Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
January 11, 2016

On the Sean Penn – “El Chapo” Photo

Actor Sean Penn (L) shakes hands with Mexican drug lord Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman in Mexico, in this undated Rolling Stone handout photo obtained by Reuters on January 10, 2016. The photo was taken for authentication purposes. REUTERS/Rolling Stone/Handout via Reuters    ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE. MANDATORY CREDIT. WATERMARK ADDED AT SOURCE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.      TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

“I give in to the sense of security offered by the calm of Chapo and his men. There is the pervasive feeling that if there were a threat, they would know it.”

Calm, really? They must have taken this before the tequila.

The Rolling Stone caption and credit reads as follows:

The author and then-fugitive El Chapo Guzmán, on October 2nd. The photo was taken for verification purposes. After a long dinner and conversation, Chapo granted Penn’s request for a formal interview. Courtesy of Sean Penn

If the point about verification is technically true, the fact it’s posited as a singular reason is hilarious. Do you think Penn — the article sporting over a thousand occurences of the word “I” — would have come back without a portrait?

This photo might have been for proof, but what it really does, in the most symbiotic way (the publication affixing its logo and labeling it a handout), is promote three brands. Or should we say four, as a publicity photo of Ms. del Castillo, who hooked everyone up, is also featured in the piece.

I should add, two men couldn’t compete any harder for the attention of the lens. Penn, with what might be the forearm flex of the year, looks to project –with the side-stance, the sense he’s been through the ringer, and the knowing look — that he got his man. And Guzmán, well, he’s an expert at handshakes and the “open book” pose (though there is more than a bit of paranoia in those eyes).

 

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