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The media is all about uncovering secrets and telling stories the way they see them. Oftentimes they seem to get around the proverbial censor that society implies, but does not live by.

In 1975, Stanley Forman took a picture of a baby and mother falling from a fire escape just out of reach of the firefighter trying to save them.

Fire Escape - Stanley Forman, 1975

This particular picture was a point of controversy because of the depiction of “death in action.” The only person to die was the mother, the child lived because she landed on the mother. Some say showing this happening was unfeeling and grotesque. Others say that is shows a heroic action taking place.

During 9/11, Richard Drew snapped a photo while the Twin Towers were tragically burning to the ground. This photo, however, was not like many others, for it showed people plunging to their deaths because they jumped out of the building.

Although this picture is very simple, it invokes a deep emotional response in most people. Why is this? Because it depicts what some interpret as death. There are some interesting things to note about the picture. This man is alone, he did not jump with anyone. He looks relaxed–at peace with what is about to happen.

How do we compare these photos? Are the ethically wrong to be put into the media and shown to many people? Maybe. However, they are very emotionally engaging photos. They tell a story that would be very hard for words on a page to match.

Personally, I believe photos such as this are very important for people to see. It helps someone feel for the situation much better. The impact these photos had after being shown changed people and communities. ALL of the fire escapes in Boston were inspected and adjusted to new speculations simply because this photo changed the way people think. “Falling Man” caught the attention of so many people and brought a realism and attachment to the situation.

I would never be opposed to showing people these photos, however I would certainly consult with the families of these individuals before ever even considering showing them to a mass of people.

Ethical? Sure. Moral? It’s up to you.