Close Reading Images: the "New Marlboro Man"

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A guide to "close reading" images, using iconic photographs of Marine veteran James Blake Miller, the "Marlboro Man" of the battle for Falloujah.

A guide to "close reading" images, using iconic photographs of Marine veteran James Blake Miller, the "Marlboro Man" of the battle for Falloujah.

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Transcript

  • 1. Close
Reading
Images:Going
Deep
into
Two
Dimensions
  • 2. Recently,
some
of
his
Marine
buddies
have
been
calling
Miller
up,
crying
drunk,
and
remembering
their
war
experiences.
Just
like
Papaw
Joe
Lee
used
to
do
when
Miller
was
a
boy.
"Theres
a
lot
of
Vietnam
vets
...
they
dont
heal
unIl
30,
40
years
down
the
road,"
Miller
said.
"People
boMle
it
up,
become
angry,
easily
temperamental,
and
hell,
before
you
know
it,
these
are
the
people
who
are
snapping
on
you."
Jessica
interrupted.
"Youre
already
like
that,"
she
said.
She
recalled
her
own
first
glimpse
of
the
Marlboro
Man
‐‐
an
image
seen
through
tears
of
relief
that
he
was
alive,
and
misery
at
how
worn
he
looked.
"Some
people
thought
it
was
sexy,
and
we
thought,
Oh,
my
God,
hes
in
the
middle
of
a
war,
close
to
death.
We
just
couldnt
understand
how
some
people
could
look
at
it
like
that,"
she
said.
"But
I
guess
for
some
people
it
was
glory,
like
patrioIsm."

  • 3. • Photographs are not actually objective• They come from individual perspectives• They often perform specific jobs• They contribute to familiar narratives• They often make arguments• They work both directly and indirectly
  • 4. • What job does it do?• What argument does it seem to make?• Why are we seeing it?• What story is it telling?• How do different viewers interpret the image?
  • 5. Consider its elements:• Close focus on the face• Face painted, dirty, bleeding• Cigarette hanging loosely, almost casually• Smoke billowing around and in front of the Marine’s face• Eyes squinting, looking “over our shoulders”: reads of alertness, “hard edge,” almost reminiscent of James Dean• Little to no background or terrain, except desert gray• Face framed by the helmet and the strap
  • 6. Consider its context:• After a day of bloody fighting during the battle for Fallujah• At that point, this battle had claimed more American lives than any other campaign in the Iraq war• The battle for Fallujah was fought door-to-door, in the streets and in the houses, instead of from the air or from a distance.• The Iraq War was beginning to become less “popular” back in the US, but still held support among a majority of Americans.
  • 7. Consider its elements:• Once more: focus on the face, but in profile, with hand loosely up• Face is clean—and looks radically different. Rounder, softer, much less strong.• Cigarette is still here, but it feels very different here: the hold, the ash—even the length—all seem less at ease.• Eyes look away, now downward: feels like regret, like loss.• We see part of the USMC tattoo—but it’s upside down and partially obscured.
  • 8. Consider its context:• 2007: near the end of the Bush administration. The war is much less popular, and more than half of the American public are now in favor of withdrawal.• It had become hard to identify, clearly, why the US was still fighting in Iraq: many used the word “quagmire” to describe the war.• The article was talking about the difficult conditions soldiers returned to in the US, and of the toll that the war had taken on them.
  • 9. Consider itselements andcontext
  • 10. To
wrap
up:• Photos
feel
objecIve—they
feel
like
the
truth• At
the
very
same
.me,
they
tell
stories
and
 support
arguments.• Both
photos
were
wholly
and
completely
true.• Both
supported
radically
different
stories
and
 arguments—about
the
Iraq
War,
about
 heroism,
about
us—even
about
smoking.