On Courage & Tiananmen

Today, June 5th, is the anniversary of the Tank Man photo on Tiananmen Square. That got me thinking about life since that fateful day in 1989, the places I've visited and, ultimately, the miracles I take for granted.

Four years ago, I wrote about that image (PS, that link points to some really cool stories behind the Tank Man photo) and two summers ago, at about this time (how could I not have put two and two together?), I had the opportunity to stand just yards from the spot that drew the gaze of the planet back in 1989. As I reflected on the 24 years between Tank Man and today, I'm struck by a single thought: miraculous.

This image has stood as a reminder of the harsh reality that the world we live in is a lonely place for the courageous. Courage is a miracle. But miracles are transformative — just look where the courage of 1 in 1,000,000,000,000 has taken the people of China. In just 24 years this scene has rippled through the collective conscious of the globe, and today Tiananmen Square looks more like this:

A girl and her mother fly a kite in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. July, 2011.

A girl and her mother fly a kite in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. July, 2011.

Ponder that and be amazed. Then, go, and be courageous, too.


My RSS feeds are many & varied... but one of my favorites is a new visual journalism blog that the New York Times runs called LENS. It's special for many reasons, like big images in a simple, unobtrusive design, a straightforward navigational structure that doesn't feel tired or boring and quality, original content like images from the Archives, they publish timely and striking photojournalism every day, showcase photographers, talk shop and on and on.

But, more than anything else, I think LENS is special because of the access it gives a viewer into the story behind the story. Take, for example, the story that came up Tuesday - Behind the Scenes: Tank Man of Tiananmen, which digs into the iconic image from the 1989 protest on Tiananmen Square in China. It happend on June 5th, 1989 - I was eleven years old, but the image was seared into my brain.

It may be the single most memorable image of my generation - and there are four versions. Who knew, right?

photo by Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

photo by Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

LENS takes you behind the scenes of one of recent histories most famous photographs and relates the story in the voice of the four men who shot the image - four photographers, four perspectives, four separate creative choices and four striking images. That's why it's one of my first stops every morning.

EDIT** Apparently the feature that ran Tuesday on LENS brought out a new, never before seen image of Tank Man shot by Terril Jones at street level. Jones' story shows that timing is everything in journalism and is a great example of how a single image can define a story and the result that has on other images.