“Boston Bombing Survivor” is a breathtaking photo capturing the experience of a victim after a tragedy. When I saw this photo at the Newseum, I was struck by the emotion and beauty in this photo. Josh Haner of The New York Times spent three months capturing Jeff Bauman’s recovery.
Jeff Bauman was waiting at the Boston Marathon finish line to cheer on his girlfriend when the bombing happened. Two pressure-cooker bombs exploded shredding his legs and puncturing both of his eardrums.
The sign next to the photo at the Newseum said, “Haner wanted his photo of Bauman to remind people of the struggle ahead for the survivors of the bombing, which killed three people and wounded more than 260. Bauman ‘was at a sporting event, and his life changed in the blink of an eye,’ said Haner.”
The various visual elements and grammar of the photo add to this message Haner was trying to portray.
The lighting of the piece was the first thing that struck me, as the light only hits his upper body and face. This choice of lighting highlights his reliance on his upper body more than his lower body now, and it shows that his upper body is his source of power now. This lighting combined with the high angle and short or wide lens create a feeling of a superhero.
The outstretched arms, the high angle, and the use of a short or wide lens dispropriate his body, making his arms look long and his legs look huge. The short or wide lens distorts objects that are close to the camera, his legs, and make them look much larger than they actually are. The high angle also adds to this effect that his legs look larger than the rest of his body. These elements create a focus on the effect or the damage of the bombing on his body, specifically his legs, and the disability and recovery he will have to deal with for the rest of his life.
His body language also shows the difficulty of his recovery. His arms are outstretched in a way that they are completely relaxed, like he has lost all energy to lift his arms up. His head is resting on the pillow, and he is not looking at the camera because he is too tired to even lift his head. Looking away from the camera with a blank expression on face, creates a sense of sadness, exhaustion, but also acceptance of the situation. I get a feeling that he is accepting this recovery as his new reality, almost as if he does not care what the public thinks of him anymore because the camera (and the audience) are so irrelevant he will not even look at the camera. However, not looking at the camera could also create a sense of shame in that he does not want people to see his face. His body language creates this conflicting theme which might be the emotions Bauman is dealing with internally.
The shallow depth of field to create a foreground blur which brings the background into the foreground, bringing the background, his upper body and face, into focus, and leaving the foreground, his legs, out of focus. This shallow depth of field detracts the attention from the legs, which are not in the light or in focus, to the upper body and face which are in the light and is in focus. This again emphasizes his new reliance on his upper body and the power in his upper body.
To frame the subject, Haner uses to lines of the bed to point and funnel us to the face and upper body of Bauman.
His color scheme of darkness around Bauman and light in Bauman creates a feeling of hope in Bauman. The darkness of the bed, background, and his legs could parallel to the darkness of the tragedy, the bombing, and his disability. The tragedy is in the past, and now it is time for recovery, therefore the bandages, his shirt, and the pillow are all white and light to portray a sense of hope for the future.
Overall, I love this photo because it portrays the struggle of recovery very well.