For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take my girlfriend for a date through the Pulitzer Prize photography exhibitionÂ in Philadelphia. She is much more artistically-minded than I and we had talked before about visiting a gallery or museum sometime. I love photography and thought that the exhibit would be a classy and apt hybrid between our interests. What I had forgotten was that the Pulitzer Prize is awarded for photojournalism, which meant that though each shot was notable for composition and technique, they primarily represented the biggest (and often most tragic) news events of each year. This meant that our “date” consisted mainly of silently studying the most graphic, gut-wrenching photos of every major war, famine, and natural disaster from 1940 and onwards. There were photographs of Iwo Jima, of mass graves in Rwanda, of the World Trade Center exploding, of soldiers in Vietnam and Aleppo and Syria and Zimbabwe and Cambodia, of funerals and caskets. There were photographs of assassinations, of executions and prisoners, of burning and bloodied bodies, of race riots and shootings, of lynchings and genocide, of women buried under mudslides and earthquakes, of children with mangled limbs and gaunt skeletons and napalm-seared flesh and in body bags. In essence, it was a collection of the world’s most provocative and inarticulably dense depictions of human emotion.
It was not the most romantic of venues.
We are both “internal processors” of emotion, so we took a break partway through to get some coffee and decompress. Sitting quietly in the cafeteria, we talked absently about the photographs. “It reminded me of Ecclesiastes,” she said, and I thought about all the futility and sorrow and frustration encompassed in that book: [Read more…] about What Shall We Remember?