograph by Richard Drew, from September 11, 2001.

In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity's divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet. In all the other pictures, the people who did what he did—who jumped—appear to be struggling against horrific discrepancies of scale. They are made puny by the backdrop of the towers, which loom like colossi, and then by the event itself. Some of them are shirtless; their shoes fly off as they flail and fall; they look confused, as though trying to swim down the side of a mountain. The man in the picture, by contrast, is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else—something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man's posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is, fifteen seconds past 9:41 a.m. EST, the moment the picture is taken, in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.
Read the complete article.

Update:  Esquire has placed the Falling Man by Tom Junod behind a paywall:

A fundraiser for the James Foley Scholarship Fund  
Tom Junod’s “The Falling Man” has been read by nearly 20 million people since we first published it in September 2003. It’s the story behind a single image from September 11th that struck such a raw and terrifying nerve that it was almost immediately banished from public view. It came immediately to mind when photos and video of James Foley’s beheading by ISIS began circling the globe, followed two weeks later by the devastating video of Steven Sotloff’s murder. We wondered whether there was something we could do to honor their courage as journalists. And that’s when we came back to those 20 million readers. 
We’ve teamed up with Creatavist and Tinypass on a fundraiser to sell a re-issue of “The Falling Man,” with a new introduction about James Foley. All revenue will go to the James Foley Scholarship Fund at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. Our audacious goal is to raise $200,000, enough to cover a full four-year scholarship. We may fail miserably, or we might surprise ourselves. Either way, we hope you’ll help.  
–David Granger, Editor in Chief 


It goes on and it doesn't stop.

By Tom Junod on December 18, 2014

He is, of course, upside down. He is wearing a white jacket and black pants; one of his knees is bent, and his arms are by his side. His long body is bracketed by the uprights of the steel exoskeleton of the World Trade Center, and just seconds away from dying he looks eerily composed. The man falling is the Falling Man, instantly recognizable as the subject of Richard Drew’s iconographic 9/11 photo even when he’s incorporated into an editorial cartoon that ran yesterday in the New York Post. 
There is one major difference between the graphic elements of the photograph and the cartoon, however. In the photograph, as in life, the Falling Man was terribly, unforgettably alone. In Michael Ramirez’s cartoon, he is being interviewed. As the Falling Man falls, a reporter—also falling—is sticking a microphone in his face, and asking “What do you think about enhanced interrogation?” Read the complete article.

More articles by Tom Junod
The Best {And Worst} of Tom Junod by Amy Burgess

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