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February 9, 2012

The Barely Noticeable Assembly Line Worker in the Background of the All-Consuming Political Campaign

Where’s Studs Terkel when you really need him?

The frankness and honesty of this photo captured by AP’s Evan Vucci immediately reminded me of the Santorum church photo we looked at the other day. It conveys the same kind of authority in exposing the stagecraft of the political show.

Given we’re all masters of the horserace now in that interminable spectacle known as the presidential campaign, it’s easier to identify with how cool an American industrial backdrop these factory workers in Cleveland must offer than it is to identify with the women themselves. Seeing the scene from this angle, Newt’s back marks quite a gap between the invited guests in the shimmery light and automatons on the clock, symmetrical not just in the machinery and piece parts of their assembly work but the alignment of each women to her own American flag. Of course, while the candidates pontificate by rote, by now, for the betterment of the working man, these citizens are likely too bound to meeting quotas to afford to stop and witness democracy in action.

(photo: Evan Vucci/AP caption: Employees of Jergens, Inc., continue to work on the assembly line as Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign stop, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012, in Cleveland, Ohio.)

  • BooksAlive

    >> automatons are likely too bound to meeting quota to afford to stop and witness democracy in action <<

    The Jergens website describes themselves as "quick change artists," with smiling employees and some of the products they make, so the advertising face of the company is quite convivial. As you say, the scene behind the speaker is business as usual. Even C-Span's cameras rarely show the workers in place when they cover Presidential and candidate stops in manufacturing plants.

  • bks

    Why is the photo tilted?   There doesn’t seem to be any artistic reason.  C- for composition.


    • Karen H

      interesting point. It doesn’t bother me, though. Seems to put a lot of weight on the women working…in a literal and metaphoric sense.

  • Glenn

    What kind of fucked up political appearance is it to bring your campaign to disrupt a factory, and yet the workers have to keep toiling away instead of at least being able to watch the show?

    Nice way to use human beings as set pieces and props, Newtie! I’m sure you’ve got their votes.

    • Stan B.

      Not to worry- if Newt gets his way, they’ll be replaced by their HS age children working below minimum wage.

  • Abdulla Goldfarb

    Perhaps those workers simply found their task less boring and more compelling than the words sputtered by the small aquatic amphibian….

  • Anonymous

    I love this image. As a story-telling picture it offers a mother lode of narrative content on the subject of Two Americas. The behind the scenes view reminds us that while a good chunk of our lives is spent performing work nearly none of our collective attention is actually directed at that work. Instead, our stories are generated as the cameras and scribes concentrate their attentions and skills on observing the guy with the silver hair, the talker musing on word-based abstractions on whatever it is the silver-haired guy might be saying (knowing at some level that the silver-haired guy is really just saying “Listen to me!”). And if the observer audience looks behind the speaker they observe two American flags, not two American production workers.

    Loaded as it is, as an image this message suffers a bit because the there are a lot of visual elements and not much in the way of contrast. Get this pic into photoshop, get creative about subtly contrasting the foreground elements and the background elements with color and gain, smooth the background and I see a photo as old fashioned easel painting.

  • Susan

    I’m wondering if these ladies have enough light to do their work, or has every spotlight in the building been co-opted by Newt?

  • Ralfast

    Don’t mind the working people, carry on….

  • robert e

    Vucci may have tilted the camera simply to leave out an unwanted foreground or background element, or to mask as much spotlight glare as possible. On the other hand, camera tilt is a classic means of conveying imbalance, ‘wrongness’, precariousness, etc. Either way, I think he deserves a better grade.

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