June 28, 2007

Who Do You Think You're Looking At?




Once again, the unraveling of the Cheney/Bush Administration has proven too messy for the visual press to dirty its hands, newsprint and electrons on.

I’m referring specifically to Monday’s coverage of the EPA Director’s Congressional testimony.  After initially trying to dodge it, Christine Whitman finally appeared before a House Judiciary Subcommittee attempting finesse the agency’s negligence in addressing the health dangers of the 9/11 attack.

Although most mainstream media sites featured isolated images of a combative or over-rationalizing Whitman, I was interested in shot number #1 above, which actually earned a small, side-column spot in an AP feed at nytimes.com (the day before The Times ran their own story led by the more “typical” finger-waving Whitman).

So, what’s the difference?

Well, the “fighting Christie” images the MSM mostly wrapped its coverage around abstracts the damage itself, transforming the story into one more ho-hum report of political/Administration bluster and denial.  The image above, on the other hand, blows right past the obfuscation, the excuses, the covering-up to situate Whitman smack alongside the wrongdoing itself, and its consequence.

I say “consequences” because this image contextually breaks new ground — for a primarily political report. Outside of stories dealing specifically with environmental fallout, these 9/11 “plume” images have been mostly used to relay (and, to scare the pants off people as to) the dangers of terrorism.  In this instance, however, the photo takes new shape as “in your face” evidence of tons and tons of particulate matter.

What this image also does (enhanced by Mark Wilson’s next two images — which remain for sale, but, I’m pretty sure, will largely go unsold by Getty Images) is to more honestly flesh out a political assassination … and a political suicide.

As I remember Whitman, she was as a moderate Republican Governor who was, at least, more friendly to the environment.  In selling her soul to the Cheney Administration, however, she has not only been left holding the bag for an “eyes closed,” “just-make-it-go-away,” instant clean-up of Ground Zero and lower Manhattan, but ultimately, she destroyed her own reputation through her blind opportunism.

It is this back story that is so plainly elaborated by Mr. Wilson’s series of photos.

Beyond all the MSM images of defensive bluster, we have something here that is far more genuine.  We have Whitman’s proximity and obvious inattention to the human fallout; Whitman’s pain and suffering (first and foremost, for herself); and also Whitman’s anger over getting played — not to mention, her fury (in this instance, directed at this one photographer) for actually actually being seen.

(Now, if we could only get that Congressional panel, photographer Wilson and Mr. Giuliani in one place….)

NYT testimony video here.

(images: Mark Wilson/Getty Images. June 25, 2007. nytimes.com + Getty Images)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


Comments Powered by Disqus