You Just Never Know

I was using my Stumble Upon to browse photography sites when I came upon some very thought provoking images.  The title of the post is The Day Before and the photographs are part of an ad campaign from the Cape Times, a Cape Town newspaper in South Africa.  The ads show images that look very simple and plain in nature until you know the context of what they represent.  There is a photo of a park full of people enjoying a beautiful day with the twin towers in the background.  The date of the photo? September 10, 2001.  Following that is an image of an Asian mother and her son dated August 5, 1945, an image of JFK and his children in the Oval Office, November 21, 1963, and a group of African children walking to school dated June 15, 1976.  I think most of you know the significance of the images but if you don’t, they are all from the day before a significant moment in history; 9/11, the bombing of Hiroshima, the assassination of JFK, and the Soweto riots.  The tag line for the ads reads “The World can change in a day, don’t miss your daily edition of in-depth news”.  Now I don’t know about the “in-depth” news part but the first part is so very true.  And the really fascinating part of it is that as a photographer, you have the ability to freeze those moments in time, to capture the world in a way that will be forever changed after you press the shutter.  It’s hard to know what the significance of an image will and can be.  There is no way of knowing how the world will change and how the insignificant can suddenly become so significant.  I’m sure the person who took the picture in the park that 10th day of September had no idea how poignant their image would be the next day.

Maybe that is the way we should approach every image that we make, as if it is the last time that anyone will be able to see it as it was because it could be forever changed the next day.  Pretty deep, huh?  To see all of the images, you can go here.





  1. Reminds me of something our band leader said when we were still together. “We have played this same music a ton and might be a little bored of it. But most of the people watching us are seeing us for the first time. And you never know who might be watching. Mini Pearl was just getting started and played to a very small crowd in a big theater. After a few songs she got mad, said something about how few people were there, that she was better than this, and stormed off the stage. A man went to visit her in her dressing room. He said he was a record producer and would love to record her. But after seeing her display on stage, he wanted her to know he decided not to sign her. It took her 10 more years to finally make it. You never know, so make the most of your performance, play it like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it.”

    As you said, kinda deep, but still a neat photo.

  2. Nice photos… to bad they’re all used to sell advertising lies. The Kennedy picture was taken on October 10th, 1962 according to the book “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy” by Robert Dallek. I’ve never seen a baseball/softball/soccer field anywhere near the downtown financial district in NYC, let alone 2 blocks from the twin towers. A little internet research shows people believing it is actually the site of the CitiBank building and that this shot was composited in Photoshop. The Japan and South Africa photos could have been taken yesterday. The Japanese photo also appears to be reversed.

    Fairlytale photography… the cornerstone of the internet. Some day I’m going to start a website called just to expose all this stuff.

  3. The ball field is northwest of the WTD site. You can see it in Mapquest aerial images. the direction of view is southeast. The sun is setting to the right. Not sure how you verify that it actually was 10 SEP 2001, but perhaps that’s not important.

  4. Just a quick comment for those that are busy researching the validaty of the images in the article. I can’t say whether or not there is any proof that the images are what they are purported to be. That really wasn’t my point. What I was trying to emphasize is that as photographers, we have the ability to capture a moment in time that can forever portray a slice of history. What we photograph can be changed by unknown events the moment after we press that shutter release and in some small way, we are acting as world historians, preserving portions of an ever changing World. How’s that for deep.

  5. Hey Jeff,

    Great blog. One objection to your point however, you say “What I was trying to emphasize is that as photographers, we have the ability to capture a moment in time that can forever portray a slice of history”.

    Unfortunately by misusing the images (the Kenedy one is absolutely not taken the day before), the campaign undermines the point that the photo captures a moment in time. In truth, the photo is used to suggest a false moment in time. This is a lie at best, propaganda at worst. This suggests something else about photography which is equally as powerful as your point – namely, that a supposition that images are real makes them a powerful tool for misinformation. And arguably that photographers share some responsibility in not allowing their work to create a false slice of history.

  6. And just one small follow-up….

    If, as you assert that, “we are acting as world historians, preserving portions of an ever changing World”. Then it is absolutley relevant that we strive to ensure that history is honestly communicated. If history is knowingly misrepresented then it is corrupted and lost. A photographers responsibility, especially in the context of journalism does not end the moment they capture the image.

    I think your points are absolutley valid and interesting….unfortunately they are both affirmed and undermined by this campaign at the same time.

    In this specific instance I blame the Cape Times more than any one photographer (its a shame a newspaper would do this), but I am making my previous comments in a more general sense.

  7. While it is important to maintain accuracy not to mention integrity and honesty, there is this issue. Perhaps it IS possible to find photos that were really taken on the days before the tragedies listed.

  8. Great tip. Loved your blog!


  1. […] Jeff Revell over at PhotoWalkPro had a post last week that left me speechless. It was a services of ads for the Cape Times newspaper (in Cape Town, South Africa) that showed photos taken the day before tragic losses of human life. The one above, from that series, has the caption, September 10, 2001 (I’m showing it here in US date format). The series had a number of different images, and it’s worth taking a moment to see these powerful images and what they represent. Kudos to Jeff for uncovering this (here’s the direct link). […]

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