March 13, 2013

Tracking Pope Francis: Bergoglio – Kirchner

With the media scrambling to understand who the new Pope is and the Vatican certainly in full swing to also characterize him, I’m quite interested to see what kind of imagery emerges and rises to the top of the visual news flow. I’m also keen for the opportunity to track this imagery, appreciating how the power of imagery, celebrity and first impressions all converge around the Argentine Pope. Over the next day or so, I’ll add images that reflect on the early narrative allowing us look back and see how much the first views were telling and in what kind of ways.

Entry 1 (First Hours): How Political?

If most photos circulating right now are mostly ceremonial in nature and set in the Vatican, the “first-mover” stories at the top of Google News seem to emphasize Francis’ modesty (1, 2) highlighting how he has preferred public transportation and lived in a simple apartment.

That being the case, I thought the photo above was a fascinating exception and an interesting choice for his Wikipedia entry. It shows him meeting with Argentine president Kirchner in December 2007. (The photo comes from Kirchner’s office.) It’s curious this would be the first photo to jump out at me, especially when the articles I’ve been reading would suggest a photo of the man in a more humble situation. It’s a pretty powerful image, by the way. Look at the grip. What’s  amusing, too, is that it happens to also be a “halo photo.” In this case, however (advantage the President since her team took the shot, the halo is over her head, not the then-Cardinal’s). To the extent Bergoglio was known to bang heads with Kirchner (Wikipedia, again, chronicle conflict over gay marriage legislation and gay adoption), I’m now curious to see how political he’s going to be, even if it’s cloaked, sublimated to or a nuanced facet of a more complex “people’s Pope.

Entry 2  (3/13 3:50 PST) — Softening

Oh, how interesting. The Wikipedia entry has already changed the featured photo to an equally powerful exchange between Bergoglio and de Kirchner, but one that is much more personal and deliberative. In the new image, taken during an Episcopal conference, the President is holding court and having her say (it’s another photo from her office) but the then-Cardinal appears impressively attentive.

These photos, by the way, make me increasingly interested how much Francis will remain engaged with his home turf (and Kirchner).

(photo 1: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina. caption: La presidenta Cristina Fernández de Kirchner recibe al arzobispo Jorge Bergoglio. 19 December 2007. photo 2: Presidencia de la Nación Argentina.  caption: Reunión con la cúpula de la Conferencia Episcopal Argentina)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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