Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
February 10, 2015

More Than Less Than Meets the Eye: The Pope in a (Roman) Shanty Town

Yes, a Reuters photographer was there. And so was the suit for PopeTV. Still, the impromptu detour felt like an extraordinarily-meaningful ten minutes spent in this Roman shantytown filled with Ecuadorian and Peruvians.

Perhaps the comparison isn’t fair, the Pope only a politician in part. Still, I’m wondering when was the last time a head of state ventured into a similar homestead — and did so with such intimacy. If the quick answer has to do with safety, I also wonder if that’s more rationalization than explanation, the poor, and especially the immigrant poor being that dispossessed. Of course, what cemented the connection was the “Castellano,” the fact that the Pope, reveling in the question “how many of you speak Spanish?” affirmed himself as as bonafide an immigrant as everyone else gathered round.

If it’s near impossible in our marketing culture to credit a photo (especially, of a cultural or political leader) with a deeper sense of genuineness, I would not call this a photo-op.

…For the pleasure, by the way, the video is here.

(photo: Osservatore Romano/Reuters. caption: Feb. 8, 2015 Pope Francis makes a surprise visit to a shantytown on Rome’s outskirts, stunning poor residents, many of them from his native South America.)

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