July 22, 2008

The Trip : I Say Energetic, You Say Flat


With the newswires full of emotional images — the troops, brass, and just about everyone coming into contact with Obama in Afghanistan engaging him so warmly  — why was this pic chosen to represent the story on Monday’s NYT front page so, well, autistic?  (You might compare it to something like this, for example.)

This is the same thing that drove me so crazy in ’04, and it really troubles me to seeing it creeping into the NYT print coverage of the Obama trip. When I see this, it makes me wonder if the intent  — whether conscious, or not — is to visually neuter the imagery, stripping the energy and excitement out of an otherwise historic and emotional trip.

 Bagnews Images Clips Nytkerry10.16.04

Just like you see in this markup of a Kerry campaign photo in October ’04, the shot of Obama is characterized by two things, either people (in the boxes) oblivious to his presence, or people (call them functionaries) who are only there because they are doing their job.  On top of that, by the way, is the fact we are screened from witnessing any personal reaction from the single person Obama is interacting with.


Lest you conclude the cover shot is strictly an anomaly, however, check out the shot of Obama and Karzai on page A14.  Again, in contrast to this photo that ran in a WAPO slide show, there is not a hint of connection between either man, rather Karzai looks like he’s going through the motions and Obama, more isolated as a result, looks more like a tourist.

And then, to put the Obama images into a larger context, take a look at page A14 and 15 together, the Obama shot (A) on the left having to contend with three shots from a front page story on John McCain’s “new political sophistication” following the 2000 campaign.



(click for full size)

Now, juxtaposed with an Obama who — factoring together the front page shot and the facing image — doesn’t appear to connect much with anybody, it’s hard not to be drawn to McCain the super-conciliator, with such respected buddies as (B) Feingold and (C) Kennedy.

(linked photo: AFP/Getty. July 20, 2008. ; Feingold: Paul Hosefros/The New York Times)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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