Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Three iconic images

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I suppose that makes a gif worth a million, amirite? hahaha. BTW who is 'they', this mysterious cabal that seems to issue pithy one-liners and aphorisms at an alarmingly regular frequency? If you happen to know 'them', please introduce me. I would be delighted.

Anyway back to regularly scheduled programming here.

I've been thinking about the topic of iconic images for a while (well for almost two years, I suppose, considering my last post was in Febru-frickin-ary 2014).

I've chosen three here representing different eras and ideas. These are images that capture your attention, give you goosebumps, make you contemplate your mortality and your place in the Grand Universe, and maybe even cause a tear or two.

In no particular order then:

'Pillars of creation' by NASA
If you squint hard enough you can spot a wolf hidden in there! Or maybe that's just me hallucinating again

This breathtaking image is actually a composite of several images (with added color and some other technical enhancements) taken by the beloved Hubble telescope some time in the 90s. The image proved to be so popular NASA published an updated version several years later after upgrading the Hubble.

So what's going on here? We are looking at the essence of creation. This is the Eagle Nebula, the birthplace of stars, located approximately 7000 light years from us. The clouds are composed mostly of molecular Hydrogen and interstellar dust. To get a sense of the scale, each pillar is approximately 4 light years across (!!) and just the tips of these pillars are larger than our solar system.

I get legit goosebumps when I look at this image but instead of feeling insignificant I feel a renewed sense of purpose and legit pride at being able to glimpse at something so profound.

'Raising a flag over the Reichstag' by Yevgeny Khaldei 
Careful there buddy, don't trip over

Taken on May 2,1945 as the war was about to end, this is easily one of the top three most iconic images to come out of WWII. The Eastern Front was, and remains, the bloodiest battlefield in human history. 30+ million people lost their lives on both sides. So in terms of sheer symbolism it's hard to top this:the lone Soviet soldier nobly protecting the Fatherland by driving his flag right through the heart of the might Reich.

But as with all things Soviet there is an interesting backstory to this one. There are conflicting accounts of almost every aspect of the image including the identity of the soldier and even the photographer himself. There is even some speculation that the image was airbrushed to remove a second wrist watch (stolen from a German corpse) on the soldier's hand.

Despite all of that this remains a powerful and evocative image, simultaneously juxtaposing carnage and ruin with solemn triumph.

'First selfie in space' by Buzz Aldrin
Shoulda used a sepia filter

Selfies are all the rage today, and are generally seen as a public nuisance. I get bile up to my throat at the mere mention of the words 'selfie stick'. But this here, this is different. It's got my man Buzz Aldrin, professional badass and part-time moonwalker. Here he is, half-shrouded in shadows, proudly grinning (at least we assume he is, because we can't really see his mouth) outside the Gemini 12 in 1966, all in front of a stunning backdrop in the form of the earth. 

Aldrin himself tweeted this image out, which; a) shows how hip he is and b) how badass he is. End of story. 

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