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February 17, 2009

Your Turn: Recession Memorial

Laid Off Germans.JPG

The other day, we had a discussion here about Anthony Suau's World Press winning photo, and the merits and ethics of relating the housing meltdown to a war. Today, I'm interested in your reactions to this image. It shows the photos of laid off workers posted outside a German microchip plant. (Caption below.)

A few questions: Is this a memorial? How close a parallel is there between the posting of photos of recession "victims" and the public posting of the missing and dead following 9/11 or Mumbai? How effective is this image in the media sphere? And what (as opposed to who) is and isn't working for you here?

from : NYT Pictures of the Day, February 17

(image: Norbert Millauer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. caption: Two women looked at portraits of employees of the bankrupt German memory chip maker Qimonda fixed on a fence at the company's plant in Dresden, in eastern Germany, (The text near the portraits reads "Every workplace has a face.") Qimonda said a week ago that it will slash production and have to find a buyer by the end of March 2009 or else be forced to shut down)

  • Daoud Zadran, a middle-aged real estate broker

    “We don’t know for sure why they are doing it; politics is bigger than our thoughts…”

  • Michael

    The term Arbeitsplatz here means “position” or “job”, in the sense of a particular paid role in the company. So the translation might best read “every job has a face”, with the implication that “every lost job has a face”.
    Of course this can’t have the impact that memorial photo walls have, since the evidently living people in the photos are evidently still living. It might be better to view these against those photos of demonstrations in the GDR before the fall of the Wall. People held placards saying “We are the People”, with the implication to the government that “you rule in our name”. These were the famous Monday demonstrations, which happened especially in Leipzig but in many other places as well. Then, in 2004, new draconian social security measures were passed, sharply curtailing unemployment benefit, and the “Monday demonstrations” were revived, again with some placards saying “the people are us”, now with the slightly changed implication that the (now unified) German government, reigning in the name of the people still, was doing this to their own, albeit unemployed, citizen-individuals. Photos of these events, covering enough of the crowd to capture its mass and a variety of placards, but close enough to recognize the individuality of people, were widespread. So this is another expression of the point: we are many but not a mass, we are not nameless and faceless, we are not bureaucratic or financial details.
    As to how effective? Not so effective as the contrast living/dead, but effective enough, especially the closer you come to Dresden.

  • Gasho

    Every change is a death. Old moments die and new ones come into being. Leaving a job IS a kind of dying.
    We have to learn how to cope with the process of change, though, since we can’t stop it and all things are temporary and impermanent. It’s ok to mourn the loss of a job or a person, but expecting things to stay the same (keeping the same job or living forever) will result in failure and suffering.

  • flyingshark

    I have a slightly different take on it. Up near the town I live in in Vermont, there is an IBM chip factory in the town of Essex Junction. Two, three weeks ago there was a layoff there. No one knew who, or how many– IBM wouldn’t say– but it was less then 500, as it didn’t trigger a state notification law. But the people were gone. This is an impromptu way to let co-workers know, and make clear to the company, they can’t hide the loss.

  • Rima

    This is intriguing, and I’m curious about who is responsible for the photo display. Surely not the business itself. A union? An ad hoc employee organization? In the U.S., such a display would certainly be torn down by the business, or by the cops on its behalf. Trespassing and agitation, you know.

  • Ida

    Interesting point, flyingshark, in terms of the need for the memorial in a situation of lay offs to make the unseen seen. My first thought upon seeing this was not 9/11 but Argentina’s Dirty War. There too, photographs were posted in public on a wall to put faces to the disappeared, who were ignored and denied by the government and much of the public.

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