April 23, 2013

Media Circus Continues: Stalking (and Cropping) Marathon Bomber's Widow

As last week’s manhunt for fugitives turns into this week’s media hunt for background … and gossip, our visual highlight and word of the day, is: “cropping.”

With the race on to move pictures of Katherine Russell or “Tsarnaeva,” Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife, photographers have converged on the Rhode Island residence where she’s staying with her parents and her daughter. Here’s a profile at HuffPo.

Katherine Russell Tsarnaev screenshot Daily News

If this paparazzi-style image from the AP is cringe-worthy (and there’s more where that came from), the scene I really wanted to focus on, and the one most widely circulated today, is below. It originates from Sunday at Russell’s home in Cambridge where she lived with Tamerlan and their daughter. Specifically, I wanted to draw your attention to two variants taken by the same AP photographer with a mind toward how publishers handled them.(For a sense of tone, I’ve included some of the the textual embellishment, as well.)

Here is the version that News.com in Australia ran. It’s got a personable and respectful, if inwardly focused and slightly sad quality to it:

Katherine Russell Cambridge house

Next is  a taller and just a bit wider version of Tamerlan’s “Chech Mate” that ran in the NY Post. The point of the full body shot, I assume, is to emphasize the Muslim garb:

Katherine Russell Cambridge house 3

Here’s where we take a turn. The version below  accompanies a dishy Daily Beast piece on the return of “the bomber’s widow.” This shot’s emotionally darker.  Looking anguished and harried, with obvious tension in her fist (to keep her jacket closed), the photo adds foreboding to the hook, set up in the copy, that Russell had gone through a radical transformation.

Katherine Russell Cambridge house 2

But here’s the kicker….

The detail you don’t get from either version, especially the one with the troubled face — is what’s going on just behind her. Would it surprise you to learn I couldn’t find the full image it in any version published in the traditional American media? The Polish website wiadomosci.onet, however, had no qualms running it in full, thinking perhaps that the hunt was as much a part of the story:

Katherine Russell Cambridge house 3

Of course, it would make perfect sense that Katherine Russell would be confused and in shock over the events of the past week. To be truthful to the American audience, however (a gossipy post at Radar said she weeping and pounded on the door for the landlord to let her in), the photo could just as much depict anguish and trauma over being stalked by the media.

(Top photo: Stew Milne/AP. Remaining photos: William Farrington/Polaris)

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Michael Shaw
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