August 24, 2007

Alive Day. Cut!


So, I’ve been working slowly, and looking at a lot of images for my first American Photo piece.  The theme I’m playing with has to do with how contemporary war images don’t look like war anymore, so much as they look like the set or the staging for one.

In the middle of this, I get one of those PR emails from HBO touting a new documentary called “Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq.”  (If you’re not familiar with the term, “alive day” is the day — sort of like your birthday — you were almost blown to bits in Iraq, but through the miracle of medical technology, your life was saved … if minus some of your body parts.)

Anyway, I’ve had the opening shot of the HBO preview video sitting on my desktop, and — with my “war versus constructed reality” theme in mind, I can’t stop examining it.  You see, James Gandolfini is the host of this program in which he holds intimate conversations on a sound stage with vets who, having been seriously injured, have survived.

What I can’t get over, however, is how:

–  A Tony Soprano (as if, here, finally ousting his shrink and commandeering her chair) would have little trouble lending himself to such otherwise unfathomable trauma and violence.

— The camera operator — bucking for visual parity with the other two — seems to cue for “less of a show” feel and more hand-held reality.  (Which only makes for a better show.)

— The veteran (or veteran/patient), sitting high, holds his body like a little boy.  (And who could have picked that t-shirt?  Seems like the last connection this man would need is to a cartoon monkey.) (Although maybe I don’t get the reference.)

— The camera apparatus looks like a component of the vets artificial legs.

…I’m sure there is plenty more.

(image via HBO Documentary Films and Attaboy Films)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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