Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
November 23, 2014

ISIS and the Free Syrian Army Meet Clint and Black Friday

Nalbandian Syria 1

My first reaction to this image from LensCulture’s feature, “On the Ground in Syria,” was: here is yet another example of the pervasiveness of American culture from an overseas war zone. This one from Syria hints, or perhaps shouts, its references to Clint Eastwood in almost any of his “action” incarnations, Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Hawaii Five-O, Defiance or Justified. It is the current model of so many images from Africa’s civil wars where fighters model Mad Max and Star Wars.

Then scrolling through the take, the next photo triggered these questions: Can we see in this image the rise of IS as a state with soldiers, not fighters, and its own cultural machine, pushing its own form of cultural imperialism? Is the fighter, despite being from the Free Syrian Army, modeling this new fashion?

Black Friday camp out NYT

I was still pondering this yesterday morning when I saw this image in the NYT Business section. With a somewhat short attention span, it made me think both sets of images were related through the battle ground of cultural. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet and this fellow is camped out in front of an electronics store, first in line for “Black Friday”. So this image makes me wonder about are the following:

Looking at the main image, what’s with all the product placement — the energy drink, Hooters, Pepsi combo? Is this shot just another in a long line of created photo-ops? Is it a viral ad? Or is he being paid, like he would be if selling space on his car (or even his body)?

Lastly, regardless if he is “working” or just can’t stand not being first in line to plunk down all his hard earned cash on yet another item for the man cave, this isn’t exactly the American family values of the conservative right since this guy won’t be eating turkey with his family — unless they come down to the tent. On the other hand, if you subscribe to “corporations are families too,” well then perhaps it fits perfectly into the conservative mind set.

And perhaps that is truly the line that connects the first image of the Dirty Harry wanna-be and the man in the tent waiting to buy, buy, buy; both are the American right’s vision of and for America.

— Robert Gumpert

(photo 1 & 2: Nish Nalbandian caption 1: A YPG fighter walks down the street in Sheikh Maqsood, Aleppo on April 20, 2013. © Nish Nalbandian – slideshow #9. caption 2: An FSA fighter stands with his rifle on a street damaged by fighting in the Shaar district of Aleppo, February 7, 2013.  slideshow #10. photo 3: Eve Edelheit for The New York Times caption: First in Line, Comfortably: Derek De Armond waits in his tent for Black Friday to begin at a Best Buy in Fort Myers, Fla. Four years ago, he arrived at 6 p.m. for a midnight Thanksgiving opening, and found hundreds of people ahead of him.)

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