Thursday, 10 February 2011

Pictures -> Identity: 1945 - 2010

So, I have a school assignment that I thought I'd share here, which is assembling 10 pictures you think represent the years between 1945 and 2010 and saying how you think they had an impact on a person's identity and how that influenced writing. I'm not ranking them in importance, but from old (1945) to new (2010).

Of course there are a lot more events/photos that are important to our identities and how they have changed, but I thought these were some important ones. All of them have had an impact on literature. There are a countless number of books on the Atomic Bombs, 9/11, the Civil Rights movement and all of this blabbering about literature wouldn't even be possible without the Internet. So take a look at what I thought were some pretty important moments/pictures in the last (roughly) 70 years.

10. The Atomic Bomb explodes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki - August 6 and 9, 1945
I know that this is still in 1945 so I don't know whether it counts, but these explosions had a huge impact on the world. Americans suddenly realized they lived in a country that had weapons that could kill thousands of people at the same time. Also I think that humanity passed a certain boundary at that point. These bombs could wipe out entire cities and at a certain point there were enough atomic bombs to destroy humanity multiple times. It did change peoples perception of war and of the vulnerability of life. The fact that humanity had come up with such an effective way of destroying itself was quite shocking and has inspired many doom scenarios and dystopian future novels! And of course it lead to multiple countries, including Britain, getting their own bombs. I think these actually are a good peace-keeper. Nobody is going to attack another country with atomic bombs is that other country has them as well. It would be self-destruction. So in a way, they help.

9. The Launching of Sputnik 1. - 1957
Sputnik 1
I don't think it's the picture as much that had an impact but more the consequence of the event. The launching of Sputnik by the Russians started our Space Age. It made people aware of the huge universe that was waiting outside. We were not alone, there might be other people/creatures/lifeforms just like us or maybe even superior to us out there. It changes human identity, because it might be we were not as superior as we thought. To this day we haven't found any "real" lifeforms, but the exploration of the universe has made humanity seem small and insignificant. More of this at picture 7.

8. I Have A Dream - 1963
Martin Luther King's speech in 1963 and the photos of the crowd changed a lot of peoples view on black people. I think it was especially important for black people because they came together and united. They had one common cause and that is what they were willing to fight for. This man and this picture are a symbol of these people uniting. Their identities were linked together in a way that goes beyond having the same skin colour. For a moment in time they were all there for the same reasons. Their identity as a black person had brought them together and what they wanted was to have an identity apart from that. They wanted to be seen as humans and not be judged on what they looked like.

7. Earthrise - 1968
This picture made by the Apollo 8 crew of the earth rising from behind the moon had a huge impact on a lot of people. It made human interference with the world insignificant because there was no sign of human settlement on the earth. What you could see was the blue sea, mainly, and the green land. This sparked the environmentalist movement as well. For the first time we saw our world from the outside. It seemed small compared to the huge universe around it. It made people feel as if they had to protect the world. It was the only colourful and alive thing, especially when contrasted with the grey moon and the black universe.

6. A Small step for Me, a Huge Leap for Mankind - 1969
For the first time a human had set foot on our moon and our exploration of space had officially taken shape. As I said above the fact that we could expand beyond our own planet and the idea of other lifeforms being out there changed the way people viewed themselves. For some people having to realise they weren't the only ones has led to them denying the moon landing ever happened. This denial is very striking because it shows that for some people being part of something much larger than themselves is scaring them.

5. Vietnam War - 1972
This picture is a Pulitzer prize winning picture and is recognized immediately by most people. The reason for this I think is because it has such a strong message. I shows little kids, especially Phan Thi Kim Phuc, being the victim of a war that has been ignited for the wrong reasons. It is a very confronting picture because it makes you question the reason anybody would ever go to war. It was especially important to Americans, because it was "their" war. Their soldiers were the ones dropping these napalm-bombs.To know you might have contributed to causing this must have a huge impact on how you see yourself. It inspired many people to protest against their government and has played a huge part in empowering this protest and making it nation-wide.

4. Fall of the Berlin Wall - 1989
The Fall of the Berlin Wall had a huge impact on German identity. Now suddenly they were no longer separated. Although it would take quite some years before they were actually a reunited country the people already felt united. It had been a symbol of splitting people, families. With the wall other things also fell, such as the mistrust between the East- and West-Germans.This wall had been a symbol for suppression and fear and now it was ripped down by the very people it had been built to keep separated. The identity of these people not only officially changed, but also mentally. Now they were one. A lot of books have been written about this night and the time before and afterwards. With the end of the DDR a lot of old-fashioned morals fell and the East-Germans were suddenly exposed to the modern and capitalist West.

3. You've got mail -  6 August 1991
The creation of the World Wide Web and its consequent introduction to the changed the word identity for so many people. Your identity is based on what networks you have an account on, what people you are connected to or what photos you put online. Everything was accessible by the Internet. What happened in NY on 9/11 (See below) was seen by millions of people in different places through their computers. Being connected to the rest of the world can make you see the world as your home or feel like all of human kind is one big family. Your history is now no longer only linked to the place you were born but what happened in the rest of the country, the rest of the continent, the rest of the world.

2. America under attack - 9/22 2001
On the 9th of September in 2001 two planes flew into a building in New York. Not only the building came down but also the sense of safety in our own homes. War was now happening close to us and not in some far away country. The image of the strong American that could resist every attack crumbled. A war on terrorism was declared and the ten years since have been filled with reports on terrorist attacks and increasing religious tension. The West was no longer untouchable and all powerful. We could be attacked and hurt just as much as the others. I remember the attack very clearly. I was shocked that something like that could happen. Once again I think it's interesting to see that so many theories surrounding these attacks have been created, in America mainly. The fact that something could have penetrated the safety of their land is worse to some than the thought that their own government did it. Fear for terrorists and explosions has become a part of our identity.

1. Someone's calling - 21st Century
I don't have an date for this, but I think that the image of people calling is something we see multiple times every day. The cell phone has changed our identity and the way we see each other a lot. We can now call everyone, we can out everything on the Internet through our phones. We are immediately connected when something is wrong. Our phone stores everything that might be important to us: our family's phone numbers, pictures of friends/family/pets, maybe even a connection to your bank account. Without our phone who are we?

What has been an important event to you?


  1. Great post. I put up a post yesterday on classics that have been revisited or reworked.
    For example, The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler.

  2. Excellent post; but I see that there's no mention of Al Gore in the creation of the internet! ^__^ j/k. That assertion of his still cracks me up.

    For me, I'd say the election of the first black president of the US. MAJOR departure from the status quo of the country's history. Regardless of the political part of was a big step for the nation.

    So yeah. Thank you for sharing your project with us!