Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 19, 2016

The Hillary Optics, Seven Weeks to Go

Senator Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a remembrance ceremony on Sunday in New York City for the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mrs. Clinton left the ceremony early because she was “overheated.” CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times
 From NYT slideshow: On the Trail: Week of Sept. 11

Over and over, what the visual media is reflecting lately, whether true or fair or largely a hardwired media meme, is Clinton as inscrutable, as opaque, as not connecting.

If you further thought the screenshot of Hilary on the sidewalk at Ground Zero during the 9/11 anniversary, her knees buckling, would be all over the place, it seems discretion for a temporary illness prevailed. The photo from the event that has really gotten traction, however, is the one above. Besides looking small and anonymous in the crowd just before the start of this intimate event, it seems to document a painful fact. As she appears to look right at us, and we at her (the sense of obscurity compounded by the sunglasses), clearly she knows she has pneumonia but we, the public, two days after she learned about it, do not.

If you’re a Hillary partisan, other images circulating on “picture of the week” galleries, on Instagram, or in feature articles from larger news organizations in the last seven days also transmit concerning a vibe. I wouldn’t equate these images to polls, or even predictors, but I do think the nature of more visible editorial imagery at any point in time is a pretty good reflection of mood (whether the media’s alone or a mirror of the voting public is also hard to say).

Besides the Ground Zero image, here are some other “negative indicators.”

Remote control planes resembling U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fly over surfers in Carlsbad, California, U.S. September 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake - RTSNY10Photos of the Week: 9/10-9/16. The Atlantic.

This photo, showing remote control planes in Southern California, appeared in several weekly round-ups, including The Atlantic’s. While Trump carries no baggage, Clinton is caustically portrayed on a broomstick(!).

Guests watched Mrs. Clinton on Thursday as she addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 39th annual gala dinner in Washington. Doug Mills/The New York Times.From NYT slideshow: On the Trail: Week of Sept. 11

This is the photo The Times chose to depict Clinton’s speech to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute gala in D.C. With polls saying Clinton is trailing Obama’s numbers with youth and Hispanics, the photo is grim.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski @bsmialowski

This shot was posted to Instagram by Brendan Smialowski of AFP/Getty Images without accompanying details.  In my mind, it’s the picture of inscrutability.

A rally for Donald J. Trump in Miami on Friday. He has campaigned hard in Florida, a state that once seemed out of reach. Damon Winter / The New York Times

This photo illustrates a NYT article: “Hillary Clinton Struggles to Gain Traction in Florida, Despite Spending.” Given Trump’s alternating disparagement, then patronization of women through the campaign, and a general lack of attention to gender as a campaign theme or issue, this photo has got to sting the partisans.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while she gives remarks on the explosion in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood onboard her campaign plane at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

This photo was part of an AP package from September 17, the picture taken on Clinton’s plane showing her talking to the traveling pool. Also widely published, it illustrated a Chicago Tribune article in which Clinton condemned a spate of apparent smaller-scale terrorist attacks in the past few days. (As you can see, there are many other Clinton photos AP made available to their clients from that day, and from the interview, that show Clinton as much more relatable.)

Given the fluidity and the volatility of the presidential race, the visual narrative can shift dramatically. Whether the stereotypes and more fixed perceptions of the candidates can as easily is another question. Above all, if Democrats have been hoping Election ’16 comes down to a referendum on Trump, these photos challenge that notion.

Photo: Eric Thayer for The New York Times Caption: Senator Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a remembrance ceremony on Sunday in New York City for the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mrs. Clinton left the ceremony early because she was “overheated.” Photo 2: Mike Blake / Reuters. Caption: Remote control planes resembling U.S. Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton fly over surfers in Carlsbad, California, on September 15, 2016.   Photo 3: Doug Mills/The New York Times. Caption:  Guests watched Mrs. Clinton on Thursday as she addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 39th annual gala dinner in Washington.   Photo 4: Brendan Smialowski  Caption: #Repost @bsmialowski Hillary #Clinton. Photo 5:  Andrew Harnik / AP. Caption: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton pauses while she gives remarks on the explosion in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood onboard her campaign plane at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016

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