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February 16, 2014

If We Had Only Seen Hoffman in Pain

PSH re

PSH re2

These photos have been on my mind since February 2nd. I look at them now and the anguish, especially of someone trained to hide it, is wrenching. The pictures were taken at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19th, two weeks before Hoffman’s death, by photographer Victoria Will.

One of the profound things about photographs is how they can live simultaneously in the present and the past. People do not though. If these photos make us feel like Philip Seymour Hoffman’s depression could readily be seen or his lethal overdose could have been prevented, there are so many things that assured their ambiguity. Here are three:

We are socially trained to look away from other people’s pain with the idea it’s saving them from shame or embarrassment.

Public figures are people we think we already know.

No one expects an actor not to pose.

It’s so easy to look at a pictures in hindsight and wonder how we could have missed it. But that’s because it’s now.

(photos: Victoria Will/Invision/AP. caption: Philip Seymour Hoffman poses for a portrait at The Collective and Gibson Lounge Powered by CEG, during the Sundance Film Festival, in Park City, Utah.)

  • bks3bks

    Missed what? Tortured artists are good artists. That’s what we pay for. If Dylan Thomas hadn’t been a drunk he would have lived longer but he would have been a lousy poet.

  • Scarabus

    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances,
    And one man in his time plays many parts…

    Philip Hoffman as Philip Hoffman and as Truman Capote

  • Mona

    This set is one of the hardest to look at, it is as if in the first he told you something he didn’t want you to see and then looks away. I don’t want to believe that it is posed. I have so much respect for Hoffman. The song that comes to mind is “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on a bus. Trying to make his way home.”

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