Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ron Sachs: Stealth Agent for a Higher Power

A small but important contribution to the body of visual evidence of the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 was made by Ron Sachs, a freelancer whose work is handled by Corbis Sygma. A political insider of years standing, he's become something of a court portraitist during the recent administration, with apparently unlimited access to the powerful in Republican Washington. A name search at Corbis returns over 3000 of his potent news images, each expressing with clarity an emotion or truth worth a thousand words. His subjects must love him---they let him in big time.

And now, he can return the favor to us.

Sach's was one of several professionals producing work at the pentagon that morning, who also were in the Oval office that evening to photograph President Bush addressing the nation, and I hated him for his privileges.

Or so I thought. I began to realize that despite the bad company, Sach's wasn't fawning over subjects, he was telling an almost unbearable truth in nearly every picture. His glamorous shots taken each year of arrivals at the White House Correspondents' Dinners surely go to the wrong heads, but then his images of Sharon and Ozzie Osbourne arriving in 2002 skewered the event as well, revealing the celebratizing of journalists, instead of celebrating journalism, which is apparent now, if it wasn't then.

Sach's pictures of Chuck Burlingame's funeral are gravely beautiful but not hagiography. With his shots of the exclusively black orphans of Pentagon victims waiting to see the president at a 2002 memorial service, an actuarial truth about attack victims emerges.

Ron went along with the programs of the powerful, giving them the mirrors that made them look their best--—or so they thought-—-all the while collecting truth.

That explains this picture.

(On edit: Fuck Flickr. Flickr deleted my entire 3000 image 9/11 study account at the request of a government agency. Rot in hell, Yahoo. I found a copy on my hard drive.)

Ron Sachs, originally uploaded by stevenwarran.
11 Sep 2001, "Washington DC, United States --- In a terrorist attack, a hijacked plane flew into the Pentagon, tearing into the right side of the building. Part of the Pentagon later collapsed as a result of the damage. An injured person is transported out of the Pentagon in a makeshift ambulance following the attack. --- Photo by Ron Sachs/Corbis Sygma --- Image by © Ron Sachs/CNP/Corbis

Holes in the official story all stem from decisions necessary to focus the impact and direct the deaths, otherwise a 747 would have been used, and damn the torpedoes! A missile going in sideways below the level of the second floor of a poured concrete building meant even a paper dictionary on a wooden stand survived unscathed at the point of impact on a floor above, people did as well, I should think. You can map out the floor plan of recently reoccupied offices on the two lower floors yourself, to see the intention of any sacrificed.

The injuries storyboard was the hardest to produce that day, and various solutions were employed to create the arc of injuries one might expect from a plane attack. From the simple bad acting seen in pictures of the dusty and the traumatized, to the complete anonymity of the seriously injured and their care providers, just look at the 215-page Arlington County After-Action Report, alongside Rumsfeld's 139 page Responding in the Pentagon, to see the numbers not add up. A couple of staged medical vignettes produced a dozen or so necessary images that are corny and ill-fitting. The creation of a work product consisting of seven serious burns is a topic I'll save for later.

With less than 100 wounded, (Maj. Lincoln Leiber left the hospital AMA to get back to the action, (which was the wrong meme, dude,) the medical over-response depicted in the narrative record is an indictment of the truth. That Sach's took the Corbis image of a private vehicle being pressed into service to transport victims to hospital, while every other image records scores of ambulances and helicopters waiting empty, is evidence of his genius for getting the truth out, and either the grace of God or the utter stupidity of man.

With the distracted traffic cop, the casual-dress response, and the suburban atmosphere miles from the action, this image not only defeats the narrative, but gives Ozzie Osborn a hell of a good laugh.

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