Sunday, August 7, 2011

News, Newsreels, and Uncle News

For no particular reason, other than the fact that I'd been going through old photographs yesterday, it occurred to me to do a bit of research on an old family friend, Newsreel Wong.

Wong made a name for himself in the late '30s for a photograph he took (and possibly staged to some extent) of a baby on a Shanghai train platform.

What I didn't know was that he had been in New York City on July 28, 1945, when a disoriented pilot flew his Boeing B-25 Mitchell Bomber into the Empire State Building. Visiting the Hearst Metrotone offices early that morning, Newsreel Wong had been the only one in an office when the phone rang, and he answered it. He ended up commandeering a camera and headed to the site, where he was able not only to shoot the exterior of the building but got in to get film of the offices that were affected. The only other person who managed to gain access was Max Markman, who posed as a doctor, and shot the footage of the event included in this British Pathé newsreel.

A less dramatic version of the coverage can also be found on YouTube, but I thought this highly edited bit was interesting for its embellishments. Since I'll be teaching the Visual Anthropology course in the Fall, this could provide some talking points about the role of the observer in the interpretation of events, and the impact editing has on the reception of information.

I don't know what happened to Wong's footage (although I suspect that if it exists it's accessible through UCLA's archives), but locating this particular event during an innocent search for a character from my past (he was known to my brother and me as "Uncle News" and lived near us on Yang Ming Shan outside of Taipei) amounts to a bit of the kind of synchronicity we've been talking about in the Myth class. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 nears, this incident resonates eerily with more recent events.

One of the best blogs about media history I've ever found on the web is Amanda Emily's Feeding the News Beast: A Century of Tales from Behind the Lens. Her post on this event is the source of much of my information, and one on Wong himself explains how he got his nickname. Digital Video and Photography students ought to bookmark her site, because it's an endlessly informative record of visual news coverage.

Note: I'm posting this entry on both the Cabinet and The Owls' Parliament, due to its potential interest for a variety of audiences.

1 comment:

Kel said...

what a fantastic snippet of synchronicity