JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 276
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Fittingly, perhaps, the icon representing the Vietnam war is the
picture ofa victim-and on the scale ofvulnerability, what more poignant
than a child, a wounded child, and a child who also happens to be a naked
girl on a burning road?23 But does she just happen to be a girl? Sontag, we
saw, described the picture as being that of a child. There are other figures
in that photograph that equally grip the imagination-notably, the one of
Kim's brother, his mouth open in silent terror, an expression resembling
the mask of tragedy.24 And yet, as was true of the nightly news broadcasts,
it's the girl who gets targeted as the "story," and the story is one that
appeals to Americans-a cute, cheerful child survivor with a story
created by and for the media and whose motto, Jan Scruggs says when he
introduces her at the wall, this time identifying American responsibility
("An American commander ordered South Vietnamese planes to drop
nalapm") is: "try to keep smiling."" Why shouldn't the abject war no one
is proud of, that produced no images of male heroism, be embodied by
the image of a nine-year-old girl in pain, suffering caused by an
accident-and then, almost sublimely, a woman who provides an
image of forgiveness?26
In the summer of July 2001, another photographic and publishing
event intervened to affect the course of Kim's story. An exhibit opened
in New York corresponding with the publication of three books: Love, to
which Kim Phuc has written a prologue, Friendship, and Family, which
contains a third photograph, another mother/infant pose but in black and
white taken by a woman Canadian photographer, Anne Bayin, around the
same time as Joe McNally portrait. The acronym of the event, which self-
consciously modeled itself on Steichen's 1955 Family ofMan is M.I.L.K.,
which stands for Moments of Intimacy, Laughter, and Kinship.27
The Bayin photo is featured by Ms. Magazine as a "Ms. Moment."
The caption emphasizes the journey of Kim's life as allegory: "From Hell
to Hope" (Dalal 20).28 This is the only photograph in the entire M.I.L.K
exhibit that bears any marks of physical pain. The original photograph,
however, appears as a snapshot and memory prompt in the prologue to the
Love book where Kim, in dialogue with Bayin, concludes, "Remember
how powerful a picture can be. More powerful than any bombs. As
powerful as love" (see http://www.annebayin.com/milk.htm). Blown up
over the entrance to the show, which was located in Grand Central
Station, presiding over the automated information screens updating
commuter schedules, were two huge poster-size images, one of Kim
nuzzling her newborn (without her scarred back showing), and the other
of a Caucasian man nose to nose with his crying infant in a celebration on
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/22/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .