I know you are dying to get at this because I’ve never had so much mail about one image before.
What do you pick up from Rove’s expression? What is your sense of the relationship? From the standpoint of visual politics (which is the main reason for the BAG’s existence), what is the strategy behind the White House lining up a shot like this? Does it indicate a stonewall tactic, or simple brash defiance? Is the best defense a good offense?
A BAGreader, Carolly, sent me the following take:
As a character study, much could be read into Rove’s expression. It looks almost paternalistic, but there is nothing affectionate, very controlling. His nostrils also appear oddly flared (I wonder if Bush was exuding nervous sweat?). The light on his hair is almost a halo, which contrasts with his expression. Bush doesn’t look nearly as much in control… one photo has him doing the “I can explain” of a kid in the cookie jar… but he isn’t as defensive as Scotty at the latest press conferences.
There may be other images showing Rove pulling Bush’s strings, but this seem effective at making the relationship palpable.
I particularly agree with the comment about image selection. Given the complexity of these political relationships, I’ve been wary lately of single photos that imply more one-dimensional conclusions. I chose not to run a companion shot of Bush looking down. That picture gave too much of an impression of Rove as mastermind. Overall, I think Bush likes people to think he’s an idiot and Karl is “his brain.” I think it’s W’s favorite strategy for lowering expectations.
So, fire away….
REVISED: 7/14/05 5:05pm PST
(image: Susan Walsh/AP. July 13, 2005 in YahooNews.)