Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
April 11, 2019

Chatting the Pictures: The Black Hole, In Trump’s Eye, Viral Sudan: A Most Visual Week

Welcome to the latest edition of Chatting the Pictures. In each 20-minute webcast, co-hosts Michael Shaw, publisher of Reading the Pictures, and writer and historian, Cara Finnegan, discuss three prominent photos in the news. The program is broken into three segments: “The News,” “The Look,” and “The Pick.” “The News” examine a hard news image for its content value. “The Look” focuses on a news photo for its artistry and style. And “The Pick” asks what made a high profile photo so unique to editors or the public.

“The News” photo this week was made by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation. This is the first image of a black hole,  which resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun. This composite image invites us to a greater understanding of the universe through digital manipulation. Looking “just the way we imagined it would,” the image addresses our urge to know the unknowable. When you think about it though, that’s a tall order when it’s actually the ultimate depiction of nothing.

For “The Look,” we discuss an image taken by Pablo Martínez Monsiváis for the Associated Press. This macro photograph of Donald Trump’s eye reflecting a media scrum pushes the creative boundaries of news photography. According to many on the internet, this picture of Trump’s eye served as an ironic parallel to the black hole. As we saw it, the image brilliantly illustrates how Trump internalizes his need for attention, and his attempt to control of the press and the larger audience.

“The Pick” this week features a viral image of a protest in Sudan, by Lana Haroun. We discuss how this photo of 22-year-old Alaa Salah is drenched in symbolism, from the cultural elements of her dress (especially those circular earrings!) to her body posture. Bringing to mind the Statue of Liberty or the sculpture of Marianne in the Place de la République in Paris, we discuss how the picture depicts woman’s power as well as generational change. We also discuss how important the photo is for its online impact — a sign that visual protest, by way of social media, has come a long way since the Arab Spring.

You can find all the Chatting the Pictures replays here .

Slideshow

Photo: Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, via National Science Foundation. Caption: The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) — a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes — captured an image of the black hole at the center of Messier 87, a massive galaxy in the nearby Virgo galaxy cluster. This black hole resides 55 million light-years from Earth and has a mass 6.5-billion times that of the Sun.

Photo: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/AP Photo via Instagram
Caption: Members of the media are seen reflected in the eye of President Donald Trump as he answers questions on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 10, 2019, before boarding Marine One helicopter for the short flight to nearby Andrews Air Force Base, MD.

Photo: Lana H. Haroun Caption: This photograph of Alaa Salah’s appearance during a protest this week against President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan has swept through social media.

  • Panelists
  • Michael Shaw An analyst of news photos and visual journalism, and a frequent lecturer and writer on visual politics, photojournalism and media literacy, Michael is the founder and publisher of Reading the Pictures.
  • Cara Finnegan Communication Professor, University of Illinois. Author of Making Photography Matter: A Viewer's History from the Civil War to the Great Depression and Picturing Poverty: Print Culture and FSA Photographs. Moderator, Reading the Pictures Salon.

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