Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
October 23, 2015

Reading the Hillary Clinton House Benghazi Testimony Photos

After yesterday’s House Benghazi hearing, the media, especially buzz media, is swimming in a river of gotcha shots and a thousand Hillary faces (1, 2, 3). Stepping off the path, I had some thoughts on the interesting and slightly less trafficked photos from Getty Image’s Alex Wong and Chip Somodevilla.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Sure, the Dems were running interference (Cummings and Adam Schiff). The photo also frames the atilt Chairman Gowdy as marginal, operating behind-the-back.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Stature-wise, paintings of historic members in the House hearing room provide their own counterpoint. The red light is editorial, too.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Reverse stampede. The law on her side.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Combining Congresspeople, press and the public in a photo swarm, the picture is surprisingly warm, intimate and empathetic (in this typically hyper-formal and protocol-choked chamber), while the right quarter also has a nice gender vibe to it. Credit the House Republicans for personalizing Clinton far more than she’s been able to do on her own.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Again, the hearing lent Clinton an intimacy that is highly rare. Great camerawork by Getty’s Chip Somodevilla, the photo also does something quite notable. Given the strength of the expression — Clinton making well-deserved light of the circus — the photo also defies the unspoken tendency to judge the aging Hillary for her wrinkles.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

One of the more effective photos I’ve seen illustrating the futility in Congress. Juxtaposed with the burnished wood and the stars, Getty’s Somodevilla drives it home by rendering the utter stasis in Congress geometrically.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

I don’t think Getty would have offered us such a blatant example if the media wasn’t so thoroughly obsessed (of course, the day after the hearing, but also, in general) with Clinton’s face.  It’s a wonderful illustration, also, of how much politicians are also actors and politics is such a show.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

So widely published, this and the torn paper shot are going down in the annuls for DC overreach/grandstanding. And yes, the enormous waste of paper.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Another powerfully gendered photo, the sideways, hard-angled Gowdy looks askance as compared to the soft receptivity of Clinton’s former right-hand, Huma Abedin. If the photo is terrifically partial, it’s also terrifically effective playing on the nature of a bully boy when he has to look someone, or more specifically, some woman in the eye.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee on Benghazi Attacks

Yes, it was taken before the ultra-marathon started, but the photo, also ringed in women as it is and stressing “the honorable” (maybe ironically, given the focus), reads, the-next-day, like survival, relief, even a last laugh.

(photo 1 and 4 – 10: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. photos 2 & 3: Alex Wong/Getty Images. fullcaption 1: Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is greeted by ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) (2nd L) as chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (L), and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) (R) look on as she arrives prior to testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to continue its investigation on the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2012. partial caption 3:Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (C) arrives prior to testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. partial caption 4: Members of Congress, the public and the press photograph Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she takes a break from testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to continue its investigation on the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2012. partial caption, photo 6: House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) (L) and ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) argue during a hearing where Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to continue its investigation on the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2012. partial caption, photo 8: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) speaks as piles of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails about Libya are seen on the bench during a hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.)

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