As the unit winds down I would turn to a couple of pictures that show unique points of view. In the photo
Mount Herman Fire
(1965) a football game is going on and in the background a house is burning. The photo is an AP photo taken on November 24, 1965. Mt. Herman was playing their rivals from Deerfield Academy. The Science building caught on fire and in fact was destroyed. Mt. Herman not only lost the building but the game ending a two year winning streak.
The initial reaction of my students was surprise and a bit of confusion. It almost seemed funny. The photo shows the people in bleachers looking at the fire but at the same time watching the game. Again point of view plays an important part in the photo. How would the picture be different if the photographer had gone onto the street and taken a picture of the burning building? It probably would be a good photo but it would not be as interesting. Here we have a dangerous situation juxtaposed with a football game. It would seem that people would leave and the game would stop but it continues. Sometimes we think when something catastrophic happens everyone is paying attention but here a fire rages but people pay marginal attention.
We would then turn our attention to another photo called
As the city burns; a group watches the towering clouds of smoke from a safe spot on Russian Hill (1906).
This is a photo of the fire that occurred after the Great San Francisco Earthquake. Here the photographer didn't take the expected close-up picture of the fire but choose to photograph people on a hill on the outskirts of the city watching what is going on. I would read them a description of the destruction of that fire from
If You Lived at the Time of the Great San Francisco Earthquake
by Ellen Levine and Pat Grant Porter. Yet look at the photo. The young women are laughing and the men casually and calmly look back at the city. They are not rushing out to help nor do they seem panicked. The photographer is also standing back to let us see that we are merely spectators. Do we always react to a situation with sustained and profound sadness? The assignment might be to imagine that you are one of these observers of the fire. Tell what you saw and how you felt. Why are you smiling? I might also tell my students that in fact the fire was not brought under control until it swept over the Russian Hill where the spectators in the picture are sitting.