photographs of your suicide
August 5, 2005 10:26 AM   Subscribe

On September 15, 1959, student Bill Thomas witnessed the bloody aftermath of a bomb going off at Poe Elementary School. "This was an extremely upsetting event for me and my fellow six-grade students, but no consideration was ever given to the treatment of our trauma. In fact, nothing much was even said about it when we returned to school the next day." Decades later, he deals with what happened by taking photographs of himself in which he's seen committing suicide in a variety of convoluted ways.
posted by iconomy (25 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeesh. What a disturbing story. The images themselves somewhat less so, only because most of them seem to evoke "How Rube Goldberg Would've Committed Suicide."

Anyway, thanks, I think.
posted by soyjoy at 10:37 AM on August 5, 2005

Thankfully they've improved how they deal with kids after tragedies. I'm sure it ain't perfect, but now at least they bring in some counsellors.
posted by raedyn at 10:39 AM on August 5, 2005

posted by Divine_Wino at 10:44 AM on August 5, 2005

Icecube and seasaw. Heh.
posted by delmoi at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2005

Dog and Shotgun is my favorite.
posted by etc. at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2005

I was ready to yawn and think, "Oh, how very Photo I," but these are hilarious and disturbing and wonderful. I don't know if it's my monitor or crappy compression or what, but I wish I could see more detail in them.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2005

"How Rube Goldberg Would've Committed Suicide." Heh. Exactly what I though the first time I saw them, soyjoy. Thomas intended for these to be lighthearted and convoluted:

"My current project, the SUICIDE series, attempts to deal with this taboo social-psychological content in an ironic way, looking at suicide from both serious and humorous perspectives. The photographs consist of self-constructed and directed tableaux in which I am seen committing suicide by a variety of outrageous means."

ruby.aftermath, you probably already know this, but you can click on each and get a slightly larger photo. But yeah, I wish they were larger too.
posted by iconomy at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2005

iconomy--Very very fun link. The perfect way to handle that kind of trauma, in my opinion, when you've got to find your own way. I liked the one in the field the most because his head looked so furtive barely sticking up from the ground. Thanks.
posted by OmieWise at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2005

Reminds me of these drawings from this book.
posted by redteam at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2005

Interesting shots, really interesting and very Rube Goldberg meets Harold and Maude.

I hope he's found some peace by now.

Good post, iconomy!
posted by fenriq at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2005

My aunt (a school employee) got a chunk of her right arm and leg blown off in this explosion. My father (a sherriff's deputy) arrived on the scene to hear people saying "how can it be raining" only to find out it was blood spattering the pavement, dripping from the trees.

Good post, but one that personally dredges up a lot of uncomfortable memories, because the impact this tragedy had on two branches of my family tree is still being felt today.
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2005

Wolfdaddy, how horrible. I don't know what to say. I'm really sorry.
posted by iconomy at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2005

I didn't mean to bring the thread down--I'm sharing the photos with my cousin (my aunt's daughter)--just wanted to bring the personal into this to provide a backbeat to your post ... which is good :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:02 PM on August 5, 2005

I'd really like to know what she thinks about the photographs, Wolfdaddy. I found Bill Thomas's site about a month ago, and was curious about what had happened to him, because he never went into any detail. So I googled the date, and spent days reading about what played out at Poe Elementary. It's so inconceivable that everyone was pretty much expected to go on with life as usual afterwards - this being before the enlightened age of trauma counseling and recognizing post traumatic stress disorders and whatnot. And I wonder if anyone ever found out why Orgeron did what he did.
posted by iconomy at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2005

Reminds me of these drawings from this book.
posted by redteam at 1:14 PM CST on August 5 [!]

Please don't post those... They are copyrighted works and that page is hosting them illegally.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:48 PM on August 5, 2005

This is fascinating. Bill Thomas was my photography professor 10 years ago at Rice University. I remember seeing these photographs then, but he never made any mention of what inspired them. Thank you, iconomy, for posting this. The page with the Texas Ranger's story in particular was incredibly moving.

ruby.aftermath, the photos are pretty amazing in person. For the class that I took, he had us use the same kind of cameras that he uses for his own photos. I can't remember what type they are, but they use 4" x 5" negatives, so they capture an incredible amount of detail.
posted by MsMolly at 1:05 PM on August 5, 2005

Reminds me of these drawings from this book.

Funny, I was reminded of this book.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:32 PM on August 5, 2005

Superb stuff. It would be nice to see more detail because I can't quite work out what's happening in some of them, but other wise great.
posted by dodgygeezer at 1:58 PM on August 5, 2005

"Swimming Pool and Concrete Blocks" is my favorite, because he's wearing a snorkel. It's a wonderful touch. "Sure, I want to drown myself, but, you know... not until the last possible moment."
posted by notmydesk at 2:02 PM on August 5, 2005

I'd really like to know what she thinks about the photographs, Wolfdaddy.

My cousin found them amusing, uncomfortable, odd, and good. She's going to pass them along to her mom. It'll be interesting to see what she thinks.

It's so inconceivable that everyone was pretty much expected to go on with life as usual afterwards

I was telling my mom about your post on the phone, and pretty much put your words into my mouth (we rarely talk about this, she and I because...); her response was, "Well, yeah, that's what you did, we didn't have legions of hand-wringers come in and pour more crap on the shitpile back in those days."

I gently turned the conversation to other matters.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:47 PM on August 5, 2005

Iconomy's first link, the eyewitness account of the Texas Ranger, talks about the bravery of a nine-year-old boy who went back into the building while everyone thought it contained more bombs, to carry out a child with polio who'd been left behind. The ranger, a WWII veteran, called that as brave an act as he'd seen in the war, and wondered whatever became of that boy. Interestingly, according to Google, he's living in LA and is involved with the Boy Scouts.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:51 PM on August 5, 2005

Excellent post, iconomy. I also liked hearing about how you found the photos awhile back, and then spent time researching the background behind them. Your added research really made the post, so thanks.

redteam, I thought of Bunny Suicides, too...soyjoy's Rube Goldberg reference is also spot on.
posted by madamjujujive at 6:00 PM on August 5, 2005

Great great post. I like the way the photos are both poignant and witty.
posted by LarryC at 6:47 PM on August 5, 2005

Trauma was still being largely ignored in the late 60's. Folks were just expected to continue as if life was normal, ignoring the worms, eating into their brains.

None the less, I confess, I can't see this man's name without thinking about this, totally unrelated thing. (but damn, they are good).
posted by Goofyy at 10:21 PM on August 5, 2005

Excellent - a little scary, but quite thought-provoking at the same time.
posted by dg at 1:35 AM on August 19, 2005

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