Fire on Marlborough Street

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Submit a 2000 words paper on the topic Fire on Marlborough Street by Stanley J. Forman. Upon first looking at “Fire On Marlborough Street”, the action in the scene makes the nature of the photograph obviously disturbing. But there is more to it than that. As viewers, especially as of late, we have seen scenes of death before. We have encountered photographs of war, holocaust, famine, crime, violence, etc.. so the subject matter is not a new one. What makes Forman’s “Fire On Marlborough Street” a unique visual experience are three things. firstly, our knowledge of the facts leading up to the picture. Bryant and Jones were only seconds away from being safely rescued by a fireman when the collapse of the unstable fire escape sent them plummeting to the ground. Having to acknowledge the blink-of-an-eye immediacy of the event, even several decades later, leaves viewers shaking their heads in disbelief. Secondly, the historical significance of the photograph reminds us that all too often social progress comes at a hefty price, and thirdly, the immediate in-your-face action that is so close up engages and impacts the viewer on a personal and visceral level. Squarely frozen in the middle of the picture, one of the victims (Bryant) seems to be protruding from the photograph, almost reaching out to the viewer. The near three-dimensional perspective of the action makes the photograph appear almost holographic. But what is the meaning behind Forman’s photograph, and what effect does it have on the viewing audience? The photo speaks to the fragility of life, and the ever so thin line between hope and despair. It reminds us how fleeting life really is, and that each of us is just a collection of moments. The photo immediately registers in one’s mind as being horrific, and we shudder at the thought of the end result, yet for some reason, a tragedy frozen in time compels, and even more so, allows us to look on. There is a kind of perpetual dedication to seeing, and a deliberate act of looking that feed into the life of a single image.

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