Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 6, 2008

Filling The Seat … (AND Busting Google)

Caroline USS JFK.jpg

Besides one coming-of-age moment in the emotional life of a 9-year-old girl, this speaks to the girl’s capacity to fill the seat, and operate as the bridge between her family and the highest institutions of state. Really, I’m not as impressed with the task-at-hand (in this case, the christening of an aircraft carrier in her father’s name) as I am in the deeper suggestion of maturity, autonomy and poise.

Given present circumstances, the photo has the feel of a character endorsement as it relates to Caroline Kennedy’s possible filling of Senator Clinton’s seat, and even the inheritance of her uncle’s senatorial role.

If those are tall orders, at least they don’t look completely new.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m. PST: Okay, my bad for not catching the fact that this photo was backwards — and credit to the readership. But let’s put the blame where the main blame is due….


This is an example of how the corporate profit motive can roll like a Mac truck over visual and historical accuracy. Apparently, Google didn’t seem to notice that this photo — representing a tremendously valuable collection which they gained wide publicity for digitizing — was backward or forward.

Beyond the screw-up itself, I found the visual difference rather stunning, providing us an interesting opportunity to consider the difference. Regarding my initial take, Caroline’s interaction with the officer certainly shifts now from the central focus to a sidelight. Does the fact she’s revealed as more subordinate to her mother (who is clearly the main light now) diminish some of the autonomy I read above? To some extent, I feel, it does.

One more thing, by the way. I think it would have taken one extremely confident photographer and an equally confident (or, “brave”) editor to have captured this moment with more emphasis on Caroline, affording less centrality to her iconic mother.

(Revised 10:30 pm PST)

(image: Charles H. Phillips. May 27, 1967. September 7, 1968. caption: Jacqueline Kennedy (2R) sitting with daughter Caroline (2L) & son John Jr. (R) at ceremonies for commissioning of the Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy, with dignitaries & other members of the Kennedy family. Via Google LIFE Magazine archive)

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