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December 21, 2011

Our Favorite Photo from 2011

Because this photo — taken in Tokyo immediately after the massive earthquake in March — could as much be a view of Lower Manhattan on 9/11, the image is an anxious reflection not just on the past year, but the last decade. Despite 2011 marking the end of both Osama bin Laden and the Iraq War, what the picture reflects is that the fear of impending doom remains as vivid as ever.

There is further chemistry, however, in opposite aspects of the photo. On the one hand, like so many other tsunami-aftermath pictures, the photo gives the Japanese and the world still another opportunity to visualize and absorb what happened last March. At the same time, it’s as much an illusion given how Fukushima — the historic contamination, as well as the industrial and political cover-up — are catastrophes we hardly have pictures of.

(photo: Xinhua via Getty Images caption: Two men look at smoke rising over the Tokyo skyline after the earthquake struck. via: MSNBC slideshow.)

  • Michael

    The figures are off balance, nervous, seeking, and the fact that they are nearly in silhouette takes the image to another plane of suggestiveness, as though they were icons for the experience of anxiety. The black shapes which connect them to the world beyond the picture plane are obscured, obscuring, disquieting in themselves. Without those blobs the image would be weak. With them, it is very worrying.

  • Thomas

    Great selection. The image also sort of mirrors the desk-bound anxiety we viewers experience right here, craning at the glass of the monitor to get a sense of proportion on catastrophes that seem simultaneously distant and alarmingly near.

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