Rewind. I’ve just finished the 15-page chapter titled “The Photograph” inUnderstanding Media. Instead of pressing ahead, to a chapter titled “Press,” I’m going to return to page 188 and read Chapter 20 again, as if I’ve never seen it before. For photographic inspiration, I’m offering a shot I took this morning of the fountain in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, a stately expanse of trees and grass between Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and the Charles River.
I just found the photograph referred to in the opening line of the chapter. The photo is titled “St. Peter’s at a
Moment of History,” which was on the cover of Life magazine’s June 14, 1963, issue. It’s a beautiful scene, in which the skies appear to open just above the church. It leads McLuhan to opine that, unlike TV images and Egyptian art (go figure), “It is one of the peculiar characteristics of the photo that it isolates single moments of time.” The photo’s power is transforming, McLuhan writes, and is related to the camera’s power “to be everywhere and to interrelate things.”
I loved how I was able to freeze the bubbling surge and retreat of the JFK fountain with my iPhone this morning. The plumes of water in that moment looked like ice sculpture. As MM says, “Sculpture tends toward the timeless.” And thus I’ll remember this morning’s bike ride with Darlene and how she stopped at the fountain to stretch her legs after trying out her new bicycle. I’d agree the photo transformed the moment—and made it timeless.