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April 6, 2005

Your Turn: See Me, Feel Me, Cell Me


I was interested in your analysis of this photo in this morning’s NYT. 

It makes a wide sweep of many subjects, including British politics and Blair’s standing; the psychology of Blair; the current art of campaigning; the current intersection of politics and technology; the current intersection of technology and culture; the current state of the English sailing academy; and yes, even the weather in Dorset.

More specific to the image, though, it sets up a curious relationship between subject and viewer (of which, there might be many of each).  Just one impression I had:  You probably couldn’t  blame someone for looking at this and feeling they were getting the brush off. 

So you have a little more to go on, here’s the article link, headline (Blair Calls May Election as His Party Slips in Polls), and caption:

Prime Minister Tony Blair taking a photograph of himself on a mobile phone on a visit to a sailing academy in Dorset, in southwest England, yesterday. The visit was his first campaign appearance in elections set for May.

(image: pool photo/Stefan Rousseau in The New York Times)

  • michaelweaselo

    This photo doesnt affect me negatively. If anything, I can identify with what the PM is doing in the photo. He is doing what everyone with a digital camera has done, taken a self portrait. I think its actually funnier that hes taking the picture HIMSELF with someones camera rather than having that person take the picture of him. At least he is smiling and having fun with the kids. I can see the ‘brush off’ point a bit, but in this case, he looks like he is having fun with someones personal camera. Thats something that they are going to send instantly to friends, take home, download and email around. Thats kind of cool.
    At least he knows what it is and how to use it. Im not sure Bush would be able to do the same thing. Im specifically thinking of the Segway Scooter incident…

  • jillian

    I see a self absorbed politician. He’s taking a picture of himself. He can’t sell himself to the adults anymore, so the kids are the only audience that he might be able to get.
    He is showing, however, his charm and slightly more than the usual dry Brit humour, as he and the kids are laughing. It almost looks like he is giving the press photographer the finger.

  • Shaula Evans

    He is symbolically giving the photographer/viewer “the finger” with his cell phone.

  • Dan

    Looks like he’s trying to sell me a cell phone.
    Also, he’s not with the kids in the picture, so much as they’re in the background. Kind of like when you go to the park or the zoo and you have someone take a picture of you in front of some animal or landmark. Like they’re trophies or something.

  • Dave McCarthy

    its an ad for toothpaste.
    maybe for cellphones, But Its definitely an Ad. Camera-friendly Blair posing with pearly whites and happy kids in sailor suits, cashing in on a decade of advertising vogue. Bleurk. It merely attests to the fortunes these guys (Blair-washed New Labour) spend on PR.

  • Quentin

    Maybe if he looks at the picture of himself he will realize, like a lot of other people already have, that he’s not as bright and debonair as he used to be. He looks quite shopworn, in fact, and the veneer of self-confidence, behind which he is used to shielding himself, has worn thin, thin, thin, so a lot of less attractive spots are breaking through. ‘A game of endless vanity and ambition running scared, anyone?’, he force-smiles nervously.

  • David Eoll

    He is symbolically giving the photographer/viewer “the finger” with his cell phone.
    Actually, he really is giving “the fingers“, UK style. Look at the position of his index and middle fingers.

  • dancinfool

    Another vote for “Looks like he’s giving the finger.”

  • anona

    What worries me are the little girls in the photo… years younger than all but the boy on the right and out of costume.
    Who are they?
    If they’re students at the sailing academy, why don’t they get to wear sailor suits?

  • Caoilte O’Connor

    I like it.
    It’s a “Once Only Picture”. It works for Tony because “He did it first” (as a politician anyway) and ticks all the right positive credentials: spontaneous, fun, full of small children (awww) and most importantly for a Labour politician — progressive.
    That Tony Blair these days is probably the opposite of all these things, just further emphasises how well judged the shot is. (Rather like those forceful and colour saturated campaign stump shots of Bush from below to emphasize his Statesman-like credentials.)

  • Redshift

    My first thought was “at least their leader is capable of operating a camera phone…”

  • moses

    My first impression was that he was giving us the finger– which is of course what he has done, and continues to do.
    Also, no one has mentioned this– doesn’t he look like an elf or a satyr? Knowing how evil he has been makes this even more eerie/creepy.
    I tried to imagine what I would think if I didn’t know that this man engineered the UK/US away from its finer traditions of democracy and brought it back to the evil, grasping, dark side of the British empire.
    He would still look like a creepy elf.
    When I realized he was holding a cell phone and that the middle finger-giving might have been inadvertant, I thought he was advertising maybe a British brand or something? But of course the technology money of the DLC/”New Labor” lept also to mind.
    Then I thought he wanted us to give him a call? Let’s try!
    Never occurred to me he was being narcissus. Maybe that’s what narcissus looked like!

  • aethorian

    What we really need is a new BBC (Big Brother Cam) channel, not to keep an eye on us, but so we can keep an eye on them.
    A terrestrial version of this floating eyeball might work nicely. Put three of these floating cams in synchronous, equidistant orbit a few feet around the Head’s head, stitch the video into a panoramic view, and stream the result onto the Web (and a 7/24/365 TV channel). Use bathroom and bedroom breaks—allow a little privacy, please—to advertise government bonds, F-16s, construction services, investment advice, or whatever to bring in a little cash.
    Big Brother Cam: Your Eye on the Big Guy. All leadership, all the time.

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