January 24, 2011

Congressional Characters

I’ve been thinking about this match, inspired by the new Congress, for about a week now.

What you see above is a juxtaposition created by photo-blogger Rachel Hulin at A Photography Blog pairing new Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, a new Tennessee Republican, with a promo poster promoting the 40-Year-Old Virgin.  If you read Rachel’s interview post with Washingtonian Magazine photographer Chris Leaman, the text is fairly straight.  Leaman had access to incoming Congresspeople at a casual-dress conference Nov 30th and December 1st and lined up as many portraits as he could. Many of the new Representatives never had portraits made and so many were fairly candid. The rest of the interview is about technical details as well as Chris’ job.  Things get more interesting just after that, though, as Rachel shows us 10 of the photos, ending with her Chuck/Steve side-by-side.

Terri Sewell (D - Alabama)

Billy Long, (R- Missouri)

Rob Woodall (R - Georgia)

In the interview, Chris said he was inspired by Avedon’s Portraits of Power and Nadav Kandar’s Obama’s People.  It’s hard not to see many of these Congresspeople in Chris’ portraits, though — more so in Rachel’s edit than the Washingtonian slideshow, but in the latter as well — as (small “c”) constitutionally naive and gullible as much as “just off the bus,” and more disheveled, even unwashed than simply common.

So, here’s my question.  What I’m trying to figure out is how much these portraits reflect and suffer from a general cheap opinion of the Congress and the Representative versus how much the institution, particularly in this anti-incumbent and “Tea Party” year, is attracting some real characters.

The Freshmen: Snapshots from the 112th People’s House (The Washingtonian)
Chris Leaman’s Freshman Class (Rachel Hulin)

(photos: Chris Leaman)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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