Photo Credit: Jim Young/Reuters
In a political cycle of relentless photo-ops, countless handshakes, hugs and flag-waving hoopla, it is refreshing to see beyond the candidates to the more human side of life. Young's picture, showing two tired children holding campaign signs in Winterset, Iowa on December 22, offers some comic relief at a time when everything we see and hear out of Iowa or New Hampshire these days seems to little more than create more apathy toward the political process. Thousands of images are transmitted to news organizations each day, but what do they really say about a candidate?
One assumption is that the pictures say very little about the candidate's ability to lead a nation. Instead, what most of the images represent are more about the what the campaigns and media thinks the audience wants to see. At times, there is a glimpse of a human side of a candidate, but for the overwhelming majority of pictures just tastes like a spoonful of cold canned peas. The candidates attempt to project and protect his or her political image, something often proscribed by media handlers. The media, for their part, dutifully carry the message and image, out in the public domain. But increasingly, the message lands flat or is met with incredulity and suspicion.
Pictures frame, freeze and fix a moment in time -- a moment, which has traditionally been grated a lot of credit as a faithful representation of reality and truth. In a political climate where there seems to be more similarities than differences between those seeking power in this country, pictures become a form of mind-numbing anesthesia.
The same thing could be said for other events. How many images have we seen now of President Bush visiting the hospital beds of soldiers injured in Iraq. Is there anything significant in Bush's patting the head of a bed-ridden Army Sgt. John Wayne Cornell of Lansing, Mich., and posing for a photo-op?
Photo Credit: White House
One way of looking at the image is that president would like us to see how much he really cares about the soldiers fighting in the Middle East. Another way of looking at the picture is as propaganda: Go to Iraq, get hurt, get a pat on the head from the Commander-In-Chief.
It's hard not to be a little disrespectful or cynical at times when photo-ops masquerade as reality. In fact, this critique should not be viewed as another Bush-bashing ploy. It doesn't matter who's in office -- the response, and the pictures that represent the response, are almost always predictable.