This film has evoked strong reactions.
The documentary is worth watching.
‘The Falling Man is a photograph taken by Associated Press photographer Richard Drew, of a man falling from the North Tower of the World Trade Centerat 9:41:15 a.m. during the September 11 attacks in New York City. The subject of the image, whose identity remains uncertain, was one of the people trapped on the upper floors of the skyscraper who either fell searching for safety or jumped to escape the fire and smoke. At least 200 people fell or jumped to their deaths that day; officials could not recover or identify the bodies of those forced out of the buildings prior to the collapse of the towers. Officially, all deaths in the attacks except those of the hijackers were ruled to be homicides due to blunt trauma (as opposed to suicides). The New York City medical examiner’s office said it does not classify the people who fell to their deaths on September 11 as “jumpers“: “A ‘jumper’ is somebody who goes to the office in the morning knowing that they will commit suicide… These people were forced out by the smoke and flames or blown out.”
The photograph, shown on the right, gives the impression that the man is falling straight down. A series of photographs were taken of his fall and showed him to be tumbling through the air.
Richard Drew, who took the photograph of the Falling Man is a veteran war photographer for the AP.
The following is an interview with Henry Singer. It took place on September 4, 2011. It has been condensed and edited.
Adam Harrison Levy:
9/11 was the most photographed and videotaped day in history. Out of all of these images why is The Falling Man so memorable?
What is extraordinary beyond the graphic composition of this image — the parallel lines, the light on one of the towers — is the fact that the Falling Man, as he has come to be known, looks so composed. It’s the most horrific moment but there is a calmness to the image. And I think this is one of the reasons why it is so memorable. It captures the last moments of somebody’s life but it does so in a way that is peaceful and beautiful at the same time. That is one of the many reasons why it has burned itself into the consciousness of anybody who has looked at it.
AHL: Why did you make a film about this particular photograph?
HS: Because it essentially disappeared. It ran in many newspapers on the day after 9/11. In the film we go to a newspaper called the Morning Call in Allentown Pennsylvania. In the film, the photo editor, Naomi Halperin, talks about how striking the image was. There were so many images coming across the wire that day but this one stood out for her because it encapsulated the horror of the day. And yet at that paper, and across the country, there was an outcry from the readership saying how could you publish an image like this? This is offensive, our children could have looked at it, and a result the image basically disappeared from sight. It became a charged image very quickly and it disappeared from sight very quickly. One of the questions the film asks is why did the image disappear? What was it about this image that Americans found so distasteful? There was a kind of censorship that played itself out across the country and that made it an interesting topic for a film.
AHL: Do you think it’s important to look at this image now?
9/11: The Falling Man is a 2006 documentary film about the picture and the story behind it. It was made by American filmmaker Henry Singer and filmed by Richard Numeroff, a New York-based director of photography. The film is loosely based on Junod’s Esquire story. It also drew its material from photographer Lyle Owerko‘s pictures of falling people. It debuted on March 16, 2006, on the British television network Channel 4. It later made its North American premiere on Canada‘s CBC Newsworld on September 6, 2006, and has been broadcast in over 30 countries. The U.S. premiere was September 10, 2007, on the Discovery Times Channel.