July 15, 2015

That All-Too-Dark Iran Nuke Disarmament Photo

Bloomberg featured it. The NYTimes ran it as a “Picture of the Day.” The photo also led the Reuters daily photo feature, Editor’s Choice. If you wanted to explain its attraction on the day the U.S., the Western powers and Iran made history with a complex and historic disarmament deal, you could call it dramatic, artistic … esoteric, even.

The fact there’s such darkness here (not to mention, the Iranian flag is swallowing a man’s head) would seem to reflect the storminess of this process, as mirrored in the last two lines of the caption:

The Iranian flag being removed from a stage after a group picture of representatives of the countries involved in negotiations that led to the announcement of a nuclear deal with Iran in Vienna. Not all nations were happy with the pact. Israel called the deal a historic surrender.

Marking the concluding instant of the negotiation ritual, the end of the beginning and the beginning of the future and its consequences, the photo is eerie indeed. In the most literal terms, might the removal of the Iranian flag speak to Iran’s engagement in this process as all too variable? Or that America was fixed but Iran’s presence was more conditional? Or, that the obscurity of the man telegraphs a hiding or a furtiveness between the figures that were present and the Iranian state? Or, that the process simply leaned further toward, or was more embracing of the Iranian cloth?

And if that darkness is disconcerting, might it allude to the vast amount of space the Iranians, in spite of the safeguards, might still exploit? I’m also drawn to the symbolism of the agreement, if you consider the space between the U.S. and the Iranian flag as a portal or passageway, as a threshold into darkness. In this way, the man could be seen as disappearing into a black hole.

Finally, the action in the photo, the removal of the Iranian flag, is as much about the process leaving the U.S. on stage alone. Read this way, isn’t the darkness as much about our explosive chemistry, our own political vacuum … and the fallout?

(photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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