The Boston Photograph’s scare explicitly redefines literature

Subject: Media
Pages: 5
Word count: 1262
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A picture tells more than a thousand words – you must have heard this line severally even so did its meaning really sink deep down? Glad if it did, but worry not if it did not, here is the substance of what it points out to. Ideally, a picture has the capacity to convey an unbiased message in details to both an illiterate to literate audience where the content remains informative. The Boston Photographs article by Ephron Nora tells of the tragic incidence involving a woman and her child captioned in sensitive imagery. Stanely Forman is the photojournalist who took the pictures but the same was reproduced by Chris Anderson and Lex Runciman.

The three pictures to be precise are both heart wrenching and decry of desperation capturing the agonizing last breathe in an unfortunate accident. The first picture depletes a needy situation of fire escape; a fireman with a firm grip on a woman who is similarly holding a child. The fireman is seen struggling to steer the woman to safety as the rescue ladder repositions rendering it to be of little use. Evidently, this is a matter of life and death. The picture powerfully captures this horrifying moments.

In the second caption, everything falls apart – this will cause you to pant. The woman looses grip coincidentally the firearm has now held the ladder but unfortunately both the woman and her child fall, woman first. The final imagery is of the woman and the child falling into the ground but midair. Sadly, although not captured in Forman’s pictures, the woman passes on impromptu but the child survives after safely landing on her mother’s remains.

Despite the unpleasant outcomes, Ephron manages to achieve the primary purpose in photojournalism which is to enhance the story and generate news as anticipated.  “Most newspaper editors anticipate some reader reaction to photographs like Forman’s; even so, the response around the country was enormous, and almost all of it was negative. I have read hundreds of the letters that were printed in letters -to-the-editor sections…” and just to prove the mass readership, “The Seattle Times received sixty letters and calls; its managing editor even got a couple of them at home.” (Ephron 3)

Although the consumer may doom the photographs as sensitive or needed censorship, this does not deprive them of a great impact and consequently a great curious audience. The stand alone fact is that the picture captures the timely scene; obviously what people want to know about and therefore viewership. In fact, Ephron points out that, “More than four hundred newspapers in the United States alone carried the photographs: the tear sheets from overseas are still coming in. The New York Times ran them on the first page of its second section; a paper in South Georgia gave them nineteen columns; the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and the Washington Star filled almost half their front pages, the Star under a somewhat redundant headline that read: SENSATIONAL PHOTOS OF RESCUE ATTEMPT THAT FAILED”(Ephron 2).

Tactfully, Ephron (1) manages to capture attention by creating an emotional connection with the audience through imagery. She narrated the ordeal clearly triggering our imagination making us connect with the actual tragedy. In fact, I somewhat could visualize the whole thing as if it happened in my vicinity. First, we find her optimistic of a good rescue shot, and then things haphazardly change. She explains, “The fireman had a nice strong jaw and looked very brave. The woman was holding the child. Smoke was pouring from the building behind them. A rescue ladder was approaching, just a few feet away, and the fireman had one arm around the woman and one arm reaching out toward the ladder.” For the sake of reason and understanding, who won’t in person put this into imagination (Ephron 2)

Photojournalism fundamentally is about information conveyance in an accurate manner. The Boston Photographs meets this threshold. The expository position of the article is that it is simple, hits the nail head on, makes us familiarize with the incident and is able to spark an interest. Ephron explains the fire escape environs in a concise yet comprehensive text. She begins by telling us what is in the mind of photographer; possibly making a heroic shot, the struggle to make a perfect shot, the moments themselves and the public uproar regarding the same.

In just three simple spectacular photographs, we are made to know the circumstances surrounding the failed rescue attempt. Well, this reaffirms the statement I premiered with that a picture can tell a thousand words. Isn’t it interesting how three pictures get media attention from New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post to Washington Star just to mention but a few dominant media outlets at the time? Mainstream coverage is not an ABC thing, but of mind-blowing content alongside intriguing photographs like those of the Boston Fire Rescue.

The structure and organization of the Boston Photography article by Ephron is notably a good piece of literature. In cognition to the literature demand, the piece matches and aligns all the facts. Sentence flow, grammar, and interesting narration, content to precision and proper organization of the article. The author’s choice of genre, tones and point of view is understood by the audience and serves the purpose and the thesis right.

Ephron’s organization of the essay cannot be ignored. She grabs the attention of the audience, redirecting them to a central subject and then begins pouring out the ordeal. His introductory remarks are, “I made all kinds of pictures because I thought it would be a good rescue shot over the ladder . . . never dream it would be anything else.. . .I keep having to move around because of the light set. The sky was bright and they were in deep shadow. I was making pictures with a motor drive…”(Ephron 1). This leaves us all curious of what came after. Driven by this inquisitiveness, we read on (Ephron 1).

The body of the essay is a response to all the what, why, where, when, how and who questions we may have following the intriguing introduction. Therein, Ephron manages to tell us of the Fire Escape from how things took off to the unfortunate end of it all. She keenly incorporates all the details in an interesting way including the negative uproar and affirmative responses publishing the uncensored pictures.

The closure comes in handy with his personal feel and opinion in summary. “It is not news in Washington, or New York, or Los Angeles that a woman was killed in a Boston fire. The only newsworthy thing about the pictures is that they were taken. They deserve to be printed because they are great pictures, breathtaking pictures of something that happened. That they disturb readers is exactly as it should be: that’s why photojournalism is often more powerful than written journalism.”(Ephron 4) Ephron’s opinion is expressed both in words and in-text tones. She also provides a lesson; essence of photojournalism and it objectivity.

Photojournalism heavily lies on content. Not all pictures attract reader’s attention but only those that relate with them especially of victory or agony/pain. The Boston Photographs article although having a sensational subject had a great impact in commanding a huge number of readers. This merits the article’s widespread readership; desisting from negativity –  the shot ought to have been a good rescue shot not one of death as out of control came to be.

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  1. Ephron, Nora. “The Boston photographs.” Convergences (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin, 1975.
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