Trolling the visual flotsam and jetsam better known as the nascent Democratic 2016 presidential campaign this week, two different photos floated to the surface. The first was an Instagram shot by long time campaign-, and Iowa caucus documentarian Danny Wilcox Frazier. The second was an AP photo from 1981 leading off a MoJo backgrounder of the lightening rod, Bernie Sanders, his campaign already testing the number of derivations of “quixotic.”
If the Iowa photo simply captures the hands of two reporters trying to get Hillary’s attention, Frazier understands how an image of Clinton encountering pointing fingers (one “going for the jugular”) can have a whole different connotation. Call it an inadvertent poster or visual plot summary for the eighteen months to come. To the extent she’s been a target for years, and will soon be an epic one when you combine the scale of the prize with the prospect of singularly dominating the Democratic field, her expression has the corresponding quality of bemused resilience. At the same time, given that one hand is male and the other female, Frazier’s image also layers in how much Hillary’s candidacy will surely elicit the most vigorous and sharply-pointed gender and identity attacks.
As for the shot of Sanders, the first surprising thing about it is realizing that Bernie wasn’t born a septuagenarian. More seriously, though, like adding a few drops of water to a dry sponge, the historical photo lends instant dimensionality to a figure who has been treated as having not that much. Given (or, in spite of?) the quirky bio, I say: “more, please!”
(photo 1: Danny Wilcox Frazier/Instagram caption: Hillary Clinton takes questions from reporters, Cedar Falls, Iowa (May 19, 2015). In recent weeks the media and Republican candidates have criticized Hillary Clinton for the limited number of questions she has taken since announcing her presidential campaign. The former Secretary of State had answered just 13 (by NPR’s count) before the impromptu press conference after her small business roundtable event in Iowa. photo 2: Donna Light/APcaption: Bernie Sanders in 1981, a few months after being sworn in as mayor of Burlington, Vermont.)