Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
August 28, 2012

Obama: Imagining The Worst Thing That Could Happen

Obama startle NYT Josh Haner

What it looks like is that a noise caused everyone to startle for an instant. That’s not what makes it a dramatic news photo, though. Given how conditioned we are to viewing scene-after-scene of Obama electrifying a crowd, and given that this picture is circulating in the midst of the Republican Convention, with the GOP putting its best face forward and soaking up most of the media attention, what the photo speaks to is the worst political thing that could happen to the President.

Taken that way, the startle evokes the possibility that, in spite of all his energy and his smarts and his charisma and his love making with these crowds, that (the) Obama (presidency) — like someone suddenly yanking the power cord to the White House out of the wall — is going down.

Update: removed an unsettling phrase.

Via: This Week in Political Pictures Aug 20-26 (NYT)

(photo: Luke Sharrett for The New York Times caption: President Obama looked for his campaign trip director, Marvin Nicholson, while greeting supporters after delivering remarks at a campaign event at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas, Nev., on Wednesday.)

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    This is eerie, and the words you used to describe it (“like a shot to the gut”) led me to misread the entire thing. The first two or three times I read this post I thought you were describing a loud noise that everyone mistook for gun shot at an Obama event that temporarily startled everyone.

    Given recent plot of soliders who were planning to murder Obama, our countries madness for guns in general, and the weekly mass public shootings we’ve had over the summer, losing at the ballet box might be the worst thing that could happen politically, but not the worst thing ultimately. If Obama wins, the right has already warned that they will reach for the bullet box. I hope they don’t.

    • Robin Hoecker

      i thought the same thing…

    • http://www.bagnewsnotes.com Michael Shaw

      I wasn’t intending to suggest that anything scary or threatening occurred in real life. As I wrote, it seems like some instantaneous reaction. Sorry if it comes off that way.

  • matt

    i don’t read this photo as you did.

    this pic puts obama in the crowd listening to the speeches at the republican convention creating fictions about him and his record out of whole cloth.

    we’ve seen that look on his face before. it projects his annoyance and disdain for the lies and mud being hurled his one.

    but in the closed mouth and pursed lips we can see he patiently awaits his own opportunity to rebut the nonsense the republicans are trying to force feed the country.

  • AJ

    I also initially thought that you were pointing out a ‘gun shot’ sound that everyone was reacting to – especially with Obama’s left hand being vaguely in the shape of a gun – forefinger out and thumb up. Interesting that despite you not really going in that direction that was the message that came through in the ’shot’. I suppose that says as much about the managed expectation (Obama always under threat) as it does about the picture itself.

  • Crabby Abbey

    Hearing these droning clowns at the RNC disparage this man is so disheartening. I’m glad he seems to finally “get it” that they aren’t ever going to be sane as long as he’s in office. I hope the lackluster GOP ticket really ends up suppressing their own GOTV. It would be such a nice turn of events if the dems could sweep the house and senate races and hand this president a congress he deserves – one that believes in science, in diversity and one that is willing to actually WORK! Obama 2012!

  • Cindy

    An unfortunate headline led me to the image where most faces appeared to be reacting to an eminent threat such as, God forbid, a gunshot. I am glad that the photojournalist provided appropriate information to photo desk editors for clarification. That’s why accurate cutlines are so important. There have been so many tragic shootings that loss of life is the worst thing imaginable in my book. The secret service recognize real gunshots and would have surrounded him with their own bodies in a fraction of a second to the ground or more likely ushered out. It is a horrific, but enlightening experience to hear a photojournalist speak (with slideshow) about capturing the images of an assassination. May it never happen again.

  • http://profiles.google.com/thomasgokey Thomas Gokey

    I don’t think you said anything wrong, it was just eerie and the photo perfectly fit my misreading. I can imagine a loud, unexplained noise that startles everyone and suddenly sobers everyone up and shifts everyone’s perspective.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes