I received not so much as a “thanks for your interest but you suck” in reply (and really it’s not like they’d even have to waste a stamp on me or anything). If it weren’t for the fact that May was the Month of No Brain for me, I would have sent a few follow-up emails, but that’s hard to do without a computer so I just waited some more.
Anyway, here’s my essay. I’ll continue the story after you’ve had a chance to read it.
Ready, aim . . .
by Julie Q.
by Julie Q.
When I encountered this photo in a book about the Spanish Civil War, I immediately thought of another Spanish firing squad: the one from Goya’s Execution of the Madrilenos on May 3, 1808.
It was the soldiers’ legs that first caught my eye – the way they create a row of receding triangles in both images. Along with the synchronized legs, the obscured faces of the executioners and the perfectly horizontal line of the guns aligned together as a single weapon leave an impression of machinelike efficiency. And isn’t that the aim (pardon the pun) of a firing squad? Like other forms of execution – the guillotine, the electric chair, the lethal injection – the firing squad was meant to eliminate individual culpability and dehumanize the process. But also in both scenes, the precision of the squad merely accentuates the humanity of their target. We are bound to sympathize with the man in white as he awaits his fate.
Another striking similarity is the way both images record a torturous moment that has already occurred and at the same time has yet to occur. Both capture the pregnant pause before the execution. As witnesses after the fact we are keenly aware that the shots will be fired / have been fired, but we can do nothing to intervene.
The man in the white shirt shows up again during the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 (seen here in the famous photo taken by Jeff Widener). The four faceless executioners have been upgraded to tanks; their absurd show of force against the lone figure strikes me as overkill in the literal sense of the word. Of course “tank man” (as he was later dubbed) walked away intact, but it’s the loaded moment here that we remember.
Okay, so maybe it’s not a Pulitzer prize winner or even a Convergence Pseudo-contest winner, but I thought it was interesting enough to waste a day composing it.
Today, thinking I should finally send a follow-up email asking if they liked it or not, I checked the Convergences Contest website and found THIS.
Holy crap. What do you think? Have I been done a serious injustice or it just the most profound coincidence in the history of the internet?