04 December 2012

On 'Heartwarming' Photographs (2)

"This photograph has done something terrible and cruel to Jeffrey Hillman. He has been held up to totally unhelpful, mean-minded scrutiny. What an unhelpful, unenlightening picture this turned out to be. Obviously, some may suspect a more calculating aspect to the whole affair – did the picture really just happen to emerge with its flattering light on the New York police department? But that aside, assuming it really is a chance record of a moment of sudden kindness, its viral career demonstrates the fragility of truth and the stupidity of crowds.

Everyone likes this picture, it goes round the world in seconds, it becomes a cosy heartwarming cult for a day. Then the questions start and the warm glow hardens into a remorseless searchlight on an individual who clearly does not need this massive public attention. Hillman is right to wonder what he is getting from all this, as some other viral image displaces a moment too complex, after all, for the illusory warmth of a picture one shares while sipping an eggnog latte in a warm coffee shop."
So says Jonathan Jones at The Guardian. Jeffrey Hillman, of course, is the shoeless, "homeless" vet who become an emblem for the recent feel good about NYC campaign. I was skeptical of the heartwarming photo op at the time and said so here. Mr. Hillman, as The New York Times reports,  turns out to be non-compliant with the heartwarming tale. So much the worse for the tale tellers and for the poor people who will bear the brunt of their disappointment and resentment.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

Thousands of people passed that guy, only one did the right thing. It is the act that is worth remembering. The rationalizations to keep walking by will live on...

06 December, 2012 13:21  

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