Falling Man

The Time of Trauma, the Time of (Certain) Images

In: Research in Phenomenology
Author: Mauro Carbone1
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  • 1 Institut Universitaire de France/Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
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Undoubtedly, the tragedy of September 11, 2001 has been an unprecedented visual event. And yet, as was pointed out by an article published in Esquire in 2003, “in the most photographed and videotaped day in the history of the world, the images of people jumping were the only images that became, by consensus, taboo.” This taboo looks like the other side of what Allen Feldman calls a “temporal therapy”: “the audience was being given temporal therapy by witnessing a mechanical sequence of events, over and over, which restored the linearity of time, which had been suspended with the assaults.” Still, images like the photograph that is well-known under the title of “Falling Man” could be, thanks to their peculiar temporality, a good antidote against this “temporal therapy,” which aims at the formation of a specific “collective memory, and therefore of collective forgetfulness.” On top of a study on this kind of pictures, this paper will take into account the late Merleau-Ponty’s idea of a mutual precession of reality and images as a useful tool for understanding the peculiar temporality of such pictures.

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