This iconic photograph, known as “The Falling Man”, was taken on September 11th of 2001 by Richard Drew during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. While photographing a fashion show in New York City, Drew witnessed the first attack on the World Trade Center and received direction to leave his current assignment and document one of the most historic moments in modern American history. The image depicts an unknown man falling from the north tower after jumping from an open window, taking his own life. Drew took many other photos of the man falling from the tower, but this specific photograph, which has a chilling elegance to it, was chosen to be printed in the New York Times the day after the attacks and stirred up controversy amongst the millions of mourning Americans.
The photograph shows the unknown man falling almost perfectly in sync with the vertical lines of the north tower. The upside down positioning of the man and the vertical lines of the building’s architecture, which take up the whole background, are extremely strong features of this photograph because they give the viewer a feeling of a downward falling movement. The fact that the photo entertains this feeling is important because it can be argued that it symbolizes the falling of the towers, and the feeling that our nation was falling during this time. The lighting on the building is another powerful piece of this photograph because the light on the left side of the building is darker than the right. This contrast shows the unknown man falling perfectly between these two lightings which makes him the focal point of the photograph.
According to Susan Sontag, a photograph has the power create evidence to prove that a specific event occurred and give a memory of that event. This iconic photo will, without a doubt, be a large part of remembering the events of one of the most horrific terrorist attacks in history and will be embedded in the memories of Americans for years to come. Also, a photo can easily be used as a weapon in various ways. In an article written by Zach Webber, a current events blogger, Webber says, “Richard Drew, stirred up the feelings of millions by simply pointing his camera at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and pressing the capture, which may as well have been a trigger.”
This statement proves true because of the controversy that surrounded the photo during that time. People felt that the photo was disturbing and violated the man’s right of privacy as he embraced his death. After the photo was published, Drew was berated and scorned for taking the photo, so you can say Sontag’s claim proved true as the photo also acted as a weapon against him, as well.