There is always a mysterious alchemy behind why one picture or another goes viral. The latest to catch fire is this shot of NYPD officer Lawrence DePrimo, caught unawares, giving a pair of boots to a homeless man in Times Square. (Here’s the backstory.)
The question — recognizing the answer must certainly have many strands running through it — is why? What is it about this photo at this moment that so captures the imagination? How much, for example, does it involve the season? or this cruel economy? or New York, and the fact the NYPD has been so punitive, especially in battling the Occupy movement?
From our standpoint, we look at this in terms of the wounds to our national psyche going back to 9/11, the plight of the country through the Bush years, the economic collapse and right up to Sandy. Especially after the economic depression, we look at this piece of street photography from a position of need, not with our hands out but from the standpoint of needing real recognition and support — support from institutions and from those in authority. And the simply fact is, we need the shoes.
…Especially when, just beyond the man, there are so many.
(photo: Jennifer Foster via NYPD Facebook. NYT caption: Officer Lawrence DePrimo bought new boots for a homeless man he encountered in Times Square.)