Early on in the movie Backdraft, someone takes a picture of a young Brian McCaffery looking up at the explosion that killed his father; this picture ends up on the cover of LIFE magazine and is seen multiple times throughout the movie, the arsonist Bartel even asks an adult Brian to autograph a copy as if he were a movie star.

What I'm wondering is- was the guy who took this picture someone who came on the scene, thought "This would make a great (or at least profitable) photo," and sold the picture to LIFE?

  • I'm at a loss why this would attract a downvote. Perhaps people don't want questions about movies on their Movies site.
    – Valorum
    Jan 17 at 8:38

2 Answers 2


The script refers to him as "a photographer".

And Adcox is sobbing and has his arms around the boy, protecting him from the fire, the world, but it's like Brian doesn't see him. He pulls away from Adcox, walks up to his father's helmet, And puts it on.

The scene EXPLODES with a flash as a photographer captures the instant.

The official novelisation fleshes him out a little. It refers to him as a "photographer for the Tribune" and that he won a Pulitzer prize for his photograph, hence why it subsequently appeared on the cover of LIFE Magazine.

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We don't know.

It's possible the photographer was working for Life and just happened upon the scene but it's significantly more likely that this was a local photographer who either worked for, or sold the picture to, a local newspaper.

The image and the story behind it would then have received wide distribution and then, perhaps, national recognition and so the story became a feature in Life.

  • While most photographs in Life magazine were taken by Life photographers, I agree that it would be highly unlikely that one of them just happened on this circumstance. And I think it's just as unlikely that an amateur or free lance photographer was able to get this type of human interest photo published in Life. The most likely scenario is that the photo was taken by a local news photographer who was on the scene. And in fact the information provided by @Valorum seems to confirm that this indeed was the intended backstory, even though the specifics didn't make it into the film. Jan 18 at 3:12

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