Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 26, 2015

That Less Circulated Statehouse Photo Honoring Clementa Pinckney

I know Poynter admired it as an editor’s choice. Maybe that’s my reservation.

I can understand how the famed Reverend, lying in state at the Statehouse in an open casket, would elevate the poignancy and the identification for those South Carolinians who passed by in person. To me, though, I had trouble getting beyond the spectacle, the compelling angle and the fascination with the corpse (an open casket either rare or rarely noticed on the newswire) to more fully connect with the man.

That’s in contrast to an emotional scene last week from the South Carolina Senate floor. In spite of the locale of the photo above, Clementa Pinckney has been more widely identified in pictures as a preacher than an elected servant of the people.  The fact he didn’t have a national presence and was killed while ministering at his parish further distances the knowledge he served the last fifteen years as a State Senator, and the three years before that in the South Carolina House of Representatives. That’s what makes this picture so much more informative than the other. As we witness Pinckney’s colleagues grieving for him in session, we feel for him, too, as a member.

(photo 1: Win McNamee/Getty Images. caption: The body of Rev. Clementa Pinckney lies in state during a public viewing at the South Carolina State House June 24, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. Pinckney was one of nine people killed during a Bible study inside Emanuel AME church in Charleston. U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to attend the funeral which is set for Friday June 26 at the TD Arena. photo 2: Rainier Ehrhardt/AP. caption: Chaplain James St. John, center, leads senators in prayer, June 18, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. State Sen. Clementa Pinckney was one of those killed Wednesday night in a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.)

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