This photo is beyond famous, and rightly so. The Titanic is such an integral part of our culture now, even before Cameron's epic film brought the ship back to life - then sank her again.
With the 100th anniversary now come and gone, new discussions rise as to how the world's most famous shipwreck should be handled. The two most prominent arguements are:
1. Should it remain a gravesite and therefore untouchable?
2. Should it be treated as a museum exhibit that must be preserved?
Regarding #1: People died on that wreck. But let's be honest, folks - NO organic trace of those individuals remain. Only artifacts are to be found 12,600 ft. below the icy waters of the northern Atlantic. What is the best way to preserve their memory and their loss? Through movies and speculation? Through the tiny portholes in the sides of a submersible. Titanic is simply too deep for the bubble dome subs that might off a view of the ship. Even if you were fortunate to have the money and connections to go down and look upon her yourself, ROVs do the looking. So you are STILL just looking at images on the screen not so different from the one at the top of this post.
Regarding #2: Look at how pirates and treasure hunters have been simultaneously condemned and idolized by generations. Think of museum trips as a kid and an adult - what type of exhibit are truly fascinating and stick with you forever (look at previous posts on this blog to talk more about that topic)? Personally, a photo or video clip of the Titanic's unforgettable railing on the bow will never reach me the way actually viewing it (standing behind a clear vacuum sealed container) would, and that's all there is to say.
Just remember that the King Tut exhibit that roams the American countryside is NOT comprised solely of genuine artifacts, including mummies themselves. They are too delicate for travel, and REPLICAS of the most sensitive and precious (and most interesting) artifacts are generally on display. Still want to pay $25 up to $100 to see the King himself? Well, you should! There is no shame in viewing a replica (any more than looking at a photo) and still feeling genuine inspiration.
If that's so great, then why not stick with a picture? For the same reason 3-D is ruling the big screen and creeping into home theaters - something tangible garners real credit more than simply visual aids. We are a tactile species that typically learns by doing, touching, and experiencing first hand.
Keep that in mind when you argue around the cooler as to what the fate of Titantic's remains should be. No offense, Mr. Ballard or Mr. Cameron.
Now find your own inspiration and go dive a wreck!
... Then you will understand even more.