Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 15, 2009

Laid Off Today

Hire Me.jpg

Not that I’m dripping with compassion for laid-off MBAs cast off from the behemoths of Wall Street. What I do appreciate, however (on top of the growing prominence of the hand-made sign as a stimulus for political discourse), is the emotional symbolism here.

A key facet that makes Wall Street so difficult to take on, intentionally so, is its impersonal nature — the fact the organizations and institutions largely defy personalization and (true) personification. This photo presents a dramatic, if transient counter to that effect.

It’s as if one person, having been chewed up and spit out by the unstoppable, unmanageable and largely boundary- and conscience-free capitalist engine, has fallen out of the machine before our eyes. So, while we consumers of visual news otherwise experience that much more disconnection and alienation from stultifying news reports and photos of Obama futilely lecturing financial execs about cleaning up their act, this image, in its small way, calls for more reality, more feeling, more sense, especially as juxtaposed with the President wagging his finger at a great, completely inanimate and impenetrable pinstriped-grey wall.

(image: Larry Downing/Reuters. caption: A crowd of onlookers are gathered outside the historic Federal Hall where U.S. President Barack Obama was speaking in the heart of Wall Street in New York, September 14, 2009. Obama, marking a year since Lehman Brothers collapsed, urged financial firms Monday not to fight regulatory reform and urged Congress to pass his proposals by the end of the year)

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