“The photo of the month … Now the world in an image”.
The photo of the month. Today I start a series of posts that I intend to publish on a monthly basis, through which I analyze and describe, not only, and obviously, from a technical point of view, the images that most marked the month.
Usually, as for months, August is the one dedicated to holidays and “closures”. On the contrary, I want to start my review right in August because, on this, and on a symbolic day of this month, a photograph was taken that went around the world and which, I’m sure, is destined to end up in books of history.
The image in question is that of an American war helicopter rescuing a handful of civilians barricaded on the roof of a building in Kabul, ready to escape forever from the capital of battered Afghanistan.
Kabul vs Saigon
In the post (and I state that this is not an original creation) I also thought of combining this image taken in Kabul on August 15th, with another image taken 46 years ago in Saigon, Vietnam. There, too, the subject was a group of soldiers or civilians (in the image it is not clear) who are desperately trying to get on what appears to be the last helicopter useful for escaping from Vietnamese hell.
Technically, both images don’t have much to say. It is clear that these are two professional creations for the general setting of the subjects, the centering and the choice of light; however, both are not technically perfect images, an imperfection evidently the result of haste and the dangerous environment in which they were taken.
Yet these two blurred images tell and will tell more than many books a piece of history and life.
History and life
Historically, the photo of Kabul marks the epilogue of the unsuccessful withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan ordered by the new President Biden. That of Saigon was another American retreat, that from Vietnam, at the end of a long and bloody war which was the subject of controversy even within US public opinion itself.
So far the historical aspect. But there is also an aspect that concerns some dynamics of life, of all of us, which is involuntarily depicted in these images. And it is the aspect that struck me the most. Perhaps looking at these images you will only see a helicopter and desperate people trying to get on it; someone sees the end of the war.
Thus I, on the other hand, see David and Goliath there. The tale of the little one who, against all odds, defeats the older one and forces him to a humiliating retreat. Do not take me for pro-Taliban, but I cannot fail to see in these images their revenge obtained certainly not with the infinitely inferior means of war compared to those used by the counterpart. It is a revenge based on resistance (20 of American bombings have not weakened them) and obviously also on the underground consideration of feeling on the right side of history. We Westerners will never admit it, but for them that is their land and that is the place to impose their rules, however absurd they may seem to us.
This photo teaches us that the deep convictions are still those that move the world, that determine it, for better or for worse. And that the great means, once again, are not necessarily synonymous with sure victory.
Sometimes, these great means, if devoid of the deep convictions mentioned above, are of little use, if not to guarantee a quick but undignified retreat.