I’d love to hear your opinions. Really.

I need your help. I’m trying to write an essay, and I’ve chosen myself a subject and title that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of research on. Which was daft.

So here I am doing a bit of research myself – by asking you all for an opinion. My title is going to be something on the lines of

Does a light-hearted recreation of an iconic photograph compromise the power of the original image?

My main example is Eddie Adam’s 1968 photograph from the Vietnam War, showing the execution of a Vietcong Guerilla by a South Vietnamese General.

Adams was awarded a Pulitzer prize for the photograph, which was seem as instrumental in changing public opinion about the war and helped lead to the American withdrawal from the conflict.

When researching an entirely different assignment, I came across this by Mike Stimpson

and have since found many other renditions of the original, which can be found by clicking here.

But while there may, perhaps, be something inappropriate or distasteful about treating such a serious photo with a humorous touch,  I’m no closer to answering my essay question. So I’m throwing it open to anyone who reads this…

What do you think? What’s your reaction to seeing Stimpson’s Lego version, or any of the others? Seeing these recreations, do you feel any differently about the original?

And any other comments you care to make. Seriously, I’ve not got a lot to work with here and I have an essay due in next week.

(Note: I should state that I love Mike Stimpson’s work, and that he is aware that I’m using his photo as an example for this essay.)


10 thoughts on “I’d love to hear your opinions. Really.

  1. Stephen

    My first reaction was that the Lego mini fig picture was in poor taste, but after a pause to consider, the contrast may actually enhance the power of the original, and at the very least is drawing attention to the original work.

  2. John Crouch

    Hi Trevor
    I feel that the impact of an iconic photograph occurs in the first few seconds of seeing and understanding it. Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, Tank Man. Neil Armstrong on the Moon. The naked girl running and crying in Vietnam. Thousands more. Many of them have been parodied, but the original image never loses that initial effect. Human beings do laugh and joke about serious issues after they happen. It seems to be a way of coping with tragedy without it taking over your life.
    Good luck with the essay.

    John Crouch

  3. Rob

    Much like the other commenters, I don’t think this detracts from the original. I’m not sure your empathy is lined up properly if viewing an image reenacted with Lego minifigures affects your ability to be moved by the source material.

    That said, I’m not a fan of the Lego version. I had to make several passes of it before I realised what it was about it that I don’t like, and it’s simply that the characters are smiling. I know this is the default expression for a Lego being, but I find it really distracts and cheapens the reenactment that could perhaps have been done a little more sombrely with more appropriate expressions.

  4. aseriesofobjects

    I Agree with the comments about the Lego version, the smiling figures are in some way jarring. I think it’s got something to do with whether or not the reproduction adds anything to the discourse. If its parody for the sake of it it’s in poor taste, if it in someway makes you think more deeply about the original or the copy then it may have some validity.
    Maybe have a look at Walter Bejamins seminal essay “Art in the age of mechanical reproduction” he talks about the importance of the original artwork, but also why and how reproductions can be valid.

    1. Trevor Post author

      Thanks, aseriesofobjects. Someone else has also pointed my in Wallter Benjamin’s direction, so I definitely plan to give it a read.

  5. Trevor Post author

    I’ve also had a few comments left on facebook in response to this, which for the sake of completeness I’ll reproduce here:

    ” I have to say both photos made me uncomfortable. The first obviously because someone is about to be executed, the latter makes me uncomfortable, probably not the right words but seems to be mocking/disrespectful to recreate using Lego?”

    “I think the pics that re-establish the horror in the original photo are somehow more acceptable than the ones that make light of it. Eg: I find the banksy pic more acceptable than the Lego one”

    “While I am of the opinion that to reconstruct this kind of image is in bad taste, I don’t think it really compromises the power of the original. In this case the original is a picture of a violent death [whether deserved or not]. Knowing that it is a real image -eg not staged – makes it very powerful. And that is proved by it having such an effect on the American psyche. It trivialises it but does it really compromise it?”

    ” It doesn’t seem appropriate with the smiles on the faces but does it draw more attention to the original? Probably not for the average person. Anyone that does make the connection with the original will probably wince. The original subject matter is too serious to be made light of, in my opinion. Had I made the connection as a much younger person I probably would have found it amusing or been delighted at the clever connection.”

    ” My (short) answer to your title is no, I don’t think light hearted pics take away from the original. If anything it makes even more people aware of the original. Perhaps I would feel differently if the subject was a friend/relative.”

    I’ve also had some correspondence with Mike Stimpson which I’ll post here if he’s happy for me to do so.

  6. Paul Dean

    I wonder if the photo still holds as much impact these days Trevor. If this had been in this year it would possibly have been a video and around the world and parodied within days of first publication. It would be interesting ask the generation for whom Vietnam is now a war seldom thought of and pictures of horrific acts are more commonplace. Would the Lego parody be seen as nothing more than a YouTube or Facebook prank? I feel I’m asking more than suggesting. For me Trevor both images rely on the viewers semiotic dictionary alongside their cultural context to a war which is possibly little known about for the viewer. However the original portrays an awful act to a human and could be engaged with as such however I feel a generation of people would not feel much for the Lego image. I personally embrace the parody. It draws attention back to the original horrific act and keeps that image alive

    1. Trevor Post author

      Thanks Paul, interesting points about ‘what if it had happened today’. In fact, there was also a film crew present (If you really want to you can watch the recording here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s3JuwkoxZk ) but it was the photograph which had the impact, probably because it appeared on the front pages and more people saw newspapers than television news in 1968.

  7. karen hooper

    the first real photo shows emotion and also has a 3d effect in my mind the lego photo looks like bugs bunny is gonna turn up and say whats up doc when something is visually just lego pieces how can it portray such an emotional shot? thats my reasoning


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