Sunday, January 14, 2007

Will Morris, The Washington Post & The Devil Wears Prada

Two photographs from the Washington Post Series, America Under Attack: The Pentagon are of special interest. Both are credited to the Associated Press photographer Will Morris. The first shows a badly burned and injured man being loaded into an ambulance. The man's shirt is off, and to avoid pain, he holds his hands above him. It appears he has lost a leg, and in second, less well known image, it also appears the leg is missing. Apparently, the storyboard intended this to be Lt. Cpl.Brian Birdwell, but he didn't lose his leg and this isn't him. That burned hero went by private car to be the only patient at Georgetown University Hospital. Another AP photographer, Hillery Smith Garrison also took a picture of this unnamed man being loaded onto the ambulance, but her result is only noteworthy for its lack of newsworthiness. Her other work from that morning is equally odd. Neither of them got any names.

"An injured person is loaded into an ambulance outside the Pentagon. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) placed the casualty total at roughly 100, though it was unclear whether that number included wounded as well as dead."

The accompanying caption displays some skepticism on the part of Post editors. Skelton's estimate, published in the Post on September 11, turns out to be the accurate count of the injured, if a liberal definition, like walk-in, or Left Against Medical Advice, is applied. More widely quoted in the first days was the "official" estimate of 100 to 800, although it is difficult to see how such a wide range could have been imagined given so few employees had returned to work in the area.

A score of images are credited to Morris working for the AP, in a variety that indicates Morris enjoyed wide latitude of movement in the important first hour after the attack on 9-11.

Morris took what may be the most widely distributed image, an iconic close-up of the facade as flames leap from windows, and a car burns.

A second version of the shot was published in The New York Times, with a long, oblique view, before the Pentagon facade fell.

The burning element midway in the NYT long shot, is just that, an element. A rectangular metal holder for propane tanks, as shown in this image.

A photographer dressed in white can be picked out at the extreme left in the following image.

Blowing up the image makes it clear the man is animatedly taking pictures. He is closely paired, it seems, with someone in fireman's turnout gear. Another fireman is nearby but walks away. No one seems concerned with putting out the car fire.

Who is the close-in photographer taking shots aimed in the same point-of-view as the Morris images? Is it Morris? Does it actually need to be Morris in order for photo credit to be attributed to him? Does Will Morris have a recognizable style of action news photography? Does the body of work attributed to him from that morning conform or diverge from his style? Does such privileged access, either of Morris, if this be him, or by him as evidenced in his record, strike any of his professional colleagues or peers as odd, incriminating, or unethical? Where is the fire in the second-story windows?

Is the photographer wearing white specifically so that he can be spotted? Would that be so directions blocking his movement could quickly be given from afar, or so that he can be picked out in an image for rejection, this one being a fluke? Was image manipulation as generally well understood in 2001, as it is today? Couldn't this man's pose of animation have been taught to the rest of the lumpen Pentagon cast that day? Should I qualify these questions as stemming from my opinion? Then, let me say, in my opinion, why else would the devil wear white after Labor Day?

January 15, 2007 An Addendum:

I'm so easy to please anymore.

After dicking around with images as small as 25KB, because that's all I knew, to suddenly click on a 25,000KB whopper is an eye-opening experience. And when it's of a man whom you've just labeled the devil, it'll make those eyes roll back in your head

Because there are at least two areas where size does count--helicopters, and image files--big ones of either can be found at the Department of Defense This image was found here, at this DoD web page where you'll be able to download the high-resolution version, but that's it--a dead end, with no links.

Where is that water going?

I've taken the liberty of cropping several copies and blowing up areas of interest.
I was wrong about none of the images showing fireman really working--these guys are going to town.

010911-M-4122I-039, originally uploaded by stevenwarran.

But I was right about the propane tanks.

010911-M-4122I-039, originally uploaded by stevenwarran.

So, the big question: is this Will Morris of the Associated Press or not?

I wouldn't put it past the devil to have a cheap die job, so don't let a disguise fool you.

If it is Will Morris, what are the implications?

For now, there's 3000 more big images where this one came from.

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