When I made the decision to distill the past year into one quintessential “moment” captured in a photograph, I was faced with a multitude of choices. I could have chosen a photo that captured any number of significant events from the personal to the global:
… from the decision to re-adopt my male cat to the global nuclear crisis that originated in Japan. There was also “Arab Spring” when oppressed citizens toppled long-standing regimes and sent government officials fleeing, from a street vendor’s fatal protest in Tunisia to the bloodless coup in Egypt and civil war in Libya. Japan suffered major earthquakes, a tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis. U.S. commandos assassinated Osama bin Laden. Prince William married Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. Steve Jobs succumbed to cancer at 56. Greeks, Italians and British rioted in the streets against unfair government policies while these same countries struggled with the threat of bankruptcy. After recovering from being shot in the head, Representative Gabrielle Gifford returned to office. Thanks to social networking, “Occupy Wall Street” spread from New York City to the entire world with the synchronicity and potency of a self-organized virus. Indeed, one Egyptian activist described it this way: “we use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.”
I chose none of these events; instead, I chose a young couple lying on the street, locked in a passionate kiss — oblivious to the charging crowd and the riot police struggling to contain them.
It is a powerful demonstration of how, amid the rubble of violence, love focuses us.
The photo was taken by photojournalist Richard Lam after a Stanley Cup hockey game in Vancouver. Amid the chaos of violence, looting and destruction and himself buffeted by riot police, Lam didn’t even realize what he’d shot until his editor later pointed out that the two people weren’t hurt but kissing. It was incredibly surreal because of its paradoxical nature.
Even though Lam didn’t overtly recognize what he’d witnessed and captured on camera until it was pointed out to him, he’d felt it and participated in it. A defining fractal moment. When what we are and what we do focuses into one remarkable moment. The photo went viral on the internet hours after it was posted.
Perusing the various online news sites and blogs, I was struck by some of the comments, particularly by those who questioned whether the photo and associated story was newsworthy. The young man who was found and identified as Scott Jones of Perth later revealed that they had been knocked down by the riot police and he was just trying to calm down his girlfriend, Alexandra Thomas, a recent graduate of the University of Guelph in Ontario.
Love in the time of chaos … It’s a story worth telling over and over again.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.