November 13, 2014

Ray, Janay, and the "News Photo as Movie Still-of-the-Week"

I was lecturing at Colgate University the past two days where my esteemed photo colleague, David Campbell, is teaching this semester in the Peace and Conflict Studies program. On Wednesday night, I gave a grand tour of news photography in the age of “buzz media.” One point I touched on was how liberally news photographs are experimenting with style, including channeling the cinema. I only saw this tonight but it’s as good an example as any of a newswire photo that could pass for a movie still.

The talk also focused on how much the impulse to entertain has subsumed the mission to inform. As Ray Rice and Janay Palmer show up at court for an appeal hearing on his pro football suspension, this photo has much less to do with domestic violence or the cultural politics of professional sports or even the complexity of a relationship than it has to do with the charm of the melodrama.

From the same MSNBC “Week in Pictures” slideshow, this also stood out for its “Industrial Light and Magic vibe.” In real life, it’s just a demonstration in Brussels where workers are experiencing no Matrix, no fireworks, no watery shimmer and no ability to stop projectiles in time as they face the prospect of “austerity measures.”

(photo: Jason DeCrow/AP caption: Ray Rice arrives with his wife Janay Palmer for an appeal hearing of his indefinite suspension from the NFL, Nov. 5, 2014, in New York. photo: Yves Herman/Reuters caption: Demonstrators confront riot police in central Brussels, Nov. 6, 2014. Tens of thousands of public and private sector workers, employees and trade union members demonstrated over austerity measures to be taken by the new Belgian government.)

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Michael Shaw
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