September 27, 2009

Beyond "Cheney the Butcher"

I’m trying to catch up on a few things I’ve missed in the last week or so.

I assume most of you are familiar with the “butchering Cheney” controversy?  If not, it has to do with how Newsweek cropped famed photographer David Hume Kennerly’s photo above (much to his disgust) to “make an editorial point.”

I agree completely with photographer Kenneth Jarecke who blasts Newsweek for visually stabbing Cheney in the back. More significantly for BAG’s purposes, however, I was impressed that Ken — in contrast to many others who attacked the subject — took care to consider Kennerly’s original photograph as much as Newsweek’s bastardized version. He writes:

The idea that images are cropped on a regular basis is true. The only thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the fact that most of these images were much more powerful before the crop than after.

Case in point, Kennerly’s original is infinitely better than the hackish crop job shown above. More importantly it captures a nuanced view of the polarized character of Cheney that is reflected across our country.

The red states see a man standing in front of his family willing to protect and/or provide for them through whatever means needed.

The blue states see a man savagely tearing into bloodied flesh while an uninterested population ignores the carnage.

So, now that we’ve got the original Kennerly shot “on the table,” I’m interested in how you/we do read it.

Yes I’m a blue stater but I will also take a knife to flank steak every so often so I’m not sure about the blood lust. Something I can’t figure out, though, is why Dick cuts the meat with his jacket on.

What I’m mostly attracted to here, however, is how the picture suggests character roles and affinities based on who’s on what side of the island. Check out the alignment between Dick and Liz, for example, the daughter who is every bit as vicious as her father as she savages Obama and the Dems on TV. Although Lynn Cheney is no push over herself, we do find her on the other side talking to an unidentified woman with daughter Mary (consistent with her place on the periphery during the presidential campaigns, her sexuality being a sensitive issue with “the base”) being the outlier.

The other thing that’s interesting about this photo is how it depicts the Cheney’s as an intact family instead of an extended one, given that Liz is married with five children and Mary, who had a baby a couple years ago, effectively is too. You would almost imagine the girls still living at home, Liz’s husband and children and Mary’s partner and child nowhere to be seen.

For more backstory and commentary, see NYT Lens Blog.

(h/t: Tom T.)

(image: © David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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