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October 27, 2005

Reclaiming The Frame

Surrounded-2-1

Surrounded1-1

As Fitzmania builds and good liberals fantasize that Rove will meet a firing squad, my latest question is: Why would photographers suddenly be so interested in depicting reporters and other photographers crowding Bush and Cheney?

As most truth is generally multi-determined, the answer to such a question likely involves multiple factors.  For my part, though, I would offer up one possibility:  Revenge.

I keep thinking about Bush’s so-called press conference right before the Iraq invasion.  Held in the White House East Room on Thursday evening, March 6, 2003, Bush brushed off question after question concerning a possible intervention, beating the drum while pretending the decision to attack was somehow not a foregone conclusion.  As usual, Bush’s attitude toward the press that evening was as condescending as it was domineering, and as usual, there was nothing anyone in the press seemed prepared to do about it.

But that was back when Bush and Co. still had unlimited customers for the Kool-Aid.

For the past few months, the BAG has chronicled a a shift in the visual
balance-of-power. Highlighted by the damning visuals of Bush in the
early days of the Katrina crisis, it seems the photojournalists have
been progressively narrowing the aircraft carrier-sized pictorial gap
Bush and Rove had established between the White House and the Fourth
Estate.

Obviously, visual consumers automatically understand the
contract between the hunter-photographer, who is supposed to remain
relatively invisible, and the politician-prey, who is relatively free
to create whatever type of impression he or she can manage. For Bush,
of course, relationships were easy to manage as long as he had 9/11 to
exploit. Now however, it seems Bush can’t even ask permission for a
bathroom break without someone eavesdropping on his permission slips
with a telephoto lens.

As photographers depict other photographers having their way
with Cheney or seeking "gesture parity" with the formerly
privilege-revoking Bush, I can imagine members of the press thinking it
couldn’t feel better giving Dubya a dismissive look — especially now
that the air is thick with scandal and the smell of blood.

(image 1: Caption: President Bush listens
to a reporter’s question on the investigation into the leak of the
identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame and about the involvement of
two of Bush’s aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, in the Oval Office
at the White House in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/A.P. Monday, Oct.
17, 2005. Washington. Via YahooNews. image 2: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters.
October 26, 2005. Washington. Via YahooNews.)

  • Marysz

    Bush has a deer-in-the-headlights look in the upper photo. He tries (ineffectually) to wave off the photographers with his left hand. Look at his right hand–that’s were the anger is. Next to Bush, is a messy stack of papers and a cellphone(?). Bush is chaotic and unorganized.
    Cheney’s a different story. What a smug, false smile. Cheney still thinks he can beat this thing and who knows . . . he may be right. Cheney and Rove have both been putting on a lot of weight lately. Comfort food? Or medication? The picture is neatly bisected, the photographers (and the public) on one side, Cheney on the other. The photographers are leaning forward and on the verge of invading Cheney’s exclusive space. Cheney leans away from them (us) on his couch, cradling alongside him a brown folder (wouldn’t we like to know what’s in it) protectively nestled with a cellphone. He’s on the edge of the photo. But unlike the off-center pictures of Harriet Meirs in earlier posts, Cheney’s neither marginalized nor thrown off balance. He has an escape route; at least, he thinks he does.

  • readytoblowagasket

    Bush has a very expressive face, especially when he’s upset — he can’t hide his emotions behind a bizarre smirking mask like Cheney can. Photographers must love that about Bush, and whenever there’s a rare breach in the electric fence, photographers must swarm through it, crowding Bush and making his face even more expressive. I see worry and uncertainty on Bush’s face here. And powerlessness. The photographers (like Fitzpatrick) are so close now, Bush has only inches left to protect. An arm’s length. Also, Bush is sitting in his suit like he’s wearing jeans instead — jacket unbuttoned, tie askew, legs apart, posture a bit hunched. The fight response is failing him lately, so is this how he looks when he’s preparing for flight?

  • lemondloulou54

    What’s the Biblical reference, “pride goeth before the fall”? Bush is so obviously exhausted. I know a guy who went to college with Cheney at Yale who says that Cheney partied hearty back in the day. Cheney didn’t last at Yale, though, and slithered back to Wyoming. He’s a much scarier character than Bush, who has the aura of the damaged child about him. Cheney, the man with the weak heart, has relied on his intellect his whole life. While our society values the intellect greatly, our leaders cannot be intellects only. Cheney will go down because he lacks heart. We just won’t tolerate it as a society.
    And, yes, the press is starting to turn. They’re doing it for revenge and for money (ratings). And because at the end of the day a democracy will not support grand-ambition imperialism. Small island countries are okay, but big countries with huge infrastructure problems and ancient tribal rivalries are not worth our time, energy, and resources.
    Americans are above all a pragmatic people. Georgie doesn’t have a pragmatic bone in his body, which is why is was never successful as a businessman in spite of the fact that he had every opporutnity in the world for success.

  • fotonique

    Q. Why would photographers suddenly be so interested in depicting reporters and other photographers crowding Bush and Cheney?
    A. Boredom, simple boredom. There’s no news and no pictures here.
    When media representatives start reporting what other media representatives are doing, they can’t/don’t/won’t find enough real news to sink their teeth into.

  • Gasho

    In the Cheney shot, 3 of the 4 photographers seem to be taking pictures “past” and “around” Cheney, instead of taking pictures “of” him. It looks to me like they are photographing a crime scene.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    Death Watch
    …Rove will meet a firing squad…
    a recent documentary show on American EmpTeeVee, depicting the “first use” of classical Freudian psychoanalysis by the O.S.S. during WWII, circa 1942-43, to put together a psychological profile of a foreign head -of- state, in this case it was Adolph Hitler ~ their conclusion back then was that a Psychopathic Personality terrified of “being wrong” and “incapable of dealing with fault” would, in the end, “destroy all those around him,” and that “the leader would ultimately commit suicide” rather than deal with “the unbearable pain of being seen” [as 'not perfect']
    that analysis proved prescient…
    …here we see the American leader, imho : destroying everything and everyone around him; and, in the act of virtual suicide.
    in the case of Herr Hitler, a handful of Generals did disobey his final orders to “destroy Paris,” though Berlin did not escape his madness; and iirc Albert Speer did tell him, during their last meeting in that bunker: “My Fuehrer, I have disobeyed your orders” to carry out a complete scorched earth policy, “because there must be something left upon which to rebuild our Nation.”

  • Zappatero

    Great comments.

  • George Myers

    According to a National Archives article, the first “White House Press Secretary” was Cabinet member George B. Cortelyou, of New York, (early Con-Ed CEO also) descended from the French surveyor hired by the Dutch to survey Brooklyn. He invited the press into the White House after President William McKinley was shot at the Panamerican Exposition in Buffalo, NY, Mr. Cortelyou had been standing next to him. As the press was told the condition of McKinley by Cortelyou and the tradition started they said. However, in their purview of them, they left out the first woman White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, who in the Clinton was one for three years, strangely omitted. Historians have remarked, that since George B. Cortelyou held three (3) Cabinet posts during a particularly trying time, the assassination, the Spanish American War, etc., he remained in the Cabinet under Theodore Roosevelt (told by telegram the eighth day after the shooting, in North Creek, NY by telegram that he was President, hiking in the Adirondacks) that his papers (he died in Huntington, NY in 1940) should be reviewed by historians so far overlooked. He began teaching shorthand in NYC schools, then became Chairman of the Republican Party. I may be related to him by marriage or lack thereof.

  • http://blog.thought-mesh.net Annoying Old Guy

    I can’t believe you think putting the photographers in the frame is somehow a negative for the targets of such photographs. As TheBAG has noted, it really makes the staged and artificial nature of the process evident and thereby eliminates any substance to the content of the photographs. I would submit that it’s clearly to the advantage of the White House for press pictures to look staged and artificial because it makes the press itself look that way as well.

  • http://www.olywa.net/cook Geoduck

    To add to Marysz comment, almost cutting off Cheney’s arm makes it look like you can’t see what that arm is doing; something sinister, no doubt.

  • http://asterism.blogspot.com Salam Adil

    Is it just me or do pictures of W seem to elicit the most comments. It is not hard to see why – he has become a charactacure of himself.
    My take on what is happening is the American form of what the Bavarian Government did to King Ludwig II when he nearly bankrupted the state building his fairytale castle. To quote the official history: The king’s refusal to react rationally led the government to declare him insane and depose him in 1886 – a procedure not provided for in the Bavarian constitution. Ludwig II was interned in Berg Palace. The next day he died in mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane.

  • blythetdm

    Bush looks like he has been captured and run to ground. He’s hedged in: the plants framing his head, the chair up against the wall, blocked off by the end table, the microphones close up and surrounding him. His whole demeanor is dispirited: his eyes and mouth are down-turned, he’s slumping in the chair and his upraised left hand seems to be saying, “No más! No más!”
    Cheney, on the other hand, seems more at ease; he is seated at a diagonal on the sofa, with his legs crossed in an almost feminine way, angled away from the photographers. His right arm is comfortably draped along his thigh and the hand left hand is protectively cradling the items lying next to him on the sofa, while he smirks at something or someone behind the photographer in the gray jacket. He doesn’t seem as hedged in as Bush – there is plenty of space behind him. While the photographers surround him, only one (the one kneeling on the floor) is actually focusing his camera on Cheney. He is also the only one that has encroached on the space around Cheney.

  • readytoblowagasket

    If you divide the Cheney photo in half and just look at the photographers (put a Post-it over Cheney to block him out entirely), they don’t look like they are shooting stationary objects/people sitting down. They look like they are photographing something much more interesting, something in motion perhaps, or an extinct animal that’s not really extinct after all, or Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie emerging from a Starbucks together.
    I thought there was something feminine about Cheney too — he’s looking almost voluptuous here. I think he just devoured a box of Twinkies.

  • David McCarthy

    Picture 1;
    “please, no more, I feel sick, oooh, please no more questions, …wheres mommy?”
    looks like hes coming down with Bird flu -The chickenhawk variant.
    Picture 2;
    “Mrrrmmmmm, Mr Bond , so good of you to drop by”…
    Cheney, as usual, knows exactly what he is up to.
    In my opinion Bush is no Hitler, he hasnt got the strength of character to top himself. No his fate lies not in suicide, he will be thrown to the dogs when his usefullness ends. He has always been a puppet , a front, a cypher, the empty vessel posing as the head of the beast. He has always been out of his depth, a vacant tool used by his handlers to further the neocon agenda. He was chosen for his idiocy, someone they could programme and walk around, someone so lacking in imagination he waould never vary from the script, someone who would actually believe that he really was in charge, someone so damn stupid they could do whatever they wanted through him.
    Now his handlers are losing faith in their creation, the wolves are baying for their little boy frankenstein, and they have stopped writing his script.

  • tracy

    “O.S.S. during WWII, circa 1942-43, to put together a psychological profile of a foreign head -of- state”
    This is how I knew Bush was really religious, or that he at least thought he was. After Bush first met “Putie” Putin, Bush said he had looked into Putin’s soul and knew he could trust him. Of course, that was just a riff on Thatcher and Reagan’s take on Gorbechev — that they “could do business with him,” but it was interesting because at that first meeting with Putin, Putin gave Bush a cross which Putin said had been his mother’s and which he had saved all these years. In fact, Putin told Bush, once there had been a fire in his Dacha and the only thing he was worried about was the cross – thankfully it was spared. So, if Putin’s old K.G.B. buddies went to all the trouble of making up that cockamamie story about the cross, their psychological profile must have shown that Bush was religious. Who am I to argue with the K.G.B.?

  • gleex

    Hard not to pick up on this, good job getting it early and getting comments.
    The visual frame is certainly shifting, kind of like the one you had from the (nytimes?) where the Presidential pulpit was empty and Cindy Sheehan was walking alone amoung the tumbleweeds. Perhaps that was the origin of the shift (August in Crawford 2005, darn that spoils a vacation), and I think largly open to all media with the Katrina natural and unnatural disaster.
    There is also an element of “media circus”, though that is more when they show the few pictures or video of SP Fitzgerald. However he is usally seen in a more upper handed position, for instance he often is given the a half dismissive wave, half would love to chat but have work to do wave. Not as condesending as the POTUS in my opinion, but that could be because he works 25 hours a day rather than 7 1/2 and really does have work to do, and really does HAVE to keep everything secrete, and really does need that cup of java he is usually shown holding as he walks and occasionally weaves through foot traffic.
    Bush thinks he is better than the peons, and I could not imagine in a million years him stepping to one side and flowing through foot traffic. He is the President least likely to find himself with a commoner, and if he does they are vetted supporter 99.9% of the time and will submit to his and the photo op handlers positioning of the scene. Anyway that is kind of a tangent, but I thought looking at how the media deals with SP Fitzgerald pre-ID’s, and how they are dealing with the POTUS was also interesting. It will be interesting to see how the handle and cover the SP post-ID’s as well – when they might have more footage, and when certain media outlets will be surely trying to get him to fit into a particular spin.
    I am not sure if there is a certain person allowing some photo and video people to break away from the hungry pack and get these shots (or maybe just sometime), but it might fit into a strategy the WH is going to use, that they are besieged. Of course they are pretty much this way all the time, but now we see the bathroom break notes, the talk to the hand, and a number of other seldom seen types of things coming out.

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