December 2, 2009

The New Yorker’s Platon Layout: Obama Pre-AfPak

Oh, I’m going to miss print when it’s finally gone.

All kinds of activists and photo people have been linking to the on-line New Yorker portraits by Platon taken at September’s U.N. General Assembly opening session, which is where I saw them too. This evening, though, I had a chance to liberate the real-live print edition from my wife and the way the photos are laid out in the mag is as interesting as the pics — and definitely more provocative.

So naturally, I wanted to like to share the facing pages above.

Of course, I’m interested in your take on Platon’s Obama — reflecting not just Prez taking on the world that week (1, 2) but his portrait in the waning weeks of his freshman year. And I’m even more interested in your take on the pairing, Ahmadinejad bearing the color, his visage like a creature from the dark.

My personal curiosity, though, is the editorial juxtaposition.

Maybe it’s the effect of this week’s momentous Afghanistan pivot, but this pairing, clearly attempting to stir the pot, suddenly reads oh, so “Bush second term.” If the editor really wanted to stick his or her neck out, while upping the “surge ante,” I’d have said, give me Obama vs. Zardari.


Platon and The New Yorker should know better!

If you read through the discussion thread, you know I was guilty of assuming the photo shoot Platon did at the U.N. — involving 110 world leaders taken in the Green Room just off the General Assembly hall over 5 days in September, the photographer working around the clock at the opening session, as Platon proudly points out — actually included Barack Obama.

What I failed to pick up and sharper-eyed readers did was the fact that the date of the photo — a 3-year-old portrait Platon pulled out of the file and inserted into the New Yorker’s “Portraits of Power” feature in the magazine this week — was included in the print caption. Having first seen the feature on-line, I completely overlooked the caption in the print edition. The bigger problem, however, is that nowhere in the web version of the New Yorker piece does it say that Platon didn’t shoot Obama in September leading anyone who saw it on-line to assume he did.

Beyond that, the decision to include the Obama file photo in the print edition in a feature billed as photographically documenting the Heads of State at the September U.N. meeting — and then, going so far to juxtapose the Obama file photo with Platon’s U.N. portrait of Ahmadinejad, taking editorial advantage of the tension of the two attending the same meeting, Obama’s first General Assembly session as U.S. President (which formed the basis of my post about the New Yorker layout) — is also disingenuous.

I believe the New Yorker owes it readers notice in the on-line edition that the Obama photo is not part of the series. I also believe they owe readers an apology for including Obama’s photo in the printed series, regardless of the caption.

(photos: Platon for The New Yorker)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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