Monday, September 10, 2007

Life. Art. So on.

The NYTimes ramped up its 9/11 coverage today with an article about the photo at the right. It was taken by a woman from her Shanksville, PA farm after Flight 93 crashed into the field. Fosco had never seen this photograph, but apparently it's quite (in)famous. The main point of the article is that the unfortunate photographer is being harassed by 9/11 conspiracy theorists and general internet wackos. People are indeed annoying, but that's not the point of this post.

What's interesting for our purposes is that barn. It's owned by Mr. Robert Musser. According to the article:

To accommodate visitors who will show up on Sept. 11 to recreate the picture, and who eventually find their way to the Mussers’ 94-year-old barn, they’ve tried to spruce it up this past week, adding a touch of paint. They plan to spend thousands in the near future to shore up the foundation on one side so the barn will endure for years to come.

“Here this barn could fall down, and it’s in the picture that’s so famous,” said Mr. Musser’s wife, Phyllis. “We have to do something.”

And there it is. That tingling in your groin means we have now entered Don DeLillo territory. In DeLillo's best novel, White Noise, we find the "Most Photographed Barn in America":

Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides--pictures of the barn taken from an elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.
   "No one sees the barn," he said finally.
   A long silence followed.
   "Once you've seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn."
   He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others.
   "We're not here to capture an image, we're here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies."
   There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.
   "Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We've agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism."
   Another silence ensued.
   "They are taking pictures of taking pictures," he said.
   He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.
   "What was the barn like before it was photographed?" he said. "What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can't answer these questions because we've read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can't get outside the aura. We're part of the aura. We're here, we're now."
   He seemed immensely pleased by this.

And now, in Shanksville, PA, we have the actual Most Photographed Barn in America. Up for a road trip?

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