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October 9, 2005

Breaking News/Pakistan Earthquake


I was struck by the face of this man looking back at this destruction.  Just before calling it a night (or morning), I found out about the tremendous earthquake in South Asia.  I anticipate much quiet speculation about what these times must have in store for us, and how we must surely occupy a more tenuous relationship with nature than ever before.  I doubt these times are any more extraordinary — save for the virtue that we happen to be living in them. 

More specifically, it is interesting how this image focuses not on the disaster itself, but on the reaction to it.  With the amount of devastation staring us in the face these days, it is no wonder the responders — and, particularly, our leaders — are on the spot.

(revised: 10/9/05 9am PST)

(image: Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency. Lahore, Pakistan.  October 9, 2005.

  • mugatea

    It seems like he is looking back at the people in the foreground, including the photographer, and thinking that the structure above them is unsafe. – Like he can see what’s above them and they have no idea.
    The earth was quite active this past week.
    When we take oil from within the earth, what do we replace it with?

  • readytoblowagasket

    I heard on NPR this morning that Bush (formerly “the U.S.”) has pledged $100,000 in aid to the region. That’s what, $5 per victim?

  • Marysz

    According to, in northern Pakistan: “Thousands were injured, mostly women and children who were in their homes at the time of the disaster while their men worked in the open. Almost every second woman or child bore an injury.” In the photo here, we see only men and boys—the women and young children are still hidden–dead or injured. The man in the photo holds a what looks like a notebook. He could be a bureaucrat who needs to file a “report” on the wreckage. He’s so sadly ineffectual and he knows it. He could be looking at the boys in the foreground and worrying about the debris collapsing around them if there’s an aftershock. Or he could be looking at the photographer. They are dual spectators in this scene of devastation.

  • PTate in MN

    marysz:“They are dual spectators in this scene of devastation.”
    Nicely observed. I also see that the man who is looking back is speaking directly to us, the viewer. He is saying, “Come here, now, out in the open. We need help here.”

  • Ben Hyde

    the viewer joins the boys in a bit of disaster voyerism

  • 4-fold

    Yet another wave of misery and destruction, this week’s catastrophe. The photo positions me inside a collapsed tangle of steel and structure, as if I was among the buried children and women, barely alive for a few more moments, looking out through a heart-shaped hole in the universe at my father or my brother as he knows not what to do, paralyzed in his anguish. The photo positions all of us to accept a heavy burden of complex identity. I-am-that-I-am, not just here as an isolated viewing subject, but there. I am that child, that woman, that man.

  • ummabdulla

    It’s kind of a heart shape that frames the man.

  • Chris

    I guess I’m just a sick old man, but all I could think was, “He’s trying to decide if he should have the photographer removed, and film destroyed”. Anyway, it seems to me that is attention is totally focused on the camera. Dunno why.

  • DaveMc

    No Chris, In a natural disaster, removing photographers at gunpoint and destroying film footage is the kind of thing that happens only in places like New Orleans.

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