Oklahoma tornado: the end of a world is in Ledonna Cobb’s eyes | Jonathan Jones

please note this post is not by Jay Clapp Photography but from the photography news at the guardian for your viewing pleasure please feel free to use the share buttons at the bottom.

This picture of ordinary people surviving catastrophe calls out as a warning of strange, terrible things happening to planet Earth

What makes a particular photograph “iconic”? That word is already being used of this picture of a family group stumbling away from the wreckage of Briarwood elementary school after the Oklahoma tornado struck it.

The Greek word ikon means in the first instance any picture; but it also means the religious images venerated by Orthodox Christianity. So an iconic photograph is presumably one that inspires awe and carries a quasi-religious quality of importance, beauty, emotion, history. The Marxist thinker Walter Benjamin said that in the photographic age, works of art lose their “aura” or magic. But the prevalent use of the word “iconic” recognises that some photographs are after all magical.

Since this photograph hit the world press on Tuesday, reporters have traced the people in it. They have appeared on television and told their story. Ledonna Cobb is a teacher at the school whose ruins fill the background of the picture, and she risked her life to shield children as the school was torn apart. All the children at this school survived and her heroism helped. As she and her husband left the devasted scene – the moment of the picture – with two children, one theirs, the other one of Ledonna’s pupils, Steve Cobb nursed and cuddled their daughter, Jordan, as he has explained, to try and be a good father and make her feel safe.

So that’s the story behind this picture. But the reason it is iconic is that it also tells other stories. You do not need to know the names of the family or their terrible adventure in the tornado to find it deeply arresting and moving. Coming across it in a newspaper I found that I stopped and pondered. It took me out of the workaday world painted by the words around it. Perhaps the reason a news photograph becomes iconic is that it swamps the rational, detailed, yet often ephemeral reality of journalism with something more universal, passionate and human – the grandeur of a sudden tragic insight into what the human condition really is.

This picture, if you don’t know the context, looks like the end of the world. Martians might have wiped out half of humanity, or the Gulf stream gone into overdrive (perhaps it has …). No Hollywood blockbuster has ever created such a convincing image of survivors in an apocalyptic meltdown of ordinary life – because this is real. These people really have just endured the end of a world.

In the background children who have narrowly escaped death in the school we see in ruins hang about waiting for their own parents. They almost look like they might be about to start playing, or laughing about it all. Because they are children. But really they need comfort, like Jordan Cobb in her father’s arms.

Is this picture iconic in the end because it shows what appears to be the American suburban nuclear family surviving catastrophe, with gender roles reinforced and nature defeated by family values? No. It is iconic because the people in it are so ordinary and appealing and we are driven to imagine what we might do in the same extremes. It calls out as a warning, another one, about the strange things happening to planet Earth. Like survivors on the road out of Pompeii, the people in this picture have just seen a force that makes human effort pitiable, and this knowledge is in their eyes.

guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

via Art and design: Photography | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/22/oklahoma-tornado-end-world-ledonna-cobb Jonathan Jones Thanks for reading Jay

About jayclappphotography

Professional photographer running http://www.jayclappphotography.co.uk Feel free to comment and discuss photos

Posted on May 23, 2013, in Photography News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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