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July 7, 2013

SFO Asiana Accident: The Power of David Eun's "I Just Crashed" Tweet

David Eun Path SFO crash

You can see a ton of imagery (1, 2) of the Asiana Airlines jet that crashed in San Francisco yesterday, many of the photos in traditional news galleries acquired from citizens on the scene. Still, there isn’t a photo that comes close to the power of the one taken by passenger and Samsung exec, David Eun, from the brown grassy field just off the runway near the body of the plane. Beyond that, the tweet copy enveloping the image (as published on the Path platform) makes the assemblage simply spellbinding.

The question, though, is why?

Last August, I wrote about the shooting outside the Empire State Building, and why the Instagram posts by witnesses in the immediate aftermath were so much more powerful and genuine than the images generated shortly after by the media. Reducing the explanation down to one line, those posts were that powerful because their authors were…

“largely unaware of creating a piece of media or an artifact of cultural significance.”

If not everyone turned out to be fine, there isn’t an ounce of self-consciousness here — no concern for accuracy or any interest in posterity. It’s all just self-reflection and witnessing in the moment from one guy who walked out, and after about fifty yards, turned and looked back.

(…Joerg, by the way, has a take with more emphasis on the purely photographic act.)

(photo: David Eun via Path)

  • black_dog_barking

    Damn, it’s that dry in San Francisco? It’s barely summer. Where’s the green? Doesn’t it ever rain there?

    • bks3bks

      We call it “sere.” The local news media were sucking the life out of this minor story. Much bigger story in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, but far fewer TV “journalists.” When the media starts interviewing the travellers whose flights are delayed by a crash, it’s time to watch baseball.

      –bks

    • lq

      Rain in CA from late October through mid-April, usually a sprinkle in May and June. Then nada. It’s the Golden State – but not for gold, but for the sere. Also, no humidity to speak of. 8-)

  • black_dog_barking

    Damn, it’s that dry in San Francisco? It’s barely summer. Where’s the green? Doesn’t it ever rain there?

    • bks3bks

      We call it “sere.” The local news media were sucking the life out of this minor story. Much bigger story in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, but far fewer TV “journalists.” When the media starts interviewing the travellers whose flights are delayed by a crash, it’s time to watch baseball.

      –bks

    • lq

      Rain in CA from late October through mid-April, usually a sprinkle in May and June. Then nada. It’s the Golden State – but not for gold, but for the sere. Also, no humidity to speak of. 8-)

  • oclittle

    I don’t know if I totally agree with the idea that this photo is lacking self-consciousness. This is a pretty well-composed photo (not as extraordinary as the one shot from the roof of the building during the ESB tragedy) and, if you really look closely, I’m pretty sure it has a filter on it. Certainly vignetting. I think it’s almost impossible, by virtue of the fact that he’s posting this to social media, that he was not aware of the significance of his photo.

    The power of this isn’t the lack of self-consciousness. Instead, it seems to come more from the ability it gives people to be involved up-close and personal and immediately…in a clear and dramatic way. It’s completely involved in “the self” and it’s a compelling photograph and is composed well enough for it to be something a lot of people can look at and instantly react to and feel like they are “right there”…which, for whatever reason, we all seem to want to feel.

    Side: I’d like to see the photo taken by the gentleman on the left side of this frame and see if it is as “appealing” to the masses.

    Also: very glad, regardless, he shared this photo and is ok. :)

  • oclittle

    I don’t know if I totally agree with the idea that this photo is lacking self-consciousness. This is a pretty well-composed photo (not as extraordinary as the one shot from the roof of the building during the ESB tragedy) and, if you really look closely, I’m pretty sure it has a filter on it. Certainly vignetting. I think it’s almost impossible, by virtue of the fact that he’s posting this to social media, that he was not aware of the significance of his photo.

    The power of this isn’t the lack of self-consciousness. Instead, it seems to come more from the ability it gives people to be involved up-close and personal and immediately…in a clear and dramatic way. It’s completely involved in “the self” and it’s a compelling photograph and is composed well enough for it to be something a lot of people can look at and instantly react to and feel like they are “right there”…which, for whatever reason, we all seem to want to feel.

    Side: I’d like to see the photo taken by the gentleman on the left side of this frame and see if it is as “appealing” to the masses.

    Also: very glad, regardless, he shared this photo and is ok. :)

  • lq

    Is no one going to talk about the amount of luggage these people brought out of the plane with them? I am astounded at the pictures of folks (as above) pulling their luggage – I thought the instruction was to exit with nothing?

    • Colin Nicholls

      I understand a lot of the overhead compartments popped open, dumping bags into the cabin. Although you’re probably right, I can also imagine folks instinctively grabbing their bags if for no other reason but to clear the gangway.

    • Helen

      Indeed people are commenting on the
      abomination of the hand-carried luggage here. See e.g. Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot” blog, or
      various news reports on the training flight attendants receive — which
      reportedly includes grabbing people’s laptops out of their hands.

      Those stories also report that the better fact that most people are actually incredibly well-behaved and helpful in a crisis like this (or, e.g., the Boston Marathon bombing).

  • lq

    Is no one going to talk about the amount of luggage these people brought out of the plane with them? I am astounded at the pictures of folks (as above) pulling their luggage – I thought the instruction was to exit with nothing?

    • Colin Nicholls

      I understand a lot of the overhead compartments popped open. Although you’re probably right, I can also imagine folks instinctively grabbing their bags if for no other reason but to clear the gangway.

    • Helen

      Indeed people are commenting on the
      abomination of the hand-carried luggage here. See e.g. Patrick Smith’s “Ask the Pilot” blog, or
      various news reports on the training flight attendants receive — which
      reportedly includes grabbing people’s laptops out of their hands.

      Those stories also report that the better fact that most people are actually incredibly well-behaved and helpful in a crisis like this (or, e.g., the Boston Marathon bombing).

  • jonathanjk

    I find it odd that such an event is wrapped up in a filter in order to beautify it. A clash between the horror and the aesthetic is happening. At the same time there’s another person captured in the frame doing the same thing.

  • jonathanjk

    I find it odd that such an event is wrapped up in a filter in order to beautify it. A clash between the horror and the aesthetic is happening. At the same time there’s another person captured in the frame doing the same thing.

  • Helen

    This is horribly unfair as it’s pure speculation, but one wonders if, given David Eun’s position, he flies a lot and so was seated in business or even first class. We know the folks who died or were paralyzed or had crushed sternums etc. were seated in the back of the plane. My understanding is that’s not atypical of air crashes, that those in the back fare the worst.

    Seems there’s a metaphor there, that “most everyone” does “seem fine” when viewed from the advantaged position of an upper class, whether in a crashed plane or elsewhere.

    Perhaps he just didn’t see the mayhem in the back of coach.

    • BooksAlive

      Our local Chicago Fox station sent Larry Yellin (a reporter) to interview two prominent personal injury lawyers (Clifford and Demetrio). He asked that very question. The lawyers said that Injuries vary according to the specific accident, but first and business classes are not the safest places that we assume they are because that is not the strongest part of the aircraft.

    • Helen

      Per the San Jose Mercury News article on yesterday’s NTSB briefing: “32 business class seats were equipped with both shoulder and lap belts. The plane’s 271 economy class seats had only lap belts.” (Class) rank has its privileges.

  • Helen

    This is horribly unfair as it’s pure speculation, but one wonders if, given David Eun’s position, he flies a lot and so was seated in business or even first class. We know the folks who died or were paralyzed or had crushed sternums etc. were seated in the back of the plane. My understanding is that’s not atypical of air crashes, that those in the back fare the worst.

    Seems there’s a metaphor there, that “most everyone” does “seem fine” when viewed from the advantaged position of an upper class, whether in a crashed plane or elsewhere.

    Perhaps he just didn’t see the mayhem in the back of coach.

    • BooksAlive

      Our local Chicago Fox station sent Larry Yellin (a reporter) to interview two prominent personal injury lawyers (Clifford and Demetrio). He asked that very question. The lawyers said that Injuries vary according to the specific accident, but first and business classes are not the safest places that we assume they are because that is not the strongest part of the aircraft.

    • Helen

      Per the San Jose Mercury News article on yesterday’s NTSB briefing: “32 business class seats were equipped with both shoulder and lap belts. The plane’s 271 economy class seats had only lap belts.” (Class) rank has its privileges.

  • AlanSChin

    Respectfully must disagree, Michael…good pictures are good pictures, whether intentional or not. A monkey can make good pictures, if in the right place at the right time with decent (read, forgiving) equipment and pushing the button a fair enough number of times. And that’s not only OK but actually a very good thing for society, that photography is a democratic medium. We professionals can sometimes be there (Boston marathon bombing) or sometimes not during surprise breaking news events. When we’re not, it’s up to the civilians — as it’s ALWAYS been, btw, when the pros aren’t around — and when that’s the case, amateur imagery should not be viewed any differently than pro. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the amateur is “advanced” and knows a fair bit about photography. Sometimes not. Posterity is served, as is accuracy. There’s not much time for serious image manipulation while live-tweeting breaking news. And we can assess relative importance to posterity based on how good the images might be. And everybody knows this…maybe not consciously, but intuitively…so I would write, “subconsciously or consciously aware of creating cultural significance” rather than the opposite.

  • AlanSChin

    Respectfully must disagree, Michael…good pictures are good pictures, whether intentional or not. A monkey can make good pictures, if in the right place at the right time with decent (read, forgiving) equipment and pushing the button a fair enough number of times. And that’s not only OK but actually a very good thing for society, that photography is a democratic medium. We professionals can sometimes be there (Boston marathon bombing) or sometimes not during surprise breaking news events. When we’re not, it’s up to the civilians — as it’s ALWAYS been, btw, when the pros aren’t around — and when that’s the case, amateur imagery should not be viewed any differently than pro. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the amateur is “advanced” and knows a fair bit about photography. Sometimes not. Posterity is served, as is accuracy. There’s not much time for serious image manipulation while live-tweeting breaking news. And we can assess relative importance to posterity based on how good the images might be. And everybody knows this…maybe not consciously, but intuitively…so I would write, “subconsciously or consciously aware of creating cultural significance” rather than the opposite.

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