April 3, 2009

Pic of the Week

LONDON APRIL 1:  US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama talk with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh during an audience at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Since I started doing a “Pictures of the Week” radio gig about a month ago, it has helped me think a lot more like Karl Rove.

Now, before you start to gag and consider pulling BNN from you bookmark list, let me explain. What I mean is, I’m that much more aware now of Karl’s touch points, specifically the rhythm and flow of the weekly visual news cycle, and the political “winners” and “losers” in each go around. As well, what I’m coming to appreciate is that, although there are a lot of interesting and informing pictures in circulation every week, there are extremely few that are not only finely expressive of the political landscape, but are also elemental, in themselves, in establishing and/or shifting the firmament.

This past Tuesday, the NYT published an image in its G-20 summit preview that I found peculiar, and playfully frivolous — at least, at first. The photo offered wax models at Madame Tussauds in London of Obama and Queen Elizabeth.


Today, with the summit in the books, a week of pix to look back on, and having a day to reflect on the photo above (selected by the NYT as their Thursday front page lead), the photo, in my mind, fits the criteria. Even though Obama hit London with a lot of baggage — not just the residual of the Bush legacy, but America’s primary culpability in the banking crisis and subsequent meltdown, the President’s personality seemed to blunt most of that. He neutralized it so much, in fact, that at the conclusion of the Summit’s closing press conference, Obama earned a rousing ovation from the world-wide gaggle.

I think this is a powerfully telling photo (in distinct contrast, for example, to this hubbub). Consider the intensity of the Queen’s attention — and the royal impact of that upward gaze. Check out Prince Phillips’ intense curiosity and excitement, as well (like he was waiting for this moment all day … or longer). Also, the fact that we mostly see Obama’s back makes him that much less personified and much more of an icon. Really, it’s almost like the Queen has shown up to greet the Obamas.

I should add, because there has been some confusion here about this… I’m not falling all over myself to boost Obama. As many of you know, I have mixed feelings about his policies, which I try to keep separate from my take on Obama the politician — my opinion of which is also subject to fluctuation given how genuine versus calculated a particular move happens to strike me.

Given all that, however, I do feel Obama is the most skilled politician I’ve had the opportunity to watch — and, as a quick study, I only see this force of political nature become more dynamic and politically savvy by the week.


I was thinking about this scene a little bit more overnight. Seems to me the Michelle-Queen affair didn’t blow up into a big(ger) deal because of the level of status stature the Obamas have brought to the White House, not just through the office but through a combination of the office and their values/personalities/confidence, etc. The photo, I believe, rather than demonstrating disrespect, looks to actually evidence a social and power equivalency. Now, if Laura or Barbara Bush had done such a thing….

(Update edited 11:15 am PST)

(image: John Stillwell/WPA/Getty Images. London, April 1, 2009. image 2: AP)

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Michael Shaw
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