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What We Learned This Week: An Instant Icon of Flooded Texas and a Faked Eclipse

By David Schonauer   Thursday August 31, 2017


Photos encapsulate a moment in time as no other medium can.

And in some cases they can save lives.

On Monday morning, the nation awoke to stunning imagery of unprecedented flooding in southeastern Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey. Of all the pictures, one stood out: an image of elderly women in a nursing home in Dickinson, TX — a town between Galveston and Houston — surrounded by waist-deep water appeared on social media on Sunday and by the following day had become a viral sensation and a staple of coverage on cable news channels.

But the photo, taken by the woman who owns the nursing home and posted by her son-in-law in Florida, also prompted an emergency rescue of the facility’s residents. “Need help asap emergency services please RETWEET,” wrote McIntosh. His tweet caught the attention thousands on social media and the national guard was notified of the nursing home’s situation, reported ABC News. “We were air-lifting grandmothers and grandfathers,” said Dickinson emergency management coordinator David Popoff in an interview with the Galveston Daily News.

The photo’s impact may have something to do with the attitude of the women in the image: They appear to be going about their normal business as the water rises around them. “One woman appears to even be knitting or sewing in the deep water as if it isn’t there,” noted The Blaze.

As we noted  on Wednesday, Hurricane Harvey gave rise to a number of other photo stories, including a National Geographic  closeup on photojournalist Erin Trieb, who is documenting her own battle against the flooding. Wired  talked to a number of photographers about their experiences covering Harvey, including AP photographer Charlie Riedel, who spotted a man in an inner tube rescuing the driver of a submerged semi truck in downtown Houston. "My immediate reaction was, 'How this happen?" Riedel says.

Meanwhile, another picture of a natural phenomenon that affected Americans stirred up controversy. Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Ken Geiger’s shot of the recent solar eclipse drew more than 15,000 likes on his own Instagram while raking in more that 2 million at National Geographic’s Instagram page.

But Geiger, former deputy director of photography at National Geographic, earned some criticism as well when sharp-eyed viewers noted that the photo could not have been made as it appears, with the sun rising in the west over Wyoming's Teton mountains. Instead, the image was a composite of multiple images created in-camera. Some accused Geiger of a breach of ethics, though he made no secret of the technique he used. But, asked Poynter  in assessing the “dustup,” was that enough?

Here are some of the other photo stories we covered this week:
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1. Why Elvis Has Never Left the Building


Last month, fans gathered in Memphis, Tennessee, to pay tribute to Elvis Presley on the 40th anniversary of his death. It was an aural and visual commemoration: Tribute artists lined up for the Images of the King World Championship during Elvis Week in Memphis while tourists flocked to Graceland, his home in Memphis, and his birthplace in Tupelo, Mississippi. We featured  photo essays of the event by the Washington Post’s Matt McClain and by photographer Landon Nordeman (above), who went to Memphis for National Geographic.


2.  Living In Guam, and Now On Assignment There


Photographer Nancy Borowick  moved from New York to Guam when her husband was hired as law clerk to the Guam Supreme Court. Once settled on the Micronesian island — a U.S. territory — she became a certified scuba diver and picked up needlepoint. What Borowick didn’t do was much photography, noted The New York Times: Not much news comes out of Guam, and she went 11 months without an assignment. Then came the threat of nuclear annihilation from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Now Borowick is flooded with work.


3. The History and Art of Japanese Photo Books


During the 20th century Japan was transformed from a country with limited interaction with the outside world into an international economic powerhouse. “It is in photobooks we saw the 20th century unfolding,” notes collector Manfred Heiting, who spent six years editing The Japanese Photobook, 1912-1990,  a new survey from Steidl. “It is intended to show the development of the Japanese photobooks and publishing, how it relates to the cultural development of the country,” Heiting told the British Journal of Photography recently.


4. Two Views of Julian Assange


In 2010, photographer Phillip Toledano shot a portrait of Julian Assange (above) to accompany a profile of the WikiLeaks founder in The New Yorker. At the time, WikiLeaks was just a few years old. Two years later Assange took up asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, fleeing rape charges in Sweden, and he has not left since. Recently, Nadav Kander photographed Assange there for followup New Yorker profile. At the magazine’s photo blog, writer and photographer Max Campbell compared the two images to assess the changes in Assange.


5. The Oldest Photo of a U.S. President May Sell for $250,000


The oldest known original photo of a U.S. president — a daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams— will go up for auction at Sotheby's  on October 5th, noted the The New York Times  recently. The daguerreotype was made in March, 1843, after Adams’s single term as president; at the time, he was serving as a Massachusetts congressman. It predates by several months a daguerreotype of Adams that currently sits in the National Portrait Gallery and was once thought to be the oldest surviving original photograph of an American president. Sotheby’s estimates the dag at $150,000 to $250,000.

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