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March 8, 2013

Your Turn: Break In This Area

I’m interested to offer this up as a Saturday “Your Turn.” Here’s at least five reasons why. It’s a wonderful illustration of how much more is going on in a photo then the caption offers up. …Thus, the guessing game. I love how it’s gendered, and how the windows beg a dialogue. (Though I’m not sure this woman is encouraging any such thing). To the extent newswire photography is embracing aesthetics and style, this is quite an entry. I’m also fascinated how this photo emulates a montage or something more screen-based and code-bound (in part, the view through a viewfinder), when it’s neither. Thoughts?

(photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters -via Time Lightbox Pictures of the Week. caption: March 7, 2013. An Afghan woman looks out from a helicopter window at the International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.)

  • Tony Hightower

    Considering 95% of the shot is basically of lifeless metal, this is a fantastic shot.

  • BooksAlive

    Having just watched Secretary of State John Kerry make the 2013 “International Women of Courage Awards,” the first going to an Afghan woman, I’m not inclined to be offended by this photo. The awardee joined the Afghan police, to the displeasure of her uncle, who reacted by breaking her nose. She is still in line to become an officer. Five winners were in attendance, two awards were in absentia, and one was posthumous.

    • Michael Shaw

      Strange about the text on the helo and that broken nose.

  • Scarabus

    Design 101, right? Visual patterns convey one level of meaning, independent of the subject being depicted; the subject, narrative, semantic freight convey a different level of meaning; the interaction of the two creates the overall meaning of the image.

    A civilian woman in a military helicopter, looking at us with what I read as a combination of anxiety and defiance. (On her way to refuge? to jail?) A military helicopter with a gun in firing position poking out of a portal. 590? “Break in this area,” seeming to refer to the woman as well as the machine. How are they related, both intrinsically and with reference to context (as BooksAlive notes)?

    An implied yellow rectangle; a second implied rectangle (skewed into a trapezoid) defined by the two windows, the zero, and the fixture; a third implied rectangle defined by the two round windows and the zero — a cross between a circle and a rectangle.

    The implied geometry of the design suggests order; the gun suggests the breakdown of order; the woman suggests a populace caught between the two. The label says, “Break in this area,” and that’s what the invasions have done: They’ve broken an area that now includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and continues to expand.

  • Minor Heretic

    I believe that the “break” stencil means that in the event of a crash that blocks the doors of the aircraft, that section is safe for rescuers to break through. So the woman is sitting behind a sign that says, essentially, “this aircraft is subject to such a high risk of crashing and catastrophic failure that it made sense to designate a break-in area.”

    The woman seems like a fragile bit of flesh in a war machine of steel, a machine that offers the illusion of safety. But then the machine subverts its own illusion of safety with the “break” stencil.

  • BooksAlive

    Gosh, I hadn’t even connected the broken nose (which thankfully did not disfigure her from what I saw) with the “break” wording here. What impressed me was the woman’s staid composure, her story of determination to succeed in becoming Afghanistan’s first female police officer and her surprisingly small stature when standing next to Michelle Obama, who towered over her. In fact, all eight winners were defiant in their own countries, as Scarabus observes above.

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