Rocco Morabito – The Kiss of Life

rocco-morabito-the-kiss-of-life.jpg

Rocco Morabito won the 1968 Pulitzer Prize for Spot Photography for this photograph – “The Kiss of Life.”

Apprentice lineman J.D. Thompson is breathing life into the mouth of another apprentice lineman, Randall G. Champion, who hangs unconscious after receiving a jolt of high voltage. 

Morabito was driving on West 26th Street in July 1967 on another assignment when he saw Champion dangling from the pole.  He called an ambulance and grabbed his camera.

Champion recovered.

In 2000, Rocco Morabito, at the age of 79, said, “I get requests all the time from people who teach mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and have proof that it works.  I am proud of that.”

© All rights reserved by Rocco Morabito, Jacksonville Journal (no longer in publication), and whomever else might own the copyright to this photo.

Jacksonville Journal on Wikipedia

I added some information to the Wikipedia article on him April 7, 2009:

Rocco Morabito on Wikipedia

Rocco with his famous photograph:

rocco-morabito-kiss-of-life-sm

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Commentary:  I originally saw a large (maybe 28 inches wide and 36 inches tall) print of this photo several months ago during a touring exhibition of all the Pulitzer Prize winning photos since the 1940s.  I had never seen the image before, so when I first encountered it, it was striking (especially in such a large scale).

There are no homosexuals in the picture (to the best of my knowledge).  And I doubt Morabito, in the instant of taking the photo, had the intent to frame homosexual symbolism in a positive context.  But the photo did suggest this question in me:

If after clear and patient analysis, it became apparent that homosexual actions would help someone close to you over the long term, would you have enough independent knowledge, education, and courage to attempt the option?

Or would your training and conditioning preclude you from even considering the option?

Yesterday, Veronica commented about the common programming so many of us receive.  Her comment arose in response to yesterday’s post of beautiful, loving, & intimate photos by Heather Corinna.  She highlighted that so many of us are taught that many sexual actions are obscene or filthy long before we experience them for ourselves, long before we discover whether or not they are pleasant or healthy for everyone involved.

Love requires courage and independent investigation.  I think love is more concerned about quality of character than it is about gender.

Most people, including many homosexuals, believe that sexual or loving desires for someone of the same sex are something that is genetically predisposed.  That may be true often.  But love or sexual desire for someone of the same sex can also arise out of carefully reasoned and chosen decisions, chosen against most the familial and cultural instructions a person has received growing up.

My social and educational experience has suggested to me that the more empathetic and intelligent a person is, the more likely they are to be drawn to other specific people by the quality of a specific person’s character than simply by their gender.  Gender either does not remain a discriminating factor, or it loses its importance as an excluding factor.  The more well read and the more educated in literature and the arts a person is, the more likely (on average) a person is able to understand someone who chooses homosexual or bisexual actions as a considerate and compassionate option.

Here are books on related topics:

Closer to Home: Bisexuality & Feminism (Women’s Studies/Gay Studies)
by Elizabeth Reba Weise

Dual Attraction: Understanding Bisexuality
by Martin S. Weinberg

Current Research on Bisexuality
by Ronald C. Fox

I have written reviews of all 3 books on Amazon.  The reviews can be read by going to the “Amazon Reviews” link in the right column of this page, then paging down to the last page of reviews (because the 3 reviews above were some of the first I wrote on Amazon).

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11 thoughts on “Rocco Morabito – The Kiss of Life

  1. Dear Sia:

    “I think love is more concerned about quality of character than it is about gender.”

    Nice.

    I smile when I think about a crowded street scene, filled with people. Imagine for a moment that we could see into the nature of someone’s character as they stroll down the sidwalk, as easily as we can see the shape of their face. Its fun to think about a beautiful PERSON walking down the street, turning heads, causing people to bump into each other, etc., leaving in their wake a stream of stunned onlookers – of both genders.

    JG

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    SIA: Thank you for sharing your lovely ideas.

    Like

    • Thank you Kyle! As a gay man, I too am truly finding it disappointing that this image is turning up on so many tumblr’s and blogs as “gay” imagery. While I am glad the real story is here for people to read and realize what the photo is about (which personally, I don’t see how anyone with a modicum of intelligence could look at it and not understand that it is a life/death situation, not a freakin gay kiss) I still think to add ANYTHING beyond that explanation as unnecessary and irresponsible, in making it a sexually political matter.

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  2. Personally, I think it’s laughable that you’re interpreting a truly heroic and inspirational photo into homosexual terms. It’s an amazing photograph, and apparently a life was saved. It has nothing to do with the sexual orientation of either of the people in the picture. Yet, you seem to feel it’s appropriate to politicize and exploit an amazing photograph for your own means. I wonder what the “participants” would think of your efforts.

    Besides that, I think anytime you bring sex into CPR, you’re doing a disservice to people in whole. Nobody who participates in CPR should have to worry about a potential photograph being used in sexual terms. He saved a life, he’s a hero, not a pawn to be used for your own agenda.

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    OneMoreOption: Hi Kyle. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of meeting you before. Welcome.

    I appreciate your feedback and criticism.

    In my commentary above, I clearly stated “There are no homosexuals in the picture (to the best of my knowledge). And I doubt Morabito, in the instant of taking the photo, had the intent to frame homosexual symbolism in a positive context.”

    I imply from your comments that you would like no one to make any visual sexual associations with lifesaving actions. That is a fair criticism. You believe it is a disservice to ordinary people to make any sexual associations, homosexual or otherwise, with a life saving action.

    However, this blog is about “Sexuality in the Arts.” And one of the purposes of this blog is to discuss the interpretative or potential sexual considerations of artworks, whether or not there was any intent on the part of the artist(s).

    As to your implication that the participants might fear or be concerned about being considered to be in any way homosexual: My commentary spoke directly to that kind of common concern or fear. I suggested it would be wrong if someone’s fear of being considered homosexual prevented them from caring for someone of the same gender, whether in normal activities or life-saving activities.

    I doubt that if the picture had been a white man saving a black woman (instead of one man saving another), and my commentary had instead been about interracial considerations, you would have raised similar interracial “agenda” criticisms. But I concede I could be wrong in my assumption about your intents.

    As we both appear to agree that nothing in the photograph is homosexual, I appreciate you adding to the discussion of societal concerns and priorities.

    If someone didn’t know the lifesaving context and history of the photograph (which I clearly shared in the post), the image, considered without contextual references, is very archetypal and symbolic, showing a courageous man putting himself at great risk to save another man – an amazing act of bravery, love, and kindness.

    One of my suggestions is this: It should not matter whether or not the contextual information reveals the sexual orientation of the men involved. The kindness and caring of one man for his fellow man should be praised. And no one involved in simple or complex acts of human kindness towards other humans should have to consider or fear whether or not the person they are caring for is of one gender or another.

    Your criticisms were well written, and they have merit. I appreciate them.

    Like

  3. Kyle, there is no need to defend these men’s honor.

    I am a lineman for the very same company the men in the photo worked for. I worked under Thompson when I first started there years ago.

    I will say that using this photo and the situation within it serves no purpose for the conversation/social reflections you are trying to invoke. As a lineman and a member of the IBEW, I can tell you that every lineman would perform CPR on anyone of our brothers without hesitation. The thought of social misinterpretation of our sexuality would be no where in our minds if one of our brothers was in need of rescue. It’s not even a question whether we would do it or whether there would be hesitation. The relationship these men share when we are on the job is beyond that realm of social thinking.

    Please pick the subject matter for your commentary a little more wisely next time.

    It was thought provoking though and to anybody else that wasn’t in linework, your commentary would be spot on.

    Like

  4. Dear OneMoreOption

    A very eloquent piece of the kind of “training and conditioning” which you desire to pass on indeed.

    Some interesting thoughts on education and intelligence and values, though surprisingly patronising. At the same time you seem to champion human character and yet claim that its fullest development is contingent upon artistic and literary education.

    It seems educational, artistic and social experience become so dominant that biological categories become irrelevant. Is that a good thing? Is it really fair to imply that those who hold to the relevance of gender complementarity are either uneducated/unenlightened or have not thought for themselves (ie mindlessly accepting “training and conditioning”)?

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    OneMoreOption: Thank you for taking the time to express yourself.

    1) You mentioned: “At the same time you seem to champion human character and yet claim that its fullest development is contingent upon artistic and literary education.” I champion good character decisions. Better character decisions are often made as a result of education, including artistic and literary education. However, good character can come from people who have little artistic or literary education, so I would not go so far as to suggest good character is contingent on artistic and literary education. However, I believe people generally improve their experience and wisdom through literary and artistic education, which leads them to often make better character decisions.

    2) If the first part of your statement implies the question: Can educational, artistic and social experience become so dominant that biological categories become irrelevant? I think the answer to that question is, “No.” But I think education, art, and social experience can make biological distinctions more proportional to what they really are. Biological stereotypes and the resulting sexuality standards and expectations in most cultures are often perceived as being more disparate than they often are in general. And in specific individuals, gender expectations can be predominantly incorrect and misguiding.

    3) Is it a good thing for education, art, and social experience to moderate or call-into-question gender stereotypes and assumptions, assumptions that may be more extreme or uniform than they are? Yes, that’s probably a good, more honest thing.

    4) Your quesiton: Is it really fair to imply that those who hold to the relevance of gender complementarity are either uneducated/unenlightened or have not thought for themselves (ie mindlessly accepting “training and conditioning”)? No, that would be unfair. And I’m not implying that. Couplings of specific people of different genders are often complementary (btw, triple word score for the proper and effective use of the word “complementarity.” It’ll be years before I find a place to use that word again without sounding ostentatious). Biological gender propensities may create a more common complementarity between people of different genders.

    However, the complementarity between opposite genders may be popularly assumed to be stronger than it actually is. I don’t know. Most attempts at male/female relationships don’t last. And many male/female relationships don’t complement each other over the long term or endure in a pleasant and complementary fashion.

    The purpose of education is to suggest that gender should not be an absolute defining or precluding prerequisite to forming long term, positive socially intimate or sexual relationships.

    I appreciate your criticisms, but your questions consistently made extreme implications of the more moderate, measured, and flexible assertions above. Your critiques did provide opportunity for stating further, more in-depth considerations and you pointed out places where the above language was not clear or did not speak to related issues. Thank you.

    Like

  5. “There are no homosexuals in the picture (to the best of my knowledge). And I doubt Morabito, in the instant of taking the photo, had the intent to frame homosexual symbolism in a positive context. But the photo did suggest this question in me:
    If after clear and patient analysis, it became apparent that homosexual actions would help someone close to you over the long term, would you have enough independent knowledge, education, and courage to attempt the option?

    Or would your training and conditioning preclude you from even considering the option?”

    Your rebuttal to Kyle is ridiculous. You first state there are no homosexuals in the photo, then you go on to state you wonder if homosexual actions would help someone?! If, that is, you were able to overcome your “conditioning.”

    IE – your own statements are completely contradictory. The facts are, there ARE no homosexuals in the photo, the act shown is NOT a homosexual action, and they CLEARLY weren’t in any struggle to overcome their “conditioning.” So it is you who is either confused, or cannot communicate properly.

    It appears you suffer from some sort of delusion where homosexual means compassionate, and heterosexual means someone conditioned to be a murderous demon.

    Homosexuality means you are sexually attracted to someone of the same gender. Some people cannot rationally grasp that is the ONLY distinction of homosexuals as a group.

    “Love requires courage and independent investigation. I think love is more concerned about quality of character than it is about gender.”

    You seem to have the same inability to grasp the difference between love and sex.

    “My social and educational experience has suggested to me that the more empathetic and intelligent a person is, the more likely they are to be drawn to other specific people by the quality of a specific person’s character than simply by their gender. Gender either does not remain a discriminating factor, or it loses its importance as an excluding factor. ”

    AGAIN, you seem to be very confused. Isn’t it commonly known that the more empathetic and intelligent you are, the less shallow you are? But you are clearly implying that due to superhuman empathy and intelligence, homosexuals are compelled to overlook the sex of someone they are attracted to? This is patently silly.

    I suggest when you are discussing SEX, you call it sex. When you are discussing LOVE, you call it love. Or more to the point, be honest about what you are saying.

    “The more well read and the more educated in literature and the arts a person is, the more likely (on average) a person is able to understand someone who chooses homosexual or bisexual actions as a considerate and compassionate option.”

    WOW! You’re just a bs beast of ridiculous proportions. Now homosexuality means considerate and compassionate. (But only the best educated can grasp this.)

    Go look up these words in the dictionary: homosexual, love, sex, compassion, considerate, education, intelligent, heterosexual, conditioning. Once you understand what these words mean, perhaps you could rewrite the toddle here…

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    OneMoreOption: Welcome. You are very passionate about your beliefs.

    “Homosexual” doesn’t mean “compassionate.” And “heterosexual” doesn’t mean “murderous demon.” How you got there would be an interesting voyage to view.

    I don’t suggest homosexuals have better empathetic skills than heterosexuals.

    In order for you to work up your vigor, you repeatedly have chosen to create positions that I did not put forward. Had I put forward those positions, your responses might be relevant. But so far, you’re fighting windwills (imagined monsters that don’t exist).

    As the portions you quoted suggest, I’m suggesting that more educated people tend to be less hung up on absolute, mutually exclusive definitions of “heterosexual” and “homosexual.” I didn’t say homosexuals tend to be more compassionate than heterosexuals. I intimated more educated and compassionate people tend to be less hung up on gender bias and preference, and more likely to evaluate other people and their relationship interactions with them using non-gender-dependent criteria.

    As far as your separate and distinctive definitions of “sex” and “love,” I hear you. I’m not saying and I have not said sex is love or that love is sex. I’m saying that if we put more focus on loving and caring for people based on their character rather than precluding them based simply on their gender, then we might be more apt to be physically affectionate (or sexually involved) with another person based on their character rather than their gender. The “hetero” and “homo” distinctions may become less “all-important.”

    If you’re interested in understanding these issues and arguments, you are consistently making some logical reasoning errors. For example, if A leads to B, then that logically does not mean B leads to A. That’s an incorrect reasoning fallacy you are repeating. Also, you’re making the reasoning fallacy of incorrect substitution, replacing “A” with “Not A”.

    Homosexuals can be equally or more discriminating on who they love or are physically affectionate with based on the other person’s gender. A person’s sexual preference (hetero, homo, bi, or otherwise) doesn’t create an increased likelihood that person is more compassionate or educated.

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  7. This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read. It’s called CPR. First of all, I am totally for gay rights and equality. Although, this picture has nothing to do with it. As lineman, we prepare ourselves with rescue training our whole careers. This is the one thing all of us pray that we never have to do. No one wants to have to see our co-workers go through something like this. This picture is about someone risking their own life to save another . . .

    Like

    • Apparently my comment got edited out about how this blog is meaningless and stupid. Just as pointless as if it were a picture of a fireman saving a dog and saying that beastiality is predisposed. I think I’m entitled to free speech too. This article is completely stupid and offensive to those of us in the trade. Maybe you shouldn’t write about things that you know nothing about. Maybe you just shouldn’t write.

      Like

  8. Being a Lineman’s wife I totally get the pix and would hope someone would “kiss” my husband if he was in the same situation. I hope people all over the world in any situation would act without thinking in an emergency regardless of how it may be interpreted. The picture makes me proud…as a Lineman’s wife (Platte-Clay Cooperative in Missouri) and proud to be a human being. I hope that kind of brotherhood would continue all over this world.

    Like

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