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May 20, 2008

Primary Reflection From Harrisburg

Fink Hillary Penn

I wanted to draw your attention to this very fine photograph by Larry Fink from a political photo gallery at VF.  Fink shot this in Harrisburg while documenting last month’s Clinton effort in the Pennsylvania primary.  Given the suggestiveness of the image, I particularly encourage your analysis.

For myself, the photo speaks to the powerful bond between Hillary and the women’s vote, especially boomer and above.  (I get the demographics from the historical feel of the black-and-white, the more classical feel of the dress and the objectification of the female body, a behavior that particularly catalyzed the feminist movement.)

In my mind, the shot says a lot about why and how Clinton remains in the race.  To the extent many older women identify with the associations and isolation of the mannequin, the symmetry, balance and unqualified shout-out of the 10 balancing Hillary’s lends an identity and strength that neither wish to sever.

Keystone Stump slide show (Vanity Fair)

(image: Larry Fink. April 2008.  Harrisburg, PA.  via Vanity Fair)

About the Photographer


  • tony

    there is also an image of the metaphor of the “empty suit”

  • Scarabus

    Your reading makes sense, Mike, but I have a different take, probably because I’m in a sort of bleak mood. Anyhow, my immediate reaction on seeing the photo was a sense of loneliness and isolation. For one thing there are no people in the shot, only things. There’s no sign of life whatsoever.
    Yeah, the balance is asymmetrical but very stable. And since the visual weight of the two sides is equivalent, we’re encouraged to explore the cognitive or emotional relationships between the two. That’s what you do in seeing the connection between the symbolic dress and the 10 Hillary’s. But that strong vertical demarcation between the two sides can’t be ignored. It reminds me of Renaissance paintings of the Annunciation. There’s almost always a visual dividing line between the heavenly world to which the angel belongs and earthly world to which the Virgin still belongs. You can reach across from the angel’s side, but the two realms remain discrete.
    I share your sense of the isolation on the dress side, emphasized not just by the fact that it’s the only visible object apart from the bag on the wall in an empty space, but also by the clamoring, over-the-top plastering of signs on the other side. I can’t help being reminded of The Wizard of Oz: The right side is the bluster and bombast of the fake wizard; the left is the lonely reality.

  • WorldAsUnwill

    To me, the dress portrays Hillary herself: looking out from a darkened, almost completely empty room at the space in front of her where her supporters used to stand. Now she has been abandoned. The lack of a head signifies her hidden desperation; or is the cause of the ill-fated remarks she has made during her campaign.
    The left half of the picture shows “Hillary” standing in the dark while all the attention and light is focused on her symbols and what she stands for in the right half of the picture.

  • martin

    Mike; can I just ask a question? have we just lost an image that invited debate? Or am I wrong in assuming that the image that was up here lost tenure?
    Personally, I do not have any issue with that. this is a forum for posters to respond. It is part of what has made it an enlightening process for posters for years. lively, demeaning – often – heartfelt; frequently.
    Wouldnt be the case that stuff has gone missing. Now: would it?
    Now? would it…

  • martin

    what is the 404 on the bag these days?
    Guilty? Charge sheet please. If a local ISP issue: ditto. If not, more of the fore.
    This was what I posted, b4 typepad went dud:
    Maybe apposite, but could I use this as an opportunity to perhaps re-enter the Bag fold! Couple of posts from last week seem to have been dis-mantled.
    the first was an opportunity to question why the only person for whom race didnt seem to be a pointer within current conventions, seemed to be a hate figure within opposing conventions’ parties.
    what I considered a heartfelt wordplay: the use of the phrase (guerillas in the midst). In reference to Obama and as a snype at HCR’s blatent use of race as a voting issue – was removed from my post.
    Still not sure why.
    It may well be enough that a follow up post asking ‘why’..seems to have been..well.. blanked.
    For those outside of the lurk, it just makes me a bit concerned..The reason for ‘checking in’ is the value add; not the take-away..
    Back to the above. Reminds me of Jemimah Khan. Married to a famous cricketer. Offspring of a supra-national wealthy father. British by birth: of Judaism by creed. Headscarf, up-beat buoyant. But, slightly beaten down. in any media representation of.
    Thus, I see hilary.
    I do not not have faith in Hilary Clinton because I identify her as white, a woman or in any relation to her status as a partner of a previous President.
    I do wander(!) though… about her motives as a future President; gut feel about her eligibility as a leader of a tremendously powerful Nation and wonder about the means and methods by which she seeks election.
    None of the above necessarily makes me anti-woman, or, more to the point racist.
    People may also be reassured that i will have no voting rites within a tremendously important contest.
    I will still be suprised if the current State Secretary, Ms Rice does not have a role within the ‘ticket’. Somehow.
    Opposition or confirmation.
    ‘Bring it on’…. as an employer of might well have said.
    And, for my part, as far as Bag-posts go, I would rather be deleted than edited.

  • z0rs

    I see it as a picture from the immediate future, when she has lost the race, and what’s left is just the dress (the mask) she was wearing. No one is around, the race has been lost, everyone has abandoned the sinking ship.
    On the right side, we see that it takes a while for the walls (and for the people too) to focus on something different from the election that just finished.

  • jmac

    What’s missing in this picture is all the women who won’t be there for the party in 2008. We’re exiting – stage right.

  • catfood

    One might argue that this picture represents the elevation of style over substance, although personally, I don’t believe that analogy applies to Hillary. I am certain some believe it describes Barack Obama.
    If anything, the candidate who best personifies the concept of style over substance is John McCain. (I’ll withhold judgment regarding how he looks in the outfit until I see him wearing it.)

  • Pedrolino

    What we really need is a picture that communicates how irritating and distracting it is for a failed campaign to linger indefinitely in the national spotlight when there are pressing national concerns that are far more important than one woman’s megalomaniacal fixation on her own socio-cultural significance.

  • jmac

    Hillary will not be GORED. If the super d’s vote for her she will be strong for the general.
    Obama is weak now and his followers fear (as they should) he will be even weaker as this goes on.
    The picture represents the absence of the middle class, many women, hispanics . . . . .

  • Books Alive

    The “trap-door” in the sidewalk signals an escape mechanism to me. Did people leave by that route?

  • jmac

    Dang, made me laugh.

  • Arnold

    Hillary’s agenda may be characterized by many things, but feminism is nowhere near the top of her list… What a self-serving egomaniac, to risk dividing her party by staying in the race when she’s clearly not going to prevail… Where the hell is Al Gore and why isn’t he stepping up for Obama?

  • The BAG

    The BAG rarely edits comments. But yes, on occasion I will delete a post — like yesterday’s “Bobbing and Weaving” entry — if I think I’ve just missed the boat. I try not to do it very often though, because it also comes at the expense of the commenters.

  • Zzyzx

    Zounds! is The Bag prophetic?
    Looks to me like the Hillary is slinking off into the darkness having not broken the glass ceiling. Indeed behind the glass, she is forever to remain.
    No broken glass extant. Only old HILLARY bumper stickers left to weather and fade, perhaps to be photographed after January, 2009, by some budding street photographer, touched by the irony.

  • Sage

    Why take down your “mistakes”? Why not face up to them as such? Just add a comment that you were off base and move on. Or do you prefer to always be right?

  • Enoch Root

    Two products for sale. Reach for one and you end up falling through the trap door.

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