What Happened Next?


I don’t know what happened next. This is a photograph taken of workers in a gold mine who are on strike. The police are called in to put down the strike. People are staying slightly behind, in the distance, because they don’t want to get hurt. And yet, they can’t pull their eyes away.

They want to know what will happen next.

Twenty-five years later: I want to know what happened next.

I have no idea. The photograph is not a story, but a frozen moment of extreme intensity. The photographer’s name is Salgado.

When we hear a story, or see a painting or photograph, or read a book or watch a show, often the “art” is complete. We get the beginning, middle, end. Then we  move on with our lives, slightly satisfied.

But life doesn’t follow good plotting.

One time (which I wrote about here) I had to fake being a respiratory therapist in a hospital for a week. In a hospital you don’t get a beginning, middle, or end. Someone comes in with blood all over their face. They are treated, they are screaming. Someone did this, someone got hurt, someone is guilty. But who, what, where, when? We don’t know. We move on. It’s a hospital. There’s more to treat.

When you kiss someone for the first time, the kiss itself is frozen, everything in your body is on fire. There’s a before and after. There’s excitement. There might be fear. But at that moment, its just electric pleasure.

The kiss finishes. It’s the first time your two bodies press together. And just like in the photograph above, I start to wonder: who is going to get hurt first?

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  • http://twitter.com/mamaofthreebrat fae

    Sometimes what happen next is important, sometimes not.

  • http://twitter.com/Venice2OakPrkca Richard Jimenez

    In some cases, knowing what’s next isn’t always what everyone wants to happen. The imagination allows us to come to our own conclusions and isn’t that acceptable to have conclusion different than someone else’s?

  • Dave calderon

    You want to know what’s important. If apple is going to declare a dividend this week. What do you think? Great post btw!

  • Mike

    Maybe they gave each other a hug ………. then had a cigarette and both agreed they have a shitty boss. Its possible

  • http://twitter.com/raunom Rauno M.

    You wonder who gets hurt first but I think the more important question is – does it matter? In every which case both of them will get hurt. One way or the other. Do you want to be the one to decide or just go along with it?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Vincent-Porras/100003238892527 Vincent Porras


  • Kfaul

    I wanna know what happened first. If I know the cause, I can create my own effect.

  • Sooz

    what stands out for me is their strength…almost gladiator~like.
    there’s a lot of muscle standing on that hillside.(quads,biceps deltoids ,gastrocnemius)

    the cop appears small but has the power of a weapon. regardless, i think he was scared and if he wasn’t he should have been.

    mining must be  labor intense?

    • Sooz

      my guess is that they ended this with a peaceful settlement and everyone went home and ate a big slab of protien with a side of carbs..:))

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1260721941 Dane Nordine

    “You see, one thing is, I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not
    knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to
    have answers that might be wrong. I have approximate answers and
    possible beliefs and different degrees of certainty about different
    things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many
    things I don’t know anything about…” – Richard Feynman

    Don’t waste too much time wondering. Just live.

  • EricC

    It’s circa 1986, taken by Sebastiao Salgado in the Serra Pelada gold mine in northern Brazil.  Basically, it was an open pit mine where 300,000 workers were trying to strike it rich off of 6,400 independent claims.  It was mass chaos from what I’ve quickly researched. 100s of murders a month over gold disputes.  The mine was shut down the same year, 1986.  Whatever happened, it probably wasn’t worth it.   

  • ppearlman

    great post.

  • http://www.preemptiveplacebo.com Preemptive Placebo

    Our brains are naturally biased toward negativity.  Whether we like it or not, we pay more attention to the negative than the positive.   We also give it more weight – more importance – and if we are not careful, we can adopt the habit of filling in the unknown with negativity. 

    It takes effort to resist this negativity bias….. to resist being mesmerized by the explosion on the screen and the argument on the street. 

    It’s a stretch, but  when I look at that photo I can see two young actors in their prime.  Maybe Denzel Washington and James Woods.  I can imagine the director yelling “CUT” through a bullhorn and the two of them breaking into laughter the moment after the photo was snapped. 

    I just averted the negative spiral that the true backstory to that photo probably would have brought on.  That spiral would have occurred for no go reason.

  • http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/why-you-need-f-you-money/ Jlcollinsnh

    If art is what makes us pause and consider, that photo works as art for me.

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    • Paulacarri

      Salgado es uno de los mejores fotógrafos documentales. Es de Brasil (que como sabés, es donde queda Buenos Aires haha) y es también un fotógrafo con una gran motivación social. QUé bueno que alguien le dio contexto a la foto, soy muy curiosa. Y me encanta este blog.

  • http://twitter.com/Jockular Jock Ular

    Name of the mine is Serra Pelada with a typically amazing (for Brazil) concentration of high grade precious metals.I’m sure next heads got cracked, because these were illegal artisan miners. Now the mine is owned by a Canadian company Colossus Minerals. 

  • http://Www.brookefarmer.com/ Brooke Farmer

    This is a beautiful post.

  • Union_Card_Verbotten

    Cop just told him to cool off and take his hand off the gun because you see the way the cop was gripping it he wasnt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=30303728 Gerald Gjini

    Maybe no one got hurt and they both went their separate ways… 

  • PC

    Funny that the guys closest to the altercation seem sort of ho-hum about it.

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    I think this is a reaction to what has become clear to everyone in the picture: there are no bullets in the rifle, it was all a big bluff. It’s an “aha” moment for the guy on the left, and a “uh oh” moment for the guy on the right…

    • J. Milius

       the guy has bullets on his belt. the gun is loaded.

      • Gonzalo Gandia

        The logic in your sentence is incomplete…one doesn’t mean the other…I have Vitamin C in my cupboard but it doesn’t mean I’m taking it every day. Having bullets on his belt doesn’t mean he didn’t have a huge brainfart that day and forgot to load the gun ;-) …just jesting with you, great pic though..

        • J. Milius

           glue is not for sniffing.

          • Gonzalo Gandia

            I did not know that…then you should definitely stop…

  • cgello

    That last sentence is horribly depressing. But, as usual, excellent post James. Thank you. 

    • jeffrey

      It was solid till the last sentence.  Then it was beautiful.

      Chills upon rereading.

  • http://twitter.com/VeehCirra Veeh Waithira

    The picture is pregnant with extreme emotions. It’s interesting how you relate this to the first kiss. What if the love story is a happy ever after? What if in the picture the heavens poured and it rained heavily and the tension was broken?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

       Yes, what if? Hence, its the moment that counts right now. And what you do with it.

      • http://twitter.com/VeehCirra Veeh Waithira

        True.That moment no matter HOW it is…does count, then another moment happens that no one knows how it will turn out to be. Makes me think of extending the “space” between two consecutive thoughts. Interesting way of looking at life moments I must say.

  • Andrew_ferri

    Love is feeling that first kiss feeling, time and time again.

  • juliaswn

    i didnt see it coming.
    weel done

  • amy

    Checov’s gun. Only this time there’s a real gun. Nice post. 

  • Stacey Kengal

    Funny thing about moments, they always seem to be there, despite whatever is happening in them.

  • Stacey Kengal

    Wait, are you saying these guys in the picture frence-kissed next?

  • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

    Here’s what happened, and I know this because I have a good source…

    The dude just behind them with his fingers under his armpits says, “Hey guys, smell my fingers! They smell just like roses!” 
    The police guy and the angry mine worker both look at him and they’re like, “C’mon dude, your fingers were just under your armpits and you look like you haven’t showered in weeks.”  

    But the armpit guy persists… he’s like, “Really! THEY SMELL LIKE ROSES!” 

    And so the police guy takes a whiff, gags, and the entire mining clan gets a good laugh at his expense.  Situation defused.


  • http://www.facebook.com/hughouleh Hugh Ghouleh

    I would like to think that both got “or will get” hurt… not forgetting that who ever was involved with the moment above “its past, present and future” might be effected subconsciously, even maybe blossom into something beautiful as the post above ;-)

    Thank you

  • Ray Fitzgerald

    Awesome photo. Look at the legs of the miners, lots of steep climbs. I have seen other photos of those open pit mines with thousands of miners digging with shovels.

    Oh yeah, I’ll put my money on the miner short term. Long term, they are both screwed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/essaycapital essaycapital.com

      interesting thoughts

  • Steven Moody

    Reminded me of “ode to a grecian urn” but a bit more sad.

  • http://www.facebook.com/inboxtejas Tejas Kumar

    wut do u think of the god particle ????