Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 30, 2014

Photo Op Chemistry as de Blasio Ebola Shot Turns to Bacon

Is the “keep calm people, nothing to worry about” photo becoming its own genre?

This past weekend, we did a post titled “American Ebola visual highs and lows of the week” featuring Obama’s hug-op with nurse, Nina Pham. What got passed me, however, was another photo — released by the White House in the form of what’s now being referred to as a “White House visual press release” — of Obama’s meeting the week before with Obola survivor, Dr. Ken Brantly.

(If you’ve somehow missed all the media skirmish, news organizations have been protesting the inability to capture scenes increasing staged for White House photographers — the latest being Brantly “not ill” in the Oval.) I have written repeatedly about White House censorship and the advantage to the powers-that-be to push visual spin straight to social media. With that, otherwise staged photos such as Pham’s with media availability, and the “reassurance genre” in mind however, it’s worth considering why the Administration might want to quarantine its visual commodities, particularly inoculation efforts aimed at Ebola hysteria.

Could it bear any relation to the third prominent “reassurance image” published last week? In that case, we saw Mayor de Blasio eating where Dr. Craig Spencer, the Ebola patient in New York, ate before falling ill. Given the trappings at hand and a media not just in vicious competition with itself but with pols publishing their own visual PR, we see Hizzoner (clearly hoping for a defacto PSA) end up — his mouth wide open — equated to a pig.

I guess the question is, how much are the photo-op and the visual press release, as media molecules, creating reassurance as opposed to their own hemorrhagic reactions to the disease?

(photo 1: Craig Ruttle/AP caption: From left, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, wife Chirlane McCray, and New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett have a meal at The Meatball Shop in New York, Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014, where Dr. Craig Spencer, an Ebola patient, ate just before he became ill. Spencer remained in stable condition while isolated in a hospital, talking by cellphone to his family and assisting disease detectives who are accounting for his every movement since arriving in New York from Guinea via Europe on Oct. 17. photo 2: Pete Souza/The White House. (photo 3: Olivier Douliery -Pool/Getty Images caption: President Barack Obama gives a hug to Dallas nurse Nina Pham in the Oval Office of the White House October 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. Pham, a nurse who was infected with Ebola from treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas and was first diagnosed on October 12, was declared free of the virus.”)

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