Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 25, 2015

The Pope’s Congressional Override

Pope Congress Speech Melina Mara WaPo

It’s a wonderful slideshow WaPo put together of the Pope’s day in Washington yesterday. Of the 51 images, you’ll surely appreciate the contrast between his visit to a Catholic Charities center to meet the needy and bless their lunch and the scene at St. Patrick’s and the Capitol Mall. The best shots, though, are the images inside the Capitol before, during and after Francis addressed a joint session of Congress. Giving a blatantly political speech, what was straight out of a parallel universe was the way our senior legislators, the polarized of the polarized, reacted to the Pope’s confrontation in a completely apolitical way.

If you were lulled into believing this was the result of ultimate deference and respect, that’s just naive. In the midst of the GOP threat to shut down Congress over Planned Parenthood, and the GOP presidential candidates engaged in the ugliest racial and culture demagoguery, what we and the nation were witnessing, instead, was the ultimate defense. (The shots of the candidates in the audience, including a clearly anticipating Christie and the smug countenance of the anti-Muslim Carson — are worth the opening commercial and the click-delays alone.)

This photo, though, by the Post’s Capitol Hill mainstay, Melina Mara, is just too rich. There is so much talk these days about photography and the importance of “story.” The storytelling here is as simple as it is profound, the contrast black-and-white. As a political observation, the photo frames the Pope’s ideological homily as emanating from a higher plane. On a more practical level, as distinct from a chamber that breeds distraction, the clear-eyed focus of the Pope, his cross to his gut, is positively uplifting.

(photo: Melina Mara for The Washington Post)

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