UFO Conjecture(s)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Photographer’s Intent: The Trent/McMinnville UFO Photos

Copyright 2013, InterAmerica, Inc.


Lance Moody and Paul Kimball excoriated Anthony Bragalia’s earlier piece about the famous Trent/McMinnville UFO pictures in Mr. Kmball’s Other Side of Truth podcast, linked here, a few days ago.

Lance and Paul were furious that Anthony was remiss about a LIFE photo’s origin or provenance.

I’m not going to renew that imbroglio, but in the course of the discussion here from and within Paul Kimball’s podcast with Mr. Moody, there was broached the idea, from me, and Mr. Bragalia (in his piece) that the LIFE photographer by shooting this photo…


was hinting that the Trents had hoaxed their photos, and this was how (in part): the boy on a ladder, beneath the wires seen in the original photos.

This was a photo taken at the same time by the LIFE photographer, replicating the oil drum shot in the original above:


Mr. Kimball, citing his experience as a film-maker/photographer thought the LIFE photographer was merely accumulating many shots, to make sure he had some his LIFE Editor wanted.

I wrote that photographers sometimes are making a point with the shots they take, keeping a few for their personal portfolio while hoping others will make print and their point, whatever that point may be, even one diametric to the piece being published.

Mr. Moody, also like me, involved with news media (photographers, still and video) agreed that photogs take many photos, some to hold, others to make a statement, and those for their editors or companies and the pending piece to be published.

To make that point, I cite this, from The New Yorker [July 29, 2013, Critics Notebook: Eye on America, Page 11] about the great American photogapher Walker Evans, whose work is being shown in the permanent-collection gallery at New York’s MOMA:

“… Evans was never a strictly objective observer; for all their blunt simplicity, his photographs are sharply opinionated.”

That’s how I’ve found new photographers in my work at various newspapers and TV stations; Mr. Moody too, it seems.

Therefore, the idea that LIFE’s assigned photographer for the Trent family felt there was hokum involved in the Trent snapshooting and tried to convey that with his out-of-context “boy-on-a-ladder” photo is not outrageous; it was a subliminal hint, I argue, as does Mr. Bragalia, that the photographer wanted to convey, while appearing to be just an objective LIFE shooter.

That’s the gist or main point of Mr. Bragalia’s Trent piece, which can be read with its update about the provenance controversy at his private blog – bragalia.blogspot.com

What’s your take – not on the Oberg brouhaha, but the idea that the LIFE photographer was trying to tell us something?



  • You don't quite have what I was driving at. When I said the photographer was undoubtedly accumulating as many shots as possible, I have no doubt that he took these to cover the hoax angle, which he either believed to be the case, or which he wanted to present to his editor as an option (likely both of these were true).

    But the broader point is that it's irrelevant what the photographer thought.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • How is what the photographer thought irrelevant?

    Here's a guy, on scene talking to the people involved.

    His impression seems kinda important.

    If he got a vibe that the photos may have been hoaxed, that seems relevant to me.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • We just see this differently, Rich. His opinion of what happened some time before is no more or less valid than anyone else's who wasn't there at the time. Now, if he had conducted a professional analysis of the photos and determined that they were fakes, that would be something, but to my knowledge he did not. Accordingly, your opinion is worth as much as his, as is mine, and as is the guy on the street. That's the way it would play in court, that's certainly the way it would play in a scientifically oriented analysis, and that's the way it plays in the real world too.


    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • I agree, Paul.

    But it's a nuanced episode, and should have been followed up at the time.

    I just find it interesting.

    It's something that doesn't or can't take us anywhere now.

    I like that someone may have had an opinion at the time....an opinion that was overlooked or ignored.

    You are not a Jungian, in that you eschew hunches; for you it's the facts, a "scientifically oriented analysis."

    I get hopped up on hunches, a facile approach surely, but my own.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • Rich,

    I think Paul has this closer to the way I see it.

    But yes, Loomis had the chance to see the folks involved and that might have some bearing.

    But we don't know for sure.

    His editor may have said to try to play up the hoax angle, etc. The Trents were certainly very accommodating which may be a point in their favor?

    If I were shooting it (even before I was a skeptic), I suppose that I would try all sorts of things. Some of them, I can tell you I might not even know the meaning of and some of them might be ridiculous.

    And I can see the hand of the photographer in the photos--"Let's get over by the chicken coops, here, Mrs. Trent so everyone can see that you are a simple farmer's wife, for instance."

    Oh but Bragalia's piece has/had nothing to do with these issues--it had to do with the kind of stuff I prefer to deal with: claims that can be tested--all of which he failed.


    By Blogger Lance, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • Actually Rich, I'm the king of hunches, and I do find it interesting, in a roundabout way. I just don't think it's particularly relevant.

    And I say that as someone who agrees with the Life photographer, if indeed he did think the Trents had hoaxed the photos.

    By Blogger Paul Kimball, at Sunday, July 28, 2013  

  • Fellows,

    I think we are on the same page, about the photographer and his (maybe) modus).

    I know yoiu guys want to pummel Mr. Bragalia for, what you see, as errant reportage (and no apparent remorse by him).

    I'm avoiding that part of the little brouhaha.

    I just find the photo of the boy on the ladder intriguing....it's out of context: what does a kid on a ladder have to do with farming or a sighting/photo of a flying saucer?

    Reading things into photos -- subliminal feelings of the photographer -- has been a sort of "hobby" of mine.

    I've done the same for paintings by artists, writings by authors, et cetera.

    Paul Johnson has a few books about this: "Intellectuals," and a book on art dealing with the underlying meanings in paintings, so I am not alone in that obtuse endeavor.

    The boy-on-the-ladder photo strikes me s odd, and meaningful.

    It may be neither, but I'm hooked by it.

    So was Mr. Bragalia who, despite some major critics of his work and "articles" here, has a fan base.

    As a point of interest. let me say that we get about 880 to 1000 hits per day at this blog.

    When Mr. Bragalia drops by with an offering, those hits jump to thousands -- six thousand for his current piece about the Roswell photographers.

    He has fans or, at least, persons interested in what he has to say.

    It would be remiss of the RRRGroup to deny his fans (or critics) of his observations, wouldn't it?

    I open the door to oblique views here, so long as they come to us with good intentions and a unique, intelligent patina.

    (We shun propositions and/or comments from snarky wackos, such as Ufology's Creep, who sneaks into Kevins blog and UFO UpDates corrupting those venues with his queer posterings.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 29, 2013  

  • Wasn't the main argument in favor of the photos the fact that the Trents were simple farm folk who would not have possessed the intelligence or apparatus to produce two fake UFO photos?

    Like those two Cottingley girls in c.1920 who likewise were too young and innocent to ever produce those pics of fairies, and fool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among many others.

    Like Stephen Darbishire, age 13, who couldn't possibly have faked his Adamski-like photos.

    Personally, I don't see the 'boy on the ladder' photo as anything more than a photographer's attempt to get as many photos of the farm, the family, and its surroundings. The boy's presence was fortuitous.

    That the LIFE photographer suspected a hoax is hardly surprising - but he had no way of proving it and the Trents were simple easy going people.

    So my view is that the boy on the ladder is a red herring. Nothing to do with anyone hinting at a fake.

    Was this photo, or any of the others he took, published at the time?

    By Blogger cda, at Monday, July 29, 2013  

  • CDA:

    How does a cute kid on a ladder have anything to do with farm-life?

    It's out of context, and within my purview of how photographers think.

    My main photographer, in Fort Wayne (Dean Orewiler), a superb photog, was always making photo asides, and still does.

    (See his work on Facebook, Instagram, et cetera.)

    Your lack of imaginative conjecturing about what the LIFE photographer was thinking or hinting at goes to my plaint about people not getting nuance.

    It's those small Sherlockian clues that really tell the story.

    (I'll address this further with examples from a book about photography realities, lying within photos themselves, discernible by those with an acumen for subtlety and hidden truths.)


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Monday, July 29, 2013  

  • The issue I have on either side of the motives of the photographer for taking that one photo of the boy on the ladder out of presumably several others, is that his suspicions, based on interviewing these witnesses ( which I am sure he would) simply leads us without his personal take and so it is open for interpretation, and that's how and why he shot them as he did, as this was a single chance to catch all the angles of the story. In case the story took a turn toward a hoax, he had a file photo ready to go into print. I agree with Paul on this. The boy seems an unlikely candidate while the parent(s) would have to collude with the boy after the fact. How old would this boy be now? As CDA pointed out, the Cottingley case might be apt but recall that the hoax was not admitted to until many, many decades later. If the boy is alive, he is as close as anyone would get to having been there, and even that as we all know ( if he sticks to the story) his views ultimately do not carry any weight. This event seems to be, like all iconic cases, a matter more of perception than material evidence.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Tuesday, July 30, 2013  

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