By: pbcmedia

May 27 2010

Tags: , , ,

Category: Catastrophes


Focal Length:180mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D

There are certain news images over my 65 years that can still make me wince- even close my eyes or look away from-when they are shown again on TV.

A few examples would be: newsreels of Nazi Concentration camps in 1945, the 1963 Zapruder 16mm footage of President Kennedy’s motorcade in Dallas,  RFK giving his victory speech in a Los Angeles hotel in 1968 after winning the California primary, the young Cambodian girl, on fire from napalm, running with arms raised in horror as her flesh and clothes are consumed in flames, the helicopter atop the US Saigon embassy evacuating the last of the staff with a much longer line than seats on the helicopter, the 1981 assassination attempt on President Reagan outside the Washington Hilton, the explosion of the Space Shuttle  Challenger in 1986.

Today, I have a new one, based on the deep water LIVE video camera images being shown on TV of the catastrophic oil spill off Louisiana with the occasional fish or eel swimming into and out of the shot. The above image began with shots from the TV of this video feed.

This video is not time-stamped for us in a beginning and end moment; unlike the countdown clock which kept running at Cape Canaveral in 1986- long after it was clear that the Space Shuttle had disintegrated and its debris fallen into the ocean–the oil spill today keeps gushing, silently gushing.  It is as if the Challenger was shot into the sky and shattered in a pitiless loop of launch and destruction 24/7, for 35 days and counting.

This clock keeps counting the seconds, minutes, hours of this spewing oil.  Ticking…ticking,…ticking.   The sickening consequences of it, perhaps beyond imagination, shall foul the weeks, months, years ahead even after it stops.  If…it stops.

The waters of the Gulf, just inches from the billowing ooze, are the colors of a Florida sunrise.

Shall I now wince and avert my eyes from dawn as well?

©Pat Coakley 2010

Photographs cannot be used without written permission

**Select photographs from this blog and my wider archive can be purchased at


16 comments on “LIVE”

  1. as with your art above, it looks as though it has grown into something we cannot tame…

  2. You image is fitting. I can hardly respond, this catastrophe is so sickening, as though the very center of the earth were bleeding. The hubris — no, the arrogance — of western culture to think that we can continue to stretch the limits and plunder the earth without consequence has now come home to roost. And yet, holiday travel on the nation’s roads is expected to break all records. A massive disconnect.

    • Don, I see it slightly differently–the hubris, the arrogance is human and I see those same traits here, but I also see them in religious fervor in all cultures. Western culture doesn’t have the franchise on those traits but we surely have the monopoly on consumption.

  3. a brilliant commentary pat. worthy of its own column in the nytimes or at least the globe. your work sparkles and handfulls of sparkles rub off and fall in a pattern on the deep red curtain of heart. it is kind of the draped background in every picture. i think of matisse and his tables of fruit, i think of vermeers velvets. it is wonderful.
    the textures in the image look almost like needlepoint design. i bet this one could be needlepointed. even tho it is about the oil, and the severity of its consequences, it has a flowerlike shape. when i first saw it thumbnailsize on my safari homepage, i thought it was an exotic wild flower. i thought of the flower show again.

    • Tipota, I forgot to tell Don that at some stage this image went into Painter so I could experiment with texture. Photos from the TV, never mind photos of videos on TV always have a checkerboard of lines. So funny to think of this as a flower…of course, I see it now. It is actually a hand with a rubber glove dipped into the surface of the Gulf where the oil is now so clearly visible.

  4. All of your examples are people centered at the core, but strike a universal chord: lives extinguished that carried hope, loss of a future that may have been better, a setback for all and proof humans are fallible, a realization that the worst we can do is horrible, sometimes people can do inhuman things, and we know what we are capable of … and we are ashamed.
    The oil spill is Earth centered: it is there and will be there for a long time. We have damaged our garden through ignorance and want. Pointing fingers is useless: it is all of our fingers on this trigger.

    note: you’ve bummed me out.

    • PR, although I am sorry to have bummed you out, I find your comment worthy of an award…since you seem to get awards galore, let me bestow yet another for commentary. Not one goofy word, just thought and emotion. wow. “all our fingers”…the image contains a hand with a rubber glove dipped into the surface oil on the Gulf waters. You are so right. All our fingers are on this trigger. Consumers fuel this whole mess.

  5. I thought at first this was part of your series “what is it” I would have failed the question because it is so beautiful, a tapestry hanging on the wall-I would never have come up with the horror that it is. I can remember people asking me “do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?” I was in McElroy Cafeteria when the news was broadcast over the public address system. We were encouraged to go to the chapel to pray for his recovery, as we filed out there was a new broadcast asking to pray for the repose of his soul. Then RFK I was on Pacific Avenue at your apartment with Angie when we watched it live, we were lucky to be together, it was so sad. Now this in the Gulf, I hate to be so banal but”money is the root of all evil” and this situation is evil at its worst, I am sickened by the news of” short cuts taked by BP” and inferior materials used. The tragedy of JFK and RFK caused us to grieve this situation in the Gulf has me nuts with anger.

  6. Pat, it seems like you have little figures floating to the surface. I hope they all have sponges to soak up all that oil and ooze and gunk.

    I can no longer watch that stuff spew into the Gulf. I, too, avert my eyes at all of the images you mentioned above, along, now with this one.

    Amazing how you can make an image so beautiful from something so awful.

    • You know, Carol, I felt I had to make it somewhat beautiful not because I wanted to but because when I looked at images like the one tagged with “LIVE” in the post, I saw the beauty of the ocean along with the crude excreting from that pipe. It reminded me of how suffering happens amidst everything else..sunlight, starry starry nights..beautiful dawn mornings as the case with the Challenger.

  7. The only good I can see coming out of the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is that perhaps those dirtbags who run these obscenely rich and rapacious oil companies will start doing the right thing by the environment when BP has the bejeezus sued out of it.

    A pox on all their houses!

    • I’m with ya on this pox, Razz! But, can we pox all of us for just wanting our price of gas to go down? We all have that obscene, rapacious nature thing goin’ on, I think. We just justify our version of rape and pillaging as “necessary”.

  8. […] my blogger friend and artist, Don Diddams said in a comment on another of my posts about this subject: “It is as if the very center of the earth is […]

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