December 8, 2019
Chatting the Pictures

Chatting the Pictures Year End: Kamala Harris; Firestorm Tree; Greta Thunberg at Standing Rock

Welcome to a special, year-end edition of “Chatting the Pictures.” In this webcast, we focus on pictures of the year and the theme of exposure.


By Michael Shaw
About the Video

In each 10-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” examines 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.

For “The News,” we discuss a photo of Kamala Harris and Al Sharpton. It was taken last January by Bebeto Matthews for Getty Images. Harris dropped out of the race for president this past week. In the discussion, we reflect on the pilgrimage to this Harlem restaurant, and the political and cultural forces Harris faced during her one year run.

“The Look” offering this week highlights a widely-published, long-exposure photograph taken by Philip Pacheco for AFP/Getty. It’s was taken in October in Northern California during the massive Kincade fire. We analyze the photo’s allure, from its vivid and celestial nature to its frightful qualities, including the allusion to fires caused by PG&E power lines.

“The Pick” this week showcases a stunning photo of climate activist, Greta Thunberg, taken by Shane Balkowitsch via AP. It was taken on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. We discuss the historical and the poetic quality of Balkowitsch’s wet plate processing technique, and how the image eloquently ties Thunberg’s fight against fossil fuels to the ecological exploitation of poor and indigenous peoples.

You can find all the Chatting the Pictures replays here.

The Full Edit

Take a closer look at some of the images from our larger photo edit.

Photo: Bebeto
Matthews/Pool/Getty Images.
Media members photograph U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate, and the Rev. Al Sharpton as they have lunch at Sylvia’s Restaurant in New York. February 21, 2019.

Photo: Philip Pacheco / AFP / Getty.

A long-exposure photograph shows a tree burning during the Kincade fire off Highway 128, east of Healdsburg, California, on October 29, 2019.

Photo: Shane Balkowitsch via AP. 
This Oct. 8, 2019 photo provided by Shane Balkowitsch shows climate activist Greta Thunberg visiting the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Fort Yates, N.D. Thunberg accepted the photographer’s request to pose for the photo using an old technique that involves wetting glass plates with various chemicals before making an exposure. The resulting photographs are being archived at the Library of Congress in Washington and the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm. 
Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

The Big Picture

Follow us on Instagram (@readingthepictures) and Twitter (@readingthepix), and


A curated collection of pieces related to our most-popular subject matter.


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.


Comments Powered by Disqus