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.)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus