Ex. 3.3: ‘Late photography’

1. I read the essay, ‘Safety in Numbness’ by David Campany.

Campany begins by referencing the media coverage in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. ‘Reflections of Ground Zero’ is of particular note- a documentary following the photographer Joel Meyerowitz (the only one granted full access to the site and the ongoing operations). Campany sees the “slow and deliberating” programme as suggesting that the still image is the better form of media for historical documentation than film.

Peter Wollen has considered events to be either ‘hot’ or ‘cool’. ‘The former to mark the drama of the event, and the latter a more forensic, sombre time that follows. Campany surmises that this trend towards ‘late’ photography sees the medium become “undertaker, summariser or accountant.”

The frozen image is often used as a simple signifier of the memorable” but can also be “an obstacle that blocks access to the understanding of the past.

A still image is still seen as “more memorable than those that move”, being used nostalgically in hope that it is still meaningful and impactful. In this way, photography has a “special status” in the era of the moving image. Campany goes on to say that “photography is the aftermath of contemporary culture” and that it’s power is waning. More and more, the moving image is present in the media, and photography will capture a scene after the event.


2. I took a look at some of Joel Meyerowitz’s photographs from his collection, ‘Aftermath: World Trade Centre Archive’ (2006).

Not having considered it before, I’ve found myself appreciating ‘late’ photography. It is true that photography is no longer the desired medium for the rolling-news generation, but I find interest in the niche that it has found.

My personal memories are a little hard to define. As an 11-year-old boy when it happened, whilst I still understood the significance of the event, I wasn’t adult enough to actively follow and consider the true nature and meaning of 9/11.

My strongest memories of the media coverage are mainly the ‘larger’ scenes; the planes crashing into the towers, the avalanche of smoke and dust, the destroyed remains of the buildings. This memories are a stark contrast to the documentary photography of Meyerowitz who was far more ‘street-level’ during the aftermath. His photographs capture individuals and smaller, individual scenes far more than the ‘overall’ coverage by the television media.

Video is movement. Photography allows more considered thought. In my opinion, until picture quality like ‘4K’ is more widely adopted, a photograph will be more appropriate for detail than a video still.


David Campany. (No Date). Safety in Numbness: Some remarks on the problems of ‘Late Photography’. Available: http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/. Last accessed 27th Aug 2016.

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