There are some images that instantly and indelibly define an era in history. Photographer Bob Jackson caught the moment when Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot President John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, in the basement of the Dallas police station, Oswald collapsing inwards on himself, his eyes closed, his mouth open in a wince of pain, or surprise, or both. In Saigon during the Tet Offensive, Eddie Adams took a photo precisely as a bullet from South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan’s .38 revolver ripped through Nguyen Van Lem’s skull. In 1995, Charles H. Porter IV shot a photograph of firefighter Chris Fields tenderly carrying 1-year-old Baylee Almon out of the wreckage at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, where she and 167 other people were killed by domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh.
Now we have that image for our own era: Daily Progress photographer Ryan M. Kelly’s picture of James Alex Fields Jr.’s Dodge Challenger slamming into a crowd of people who had come to Charlottesville to stand against the white supremacists who were rallying there. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal, was killed, and 19 others were injured, some of them critically.
Multiple people captured the incident on video. One clip, taken at a distance from the pedestrian mall where the protesters were struck, suggests the terrifying speed of the oncoming car as it whips down the street. Another, shot at the point of impact, shows a person being tossed onto the hood of a car before it crashes into the rear bumper of another vehicle, then accelerates in reverse. These videos are a short, sharp shock.
Kelly’s photo does something different, and perhaps even more vital. It gives us a moment when the world, quite literally, seems to be turned upside down.
Two men fly through the air, their feet swept out from under them. One falls…