October 1, 2013

First Reflections on the Shut Down

Vietnam memorial govt shutdown reuters

I’m looking at the initial wave of newswire images framing the first government shutdown in seventeen years. The image above is from the Reuters Live Pictures Gallery, featured yesterday. The one below is part of the Getty package, which might be a little too artful or abstract for a wire shot as I’ve yet to see it picked up anywhere.

Somodevilla King Govt Shut Dow Getty

Both images call on Americans to consider the shut down, to literally reflect on it in terms of the county’s largest legacies. The Vietnam Wall and the image of King work as editorials, juxtaposing the petty impasse on Capitol Hill with America’s largest tides, ideas, statesmen — and prices paid. (Joan Walsh’s post at Salon, in fact, evokes a direct resonance with the second photo, speaking as she does about the shut down as a form of race baiting.)

I appreciate some of the smaller suggestions, too. The body language of the Park Ranger, for instance, speaks to dismay, injury, maybe shame, too. Children, of course, are also symbols of consequence. If Chip Somodevilla’s image is “Walker Evans-ish,” I like what Chip’s playing with here, including the layers of obstructionary motifs: the “red light/don’t walk,” which I’m sure won out over “green/go”; the fencing and the scaffolding, of course; but particularly, the tragicomic phrase: “LONG FENCE.” The phrase is perfect both ways, isn’t it, alluding to the straight forward fencing off of government buildings, or what we’re all paying the deeper price for this era, which is the lawmaker’s extended and toxic joust.

Daily News House of Turds

Of course, the shots above capture deeper themes than The Daily News does. Drawing on low culture and television channeling Washington, however (love the Mega Millions!), it’s still one more cultural reflection.

(photo 1: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters caption: A US National Park Ranger is reflected on a wall while assisting visitors with name rubbing at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. National Parks will effectively close tomorrow if a deal is not struck before midnight tonight to avert a federal government shutdown. photo 2: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images caption: An image of Martin Luther King, Jr. hangs on the wall outside the construction site for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. National Park Service park facilities and grounds were closed and more than 21,000 of the service’s employees were furloughed after Congress was unable to agree on a federal budget and shut down the goverment for the first time in 17 years.. photo-illustration: Daily News/unattributed online.)

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


Comments Powered by Disqus