JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 278
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intended beyond the pilot who has claimed to be the one responsible for
the air strike. Should he stand in for a catastrophic American foreign
policy?29 Absolution by metonymy?
But what's really fascinating about this interview-not least because
in contrast to all the earlier testimony, the language is so polished-is less
this familiar spin on forgiveness than the split Kim Phuc describes
between the photograph and herself: "Ifthe picture can forgive ...." This
separation, the dissociation of the adult woman from the iconic image of
her traumatized past self, may be the mechanism through which recovery
can begin to take place. The adult woman wants to control this picture-
keep it in its place-but the trauma it embodies has a will of its own: "I
had flashbacks." The sight of soldiers on the subway reactivates the pain
contained in the photograph and captured in the scars that map the trauma
on her back. (The photograph that accompanies this interview, in which
Kim plays with her young son while her husband looks on in the
background, is a rare glimpse of Kim Phuc in a meditative, unsmiling
moment.) The unspeakable pain caught in the original photograph finds
traumatic expression through this discourse-an account of survival not
overlaid with the rhetoric of religious salvation (although it is present in
other parts of the interview)-an experience "frozen in time" and figured
In the later version of her New York Review of Books essay on
photography revised in the book On Photography, Sontag argues that
what "determines the possibility of being affected morally by photo-
graphs is the existence of a relevant political consciousness" (19).31
While the original photograph fixes a shameful moment in American
history-what Sontag has more recently called the "signature Vietnam
War horror-photograph from 1972" (Regarding 57), but a moment of
political activism in which people were still moved by images; the story,
subsequent photographs, and documentary, belong to an era in which we
slake our thirst for meaningful action with M.I.L.K. I had begun to fear
that the success of the second and third photographs would displace the
first from its iconic place in history, when history itself intervened on
Sept. 11, 2001.
After the attack on the World Trade Center, two British newspapers
of very differentjournalistic styles, The Mirror and The Guardian, drew
analogies between the attack and the Vietnam war. The Mirror produced
a stunning juxtaposition: poised above the famous photo of Kim Phuc is
another woman, who appears to be Asian, escaping from the burning
towers, covered in dust. The visual relation is rendered politically in an
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/m1/24/: accessed September 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .