Friday, June 08, 2012

'Life' and Death

Was out to dinner with my friends Christopher and David the other night when Christopher mentioned Evelyn McHale, a name with which David and I were not familiar. Seems she is the subject of this breathtaking photo that ran in the May 12, 1947, issue of Life magazine with the following cutline:

Picture of the Week: On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. 'He is much better off without me ... I wouldn't make a good wife for anybody,' ... Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale's death Wiles got this picture of death's violence and its composure.

The only thing crazier than the pose Evelyn landed in -- she looks so beautiful and peaceful with nary a scratch on her, yet look at the car!!!! -- was the fact that the young photography student happened to be in the right place at the right time with his camera at the ready. The image was later reproduced by Andy Warhol and the subject of endless fascination.

For more information, including her New York Times obituary and a link to the Life magazine page as it appeared in 1947, click HERE.

1 comment: said...

I talked about this photo in a 2007 post.

Thanks for adding more info to the story.

The photo inspired the Don Dixon song "Sweet Surrender."