About two weeks back, there was an interesting discussion here in response to Alan Chin’s reaction to covering Clinton and Obama in New Hampshire. The topic was media staging, and part of the conversation had to do with how the presidential campaigns "hyper-control" what we see.
In response — and to also introduce and welcome The BAG’s newest contributer, German photographer, Heinrich Voelkel — I offer you this "slightly tongue-in-cheek" slideshow of out-takes Heinrich captured last month.
The occasion was a meeting between President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Angela Merkel at Schloss Meseberg, the German’s newly-renovated government guest house about 40 miles north of Berlin.
According to Heinrich — and in response to the New Hampshire photos — his thinks the Europeans are even more controlling and visually calculated than the Americans. At Schloss Meseberg, for example, four "photo stations" were laid out with pre-arranged scenes to be staged at each one. (Heinrich managed to get to two, explaining that it’s impossible to cover anymore ground.)
The result of "the show" was that Merkel and Chirac not only presented themselves to the press, as if incidentally, four separate times (the way newlyweds might jump from photo spot to photo spot at a wedding), but Chirac and Merkel actually staged four separate kissing scenes.
(If it comes through, I’m expecting a "third" kiss from still another "station," through the courtesy of a colleague of Heinrich’s. If I receive it, I’ll post it as an update.)
As I’ve said previously, the knowledge that political photos are staged is certainly unique. What is more so is the opportunity, and the ability, for us to see, and to visually begin to strip off the scaffolding.
Update 3/28/07: I just received a version of kiss #3." Thanks to Carsten Koall. Used by permission.
I invite your comments in general, as well as analysis of any particular image (which you review, as a group, by clicking the icon to the right of the "double right" arrow. To see any single photo in full size, first click "photo options," then "view larger photo." This won’t work from a text slide, however.)
(images: Heinrich Voelkel. Used by permission. Schloss Meseberg. February 23, 2007.)