Thursday, November 4, 2010

Powerful Photographs

Lorne Michaels at the funeral of Chris Farley
Madison, Wisconsin, December 1997
Photograph Copyright © Associated Press, 1997

I am usually unmoved by photographs.  By that, I mean while I can almost appreciate them the same way I do music, they usually don't resonate with me to the point where an emotion washes over me, like listening to Rachmaninoff, or Led Zeppelin; the appreciation is usually more intellectual than visceral.  

Yet, almost thirteen years after the fact, this photograph by an Associated Press photographer still shakes me to the core.  It is the only photograph I've ever cried over.  It is a straightforward composition of a man at a funeral, standing before a hearse, his face caught in a quiet moment of utter devastation.

Lorne Michaels had already gone to a number of funerals of cast members from Saturday Night Live, most notably John Belushi, writer Michael O'Donoghue, Gilda Radner, early guest Andy Kaufman.  But the overdose death of anything-for-a-laugh fall guy Chris Farley clearly shook Michaels.  Looking at this simple composition, I can fully feel the pain of a father's anguish over the loss of his son.

Less than six months later, Michaels would attend the funeral of hilarious straight-man Phil Hartman, who was murdered in his Encino, California, home by his wife Brynn.