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June 5, 2013

Justin Maxon Does Rahm, Chi-Town, Fairey

Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with Obey propaganda provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail. The medium is the message.– TheGiant.Org

I’m not sure what I think about Chicago “as the new Detroit” or photographers from outside Chicago being hired to come in and shoot the city. (The firing of all those Sun Times shooters sure doesn’t make it an easier conversation, does it?) The one thing I really am interested in, however, from the Chicago edit Justin Maxon just shot for TIME, is this one photo of Rahm Emanuel.

Is it possible the current mini-surge to turn Chicago into America’s poster child for urban violence and disappointment has something to do with its renowned resident, and the HOPE balloon losing most of its helium?

If this photo offers a field day of elements, where else would one start than with Shepard Fairey, the man who created that HOPE poster, the defining iconography of the 2008 election. Although the thrust of OBEY is decidedly Dadaist, what’s so laden about the image is that Rahm (and Obama) are not in HOPE territory anymore. Rather, in dialing it back to Fairey’s earlier viral signature, the inference is that HOPE not only hasn’t arrived yet, but that it hardly existed in the first place.

How fateful that Emanuel, a key architect of the President’s rise and now pol among (cess-)pols in Chi-town would be portrayed in such terms.The photo is fabulous, of course, for the portrait of a Machiavellian so caught off-guard. Looking backward and distracted, notice also how the trademark severed digit is out there all on its own in contacting the mystery hand. Where Emanuel (and by proxy, the Obama mojo) breaks down is ultimately not in being old, backward-looking, a suit, or even having to sustain the flag pin next to the other brand. No, it’s in the attention and freshness of every other face, and the fact OBEY was about nothing (except branding for branding’s sake) whereas the iron-fisted Rahm would more likely see the logo as having something to do with submission.

Slideshow and narrative at TIME Lightbox.

(photo: Justin Maxon for TIME. caption: Mayor Rahm Emanuel shakes hands with people at the Peace Basketball Tournament Championship at St. Sabina Academy.)

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