March 1, 2007

World Of Innocents


Kompakt-Merkel  Kompakt-Pope

These images, running on billboards in Germany, advertise the Die Welt newspaper offshoot, Welt Kompakt.  The text below the images reads: “BIG NEWS.  SMALL SIZE.  A new generation of newspaper.“  There is an example, in proper proportion, here.

On first pass, I saw these as a simply an infantilization of political figures.  But that was before I read up on the product.

Die Welt‘s Kompakt edition is a physically smaller version of the traditional Die Welt, which, according to management, is “aimed at new readers, particularly younger readers who don’t have a lot of time but want quality journalism.”  (Link.) The paper is aimed at people between 18 and 35, it sells for 50 euro cents, and is intended to be an introduction to newspapers.  (Sales, by the way, have increased 10% since the ’04 launch.)

With that in mind, the pictures get more interesting.

One one hand, I think these pics do make political figures less intimidating and easier to relate to for the political novice.  At the same time, however, what is the price to pay for framing these figures — and the institutions they represent — so innocently?

What actually throws me off — given my diet of stage-managed photos and hard-edged political advertising — is that these shots aren’t caricatures.  What I mean is, rather than accentuating facial features to emphasis more controversial personality characteristics, here head, hair, nose and eyes remain mostly true, making these pics simply cute.

Kompakt-4 Kompakt-Kim-

…And then, one more thing.  I’m completely embarrassed about this, and I maybe I’m blocking, but I couldn’t identify the forth figure, above left.  Being perfectly honest, I’m also not sure about #5, above right, ether (if it’s not Kim Jong Il). One more lesson, I guess, in cultural ignorance.

(Also, please excuse the image quality — although the barrel effect, given the height of the billboard on the wall — actually feels representative.  I was in Berlin last week and snapped these myself at the Schoenberg airport.)

(images: Jung Von Matt agency)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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