Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
September 29, 2018

Our Top Kavanaugh Pics Starting from the Beginning

I imagine people will be studying the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation photographs for years to come. Maybe we’re at a cultural tipping point. Perhaps this is just one more body blow. Either way, the photos are brimming with pathos, irony and electricity as they take a searing look at power, gender and privilege. Having already profiled these 17 photos in near real-time on social media, we collect them here, in one place, with the words and impression that struck us then.

A woman who says she is a survivor of a sexual assault confronts Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in an elevator on Friday, Sept. 28, after Flake announced that he would vote in favor of sending Kavanaugh's nomination to the wider Senate for debate.
Photograph by Jim LoScalzo/epa

It could be argued that the encounter above, practically on its own, changed everything. Fueled by this confrontation–and the intense, immediate attention it drew–Senator Flake voted to send Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate. He only did so, however, with the caveat of an FBI investigation of sexual misconduct. We wrote:

Social media not only proved its agency today, it-and Ana Maria Archila-completely leveled the gender and power differential which has underpinned the Kavanaugh proposition from the beginning. And, they neutralized that elevator.


Photograph by Andy Harnik/Getty Images

We posted this minutes after the Ford-Kavanaugh session started as the ranking majority leader interrupted the ranking minority leader. We simply tagged it: #1000words. It certainly hit a chord because, days later, the “mansplaining” scene is still getting widely retweeted.

Couple listening to the Kavanaugh hearings on the uptown 1 train
Photograph by Amanda Aronczyk/ WNYC

Thursday’s one day Ford-Kavanaugh session was completely riveting. And that’s saying a lot, given the heightened sense of crisis in the country since the last presidential election. Clearly, the encounter before the Senate Judiciary Committee was a close sister to the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas event 27 years ago.

We merely wrote: What the historic looks like.

Christine Blasey Ford is sworn in before testifying to the Senate judiciary committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building. September 27, 2018.
Photograph by Tom Williams/Roll Call

Indivisible.

We were fascinated how the photo inextricably binds Christine Blasey Ford to Senator Grassley, who has epitomized the GOP’s aggressive and bitter partisan stance throughout the process. Ford will be forever tied to Kavanaugh, but I imagine this will especially stick to Grassley.

Brett Kavanaugh testifies before a Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Sept. 27.
Photograph by Jim Bourg/Reuters

We tweeted: “The Victim.”

Much has already been written about Kavanaugh’s hateful, partisan explosion as he opened his half of the session with Dr. Ford. When you look at the photos of him, they alternate between expressions of rage and tears. (Or between spite and pity.) Jim’s photo was one of the few, however, that manage to bring the different expressions together into one.

Christine Blasey Ford testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images

“Blind Justice.”

This image also circulate widely within minutes of Ford’s swearing in. It reminded us of the aspirational image of Lady Justice. Of course, the sense of sight underpins almost every aspect of the controversy.

 Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearing. September 27, 2018.
Photograph by Brendan Smialowski

Our tweet simply read: “Mister, mister.” The fact the entire GOP representation on the committee consisted of eleven men provided all kinds of fuel for the DC photo press.

Today’s 1000 words. Shot of Kavanaughs prepping for Fox News
Photograph by Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Martin’s shot was perhaps the only one I saw that doubled as commentary on this overt and political PR move — the Kavanaugh’s interview preceding the Ford testimony. And she accomplished it “in style.” Our tweet:

Today’s 1000 words. Shot of Kavanaughs prepping for Fox News defense goes full noir. B/w and shadows speak to sordidness of this nom since the get go, not just late “me too” free fall. Of course, the makeup boils it down to a home court theatrical exercise.

Protesters marched to the offices of Sens. Collins, Sasse and Flake (all of whom are anticipated to be potential swing votes on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination) on Monday, urging the them to vote against Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court. The group, many representing Kavanaugh's alma mater Yale University, also gathered in the rotunda of the Russel Senate Office Building where dozens were arrested and forcibly removed.
Photograph by M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

All the protest scenes from the halls of power to the rest of the country deserve a post in themselves. Here are two that caught our eye. Beyond the gender lens, the activists were also notable for their youth.

From the protests at the Capitol building. Not just for the gender/power contrast, but the look on high.

Demonstrators protest in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office building on Capitol Hill.
Photograph by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

Some interesting photo editing from today’s Capitol Hill Kavanaugh protest. Of course, the debate does not break along strict gender lines. But the prominence of these men standing together for Ford, especially as the GOP doubles down, stands out.

Perhaps the most effective pic to come out of the Kavanaugh hearings. That much scrutiny reveals...a moving target. September 7, 2018
Photograph: Erin Schaff/New York Times

Remarkably, this tweet has remained relevant throughout Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. We posted it back on September 17th.

Perhaps the most effective pic to come out of the Kavanaugh hearings. That much scrutiny reveals…a moving target.  (And that was before the abuse accusation.)

Handmaids and police congregate outside of the Kavanaugh hearing on Day One. September 5, 2018
Photograph by Sarah Silbiger

The novel and the television show has touched a nerve.

With a long record to answer for, after troubling code words, and with Roe—and so many other issues acutely effecting #women—on the line, Sarah’s photo speaks to how much the #Kavanaugh hearings and the #HandmaidsTale address each other.

Protests continue into day two of Kavanaugh’s hearing in front of the Senate Justiciary Committee. September 5, 2018
Photograph by Sarah Silbiger

The hearings were marked from the beginning by protests inside the committee room. The palpable fear from Kavanaugh’s speeches, key decisions, and his political role in the Bush Administration is that a Justice Kavanaugh will undermine social justice issues as well as Roe vs. Wade. Photo after photo showed women using their bodies to protest the nominee–even before Dr. Ford’s allegations came to light. What accentuates most of those photos are the male Capitol Police officers.

Another angle on #women using bodies to obstruct the #KavanaughConfirmation. Fittingly, left to right: We are manhandled. We march.

September 18, 2018 Another #Kavanaugh Confirmation photo now speaking more loudly, this by @KishaBari—especially the position of the woman in between. #WomenForKavanaugh meet “I am what’s at stake.”
Photograph by Kisha Bari

This photo was taken “pre-Ford,” but we posted it after the allegations broke. The fact women come down on both sides of Kavanaugh–or Trump, for that matter–is he subject of this photo, and the next.

Another Kavanaugh Confirmation photo now speaking more loudly—especially the position of the woman in between. Women For Kavanaugh meet “I am what’s at stake.”

September 9, 2018 The composition by @davidbutow speaks to something implicit in the #Kavanaugh hearings: the gender and racial uniformity within the GOP.
Photograph by David Butow

In this photo and the one below, David Butow illustrates how much a freelance approach and a more creative, Instagram-aesthetic can expand the boundaries of editorial photography. And political commentary.

The composition speaks to something implicit in the Kavanaugh hearings: the gender and racial uniformity within the GOP.

Evincing collage by david butow. How SCOTUS nomination is act of construction. #Kavanagh Kavanaugh Confirmation
Photograph by David Butow

This assembly highlights how packaged and contrived these Supreme Court hearing have become. What is stunning and sad is how this nomination unraveled over the basic question of who Brett Kavanaugh really is.

Evincing collage by David Butow. How SCOTUS nomination is act of construction.

Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh meets with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in her office on Capitol Hill on August 21, 2018 in Washington, DC. The confirmation hearing for Judge Kavanaugh is set to begin September 4.
Photograph by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg Images

It seems like eons, but we posted this about five weeks ago when the candidate was doing his Capitol Hill rounds. Our tweet reflected the heightened contention even before the sexual allegations. Even then, the pressure on Senators Collins and Murkowski over Roe was intense. (By the way, it has been our pleasure to follow and recognize the female photojournalists who have been covering this, and every story. Their numbers and seniority are very much connected to the issues at hand.)

Practically every Kavanaugh picture we saw a few weeks ago speaks to something totally different today—including Kav and Collins on the hot seat, and the simply marvelous gender symmetry (and recognition of women photojournalists) here.

— Michael Shaw

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