Friday, April 27, 2007

What does this picture say to you?

OK, let's look at this picture, shall we? (photo from Reuters)

Here we have our eight presidential candidates from the Democratic party before their debate on Thursday. How many of them do you recognize by sight? Personally, I recognized two immediately and one more when I looked closely.

But aside from my own political ignorance, I was struck by the composition of the photo and a variety of messages it conveys.

First of all, there are the groupings. Off to stage right is former Senator Mike Gravel, of whom I had never heard, looking a bit uncomfortable and isolated, standing with his hands behind his back, not smiling, looking down. Next to him is Barack Obama, also singled out, but looking very confident and comfortable with his hands resting at his sides, smiling, looking up and out.

Then we begin to see clumping. Note that our next two candidates (unidentified in the caption on Reuters, but they are, I believe, Senators Chris Dodd and John Edwards) are leaning in towards each other. What is Edwards pointing at, I wonder, or is it just something to do with his hands?

In our next grouping, clapping appears to be a useful activity, so you don't just stand there feeling silly. In this group we have Kucinich, Biden, Richardson, and Clinton, standing together, but engaging the audience, pointedly looking in different directions.

Next, note the attire. What does it say that all the suits are the same color? Except for Clinton's, of course. But the men look pretty much identical. Why? How is it that dark navy is the presidential color this year?

Regarding Clinton: a) she is wearing trousers; b) her light-colored suit does set her off from the rest of the field; c) she is standing to the far side of the group, as if she doesn't quite fit into the field. Of course, setting oneself apart from the rest of the field would be the point in an election. But there's something in the image that suggests to me she is not really accepted as a player on the team. Because she is part of a clump, but on the edge of the clump.

Barack Obama is the other one set apart, but in this image, at least, it makes him look like the leader of the group.

That's a lot to read into a photo, but that's what images do. Incidentally, Obama is not my candidate--at the moment--but I'm not saying who my candidate is--at the moment.

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