Frenzied Representation and the Forbidden Image: 9/11's Falling Man and the Unrepresentable

Kate Birdsall


This article deconstructs the events surrounding the initial deletion of Richard Drew's "Falling Man" photograph from the archive of September 11. Via such philosophers as Paul Ricoeur and Georges Didi-Huberman, it explores the ethical implications of examining the photograph, both by itself and in montage, and investigates American views of death and dying in that context. The testimonies and images that followed the collapse of the World Trade Center brought to the fore several prescient, though often ignored, philosophical questions which surround the nature of the image, its role in shaping the narrative of an event, and whether an image of a man in the last seconds of his life, directly following his decision to die but preceding his death, functions as a reminder that we might carefully interrogate what it means to deem something unimaginable, unfathomable, unrepresentable.


aesthetics; death; September 11; photograph; montage

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