Daily Picture Show

Giffords' Hospital Hand-Hold: The Power Of A Simple Snapshot

The hands of Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. i

The hands of Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP
The hands of Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

The hands of Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP

Landscapes are great. But sometimes it's the details — the closer perspective — that resonates most. Take this photo (which was on our homepage), for example: It's a grainy cell phone snapshot of hands. On any other day, for any other subject, this type of image would be hard-pressed to climb up the page to that position.

But those hands belong to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly. They're located in a hospital. And they represent a stillness amid the complicated maelstrom of recent events. It's more immediate and intimate than any of the other photos we've seen.

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," 1936

Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," 1936 Library of Congress hide caption

itoggle caption Library of Congress

To draw a comparison, Dorothea Lange once took a famous photo of a migrant mother. But she also took some photos of that migrant mother that you probably haven't seen. If you look at her contact sheet, you can watch the iconic photo emerge.

First, she establishes the scene with a shoddy tent on barren land. Then some tighter frames around the family. Then a series of the mother until finally, there it is: Her poised hand and absent gaze speak volumes about her plight. And the rest of the scene falls away.

Over the past few days we've been inundated with crime scenes, memorials and mugshots. But this is the first photo of Giffords' family. A very large, national issue suddenly becomes more human; conversely, at the snap of a shutter, an intensely personal moment goes public. A small detail, the right gesture, suddenly represents something more universal.

Mark Kelly holding the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her room at University Medical Center in Tucson on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2010. i

Mark Kelly holding the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her room at University Medical Center in Tucson on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2010. Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP
Mark Kelly holding the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her room at University Medical Center in Tucson on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2010.

Mark Kelly holding the hand of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her room at University Medical Center in Tucson on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2010.

Office of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP

The image is by no means iconic like the migrant mother. But it's fodder for thought — that very often, the unexpected photo in a time of crisis is the one we remember. Think back to other difficult times in history. What image does your mind conjure?

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