Sometimes taking a good photograph also entails pressing the camera’s button right at that critical moment. This is especially true in case of photojournalism. We look at these frozen moments in amazement and wonder why our own camera always gets stuck inside the pocket, or why the zipper of the case doesn’t open, or for what ghost of a reason does the battery runs out —right at that time when you come across a critical moment! But some of the iconic photographs are iconic because photographers managed to click the perfect moment.
Today I am presenting a photograph that is known as Fire Escape Collapse or Fire at Marlborough Street. This photograph is also an example of such precise moment photography. It was taken by Stanley J. Forman on July 22, 1975. On this day a fire had erupted at the Marlborough Street in Boston, Massachusetts. Forman, a photojournalist, who at that time, was working with Boston Herald rushed to the place of action. There he saw a number of firefighters struggling to control a blazing fire that was engulfing a building. At the back of the building, the ladder team was preparing to save a woman and a girl child who were stranded on one of the upper floors.
Instinctively, Forman ran to the backside of the building and climbing up a fire truck he started to take pictures. The woman, Diana Bryant, and the young girl, Tiare Jones, were standing near the fire escape and were shouting for help. A fireman named Bob O’Neil was closest to them. O’Neil started to move towards the ladies and asked for the ladder to be brought towards them. O’Neil was about to reach the ladies. But as soon as the ladder reached O’Neil and stranded ladies the fire escape collapsed. O’Neil managed to cling onto the ladder but both young ladies fell helplessly.
Forman clicked this very moment and quickly turned away as he could not see the imminent collision of falling bodies with the ground. O’Neil knew that he had missed the ladies just by a few seconds. The woman Diana Bryant was declared dead on the spot. But luckily the younger girl, Tiare Jones, survived the fall.
Stanley J. Forman won a Pulitzer Prize for this photograph in 1976. The photograph was also named the World Press Photo of the Year in 1975. Forman also went on to win two more Pulitzer in 1977 and 1978.
This photograph had a great impact and it forced Boston and other states to impose tougher fire safety regulations.
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