PhotoSensitive Picture Change : Old Glory
Jim Rankin - Reporter/Photographer - @Jleerankin
Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to be part of a number of PhotoSensitive projects and much of the reward is in seeing the work of fellow photographers involved in those projects. Some, I know personally and others by name and reputation. But mostly, I know their photographs. When I hear one of their names, I picture not their face, but one or more of their images.
For this project, I chose a picture that I think makes people stop and think. Change minds? I’d like to hope so.
It’s also a picture I’ve dined out on. It’s the only sort of famous picture I’ve made since I first picked up a camera at the age of 12. So, what follows is the story behind “Old Glory.” It’s a reprint of an article I wrote for the Star on the one-year anniversary of the 2001 9/11 attacks on America.
On the Friday after the attacks in New York City and Washington, the people of Boston — a city used as a launching pad for two of the four hijacked planes —marked a national day of mourning by gathering at places of prayer.
After three straight days of focusing on lax security at Logan International Airport, I went looking for something that conveyed the feeling of the day. I slung my cameras over my shoulders and headed for the Old North Church in Boston's Little Italy.
It's the neighbourhood where Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty plotted the American Revolution over beer, and where lanterns hung from the Old North Church steeple signalled advancing British troops and led to Revere's midnight ride to warn the colonists.
On this afternoon, so many years later, an overflow crowd filled the narrow street outside the old, storied church. A light rain began to fall, and with the exception of the hum of a couple of television satellite trucks, the street was silent. Some people wept. Others clutched rosaries tight to their chests.
Genetta Giudice was in her apartment window, looking down on the scene. It was hard to miss her sullen, time-weary face and the tattered U.S. flag hanging from her window ledge. I zoomed in on the window and made over a dozen frames of Giudice and the flag.
It was one of those rare times when you instantly know you have captured something special.
As it turned out, there was also something special about the old flag. After the service was over, I went looking for the old woman in the window and met her brother, Nick Giudice, in a corner store below the apartment. The flag was his — a keepsake from the time he served in the U.S. navy during the Second World War. It had flown on the mast of the USS Sims, a destroyer that was sunk by the Japanese on May 7, 1942.
The afternoon was turning into late afternoon and a deadline was looming. I had yet to convert to digital. I had my film souped at a downtown photo shop, did a quick edit on a light table there, and chose the image you see here as the one I would send back home. Due to a bum picture transmitting kit, I relied on a copy shop to scan and burn the image on to a CD. I then used a public computer to e-mail the picture to The Star's photo desk.
On a day when U.S. President George W. Bush had toured Ground Zero, and with hundreds of images from that visit and other prayer services around the world pouring in over the wires, editors back at The Star decided to put Genetta Giudice and the flag on the front page. In doing so, they shared with you what will, for me, always be a telling moment in very uncertain, extraordinary times.
Skip ahead 12 years. I think the photo speaks as much today about the state of things globally.
The new exhibition produced by PhotoSensitive, Picture Change, features one photo from over 100 of the top Canadian photographers, including several Toronto Star journalists. The exhibit is a body of work highlighting the way that photography can make a positive change in the world. It might be a photo that inspired action among the public, one that helped bring about a change in law or one that simply forced its viewers to re-think their preconceived ideas. The exhibit opened Tuesday July 16th and will be on display for a month at the Royal Bank Plaza Terrace, 200 Bay Street, between the tower and the Royal York Hotel.