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February 23, 2009

Bernie Between The Lines

Madoff Portfolio Cover.jpg

The photo on the cover of the March Portfolio is from a cache of Madoff portraits just discovered from a ten-year-old photo shoot. (You can read the backstory here.)

Visual culture and media is scrambling now to capture and represent the near-depression we’re in. In that net, of course, we can expect a lot of faces of victims and villains. I had several strong and immediate associations to this image given its relationship to current circumstances. Before you click through and see where I went, however, how does the image read to you?

(image: Jonathan Saunders. New York. Oct. 7, 1999)




Bernie meets Hal meets Hannibal Lector meets the chair.

(image 4 via: A M E R I C A N N E W S P A P E R R E P O S I T O R Y

  • bystander

    I caught the chair, but couldn’t make it fit with what looked like the distortions you’d see in a broken pane of glass/mirror in the background. It was as though the chair on which Madoff sits had flown backwards into a mirror stenciled with the Portfolio’s masthead and cracked it.

  • d

    I saw three things:
    First, I had a strong impression of Dustin Hoffman (!) playing a very specific, sinister (?) role (that I now can’t remember the specifics of… maybe Runaway Jury?)
    Second, I saw a spider-web coming from behind his head… which I only later saw as emerging from his mouth rather than his brain. (i.e. scammer, not mastermind)
    Third (and forgive me for this in advance), I though he was holding his hands folded over his groin (self-protective wedding-photo style)… which I later re-imagined as him urinating on us, the viewer.
    Digression: Madoff got a bad rap, by the way. He’s no worse than Countrywide Financial or Citibank or ALL of those financial execs, cooking the books for their multi-million dollar “bonus.” Clawback? Heck with clawback. I want jail time for anyone who made an eight figure bonus. (okay, I don’t really want that, but a guy’s gotta dream….)

  • Susan Abe

    Very different take: I saw the radiant lines and blue/white color scheme of an icon of the Virgin Mary. Madoff’s face in the middle of it was, errrm, highly unsettling.

  • yg

    i’ve seen other portraits where he affects a similar humble or self-effacing (non-threatening?) posture. like i’ve said before, my first impression of uncle bernie was that he had kind eyes.
    “hal” as in a deceptive, destructive, manipulative, soulless robot, who preyed on vulnerablites?

  • yg

    ooh, nice interpretation. i’m going to start calling him saint bernie.

  • desertwind

    It gives me vertigo.
    Like Bernie is sitting in a chair physically rushing toward you while the camera zooms in.
    “Portfolio” is an interesting mag. It so obviously was launched to catch the masters of the universe at their prime & then the worm turned.

  • valpy

    Funny desertwind mentioned vertigo. The picture immediately made me think of this:

  • yg
  • yg

    another portrait of madoff:

  • yg

    why aren’t comments posting?

  • Shallix

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