July 16, 2013

Portrait from Rio: Glenn Greenwald's Growing Visibility in the Snowden Picture

Greenwald StlTimes

As his own independent and liberal powerhouse, Glenn Greenwald has proved more than adept at handling himself in the media sphere. At this point, however, Greenwald has ventured onto a whole new playing field with his direct pipeline to NSA whistle-blower, U.S. government public enemy #1 and international political football, Edward Snowden.

Greenwald’s interview yesterday with the AP, relaying the magnitude of the NSA documents Snowden holds in his possession, was not only reported far and wide, but his image became the day’s online news wallpaper. Here’s a screen grab representing citation after citation of the (often impressively scaled) primary visual from the interview.

Greenwald Google Images

I don’t presume to know Greenwald’s thinking relative to his own move into the spotlight. If it’s partly a way to protect or defend his story and his source, so be it. If it’s partly to elevate himself into the top echelon of journalists (in a way that could rarely happen with someone of his ideology), I don’t begrudge him that either. Still, it’s important to consider the trade-offs and the consequent risk to your image that come with the magnitude of exposure.

This AP photo that appeared in the Daily Beast article yesterday (Greenwald: Snowden’s Files Are Out There if ‘Anything Happens’ to Him) starts to speak to the point. You’ll notice the spotlight (along with the sense of being on the spot), Greenwald the subject now as much as the conduit for the subject in a light that is far from soft.

Greenwald Daily Beast Yu AP

If that AP photo, and whatever more abstract connotations it carries, is more incidental, however, the photos Greenwald posed for as part of the AP interview a Reuters, than the AP interview not only raise the issue of vanity as a point of vulnerability in an internationally-charged political story, the images might be seen to introduce certain narratives with funny overlaps with the Snowden story. I’d imagine, by the way, there are those that see Greenwald and Snowden as allies or dopplegangers and that the encouragement of these allusions is something Greenwald might want to avoid.

That said, here are the portraits from the larger photo set AP made available with the interview distributed from two recent interviews:

Greenwald Snowden AP interview 1

Greenwald Snowden AP interview 5

Does it seem like the editors chose these out simply for their tenacity, or do they also seem a little terse or obsessed?

Greenwald Snowden AP interview 3

And then, this image — lush as it is — speaks to the point of Greenwald as subject matter, one of those celebritizing shots you’d see in People Magazine objectifying someone in his native environment.  At the same time, I wonder if the shot also carries a bit too much association to potential Snowden asylum destinations in the same hemisphere.

Greenwald Snowden AP interview 4

Finally, the most artful of the set. One one hand, of course, it’s a perfectly understandable, almost stock portrait of a dedicated journalist, the darkness evoking the severity of the story or the theme of security even. At the same time, however, the image could be seen to raise the question of exactly how much Greenwald, again, might be over-identified with his source, the man with the world’s most popular hard drive. And then, there’s another hint of the star turn.  The visuals, especially with the U.S. political establishment breathing down your neck, can start to get sticky that way.

UPDATE/CORRECTION. The photos above were not attributed correctly in the uncorrected post. Images 1-4 were taken by AP photographer Silvia Iaquierdo as part of an Associated Press interview with Greenwald at his home in Rio this past Sunday, July 14th. The last three images were taken by Sergio Moraes for Reuters as part of an exclusive interview conducted by that news agency in Rio on July 9th. Apologies to AP for attributing this set of photos and their editorial selection to the AP. At the same time, the fact that Greenwald entertained exclusive interviews with both major news organizations last week and sat for portraits for Reuters only reinforces the comments above about wider media exposure.  **Special thanks to Anita Baca, AP Photo Editor — Latin America & Caribbean desk.

(photos 1-4: Silvia Izquierdo/AP. photos 5-7: Sergio Moraes for Reuters)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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