This BAGnewsSalon examined a small group of images from the week following the devastating Haitian earthquake, considering: the boundaries of the graphic and sensational; how much the pictures presented a representative versus generic or stereotyped view of the Haitian people; and whether the pictures overly skewed toward human suffering and physical devastation
Participants included: professors Loret Steinberg (R.I.T.), Nathan Stormer (U. of Maine) and Fred Ritchen (NYU); photographer and BAGnewsNotes contributor Alan Chin; photographers Erin Siegel (Redux), Aric Mayer, Tim Fadek (Polaris), Chris Hondros (Getty) and Willie Davis (Veras); host Michael Shaw (publisher - BAGnewsNotes); BAGnewsSALON producer Neil Harris; moderator Cara Finnegan (U. of Illinois).
Tim, Chris and Willie were all shooting in Haiti that week.
Click to replay.
The BAGnewsSalon is an on-line, real-time discussion of selected images between invited guests in a live chat room on the BAGnewsNotes blog.
This edition of the BAGnewsSalon examined nine Obama Administration images leading up to the 100-day mark. We hoped to consider various factors, including how the White House frames issues via pictures; what the images say about the character and capacities of Obama and his team; and whether the images evidence a new tone and attitude in the country now.
Discussants participating included professors Loret Steinberg (R.I.T.) and Nathan Stormer (U. of Maine); historian Michael Steinberg; photographer Brian Ulrich; Daryl Lang (PDN); David Schonauer (American Photo); host Michael Shaw; and moderator Cara Finnegan (U. of Illinois).
The BAGnewsSALON is an on-line, real-time examination of news and political images between invited guests andBNNreaders and visitors.
Since Hurricane Katrina, Getty photographer Mario Tama has produced compelling documentary images of life in New Orleans. Three-and-a-half years after the storm, we invite you to this BAGnewsSalon where we will discuss how Mario's images look to us, one president and a major financial crisis later.
futurebird: I don't know if it is coming from the right-- I think people just don't know what to make of her.
zatopa: Which people don't know what to make of her?
futurebird: The white public, mostly.
elfpix: Hard for me to believe that people don't know what to make of her at this point. She's a stereotype of the professional woman with kids.
Catherine: I think the stereotypical "professional" woman is still white, yes?
Considering the images above, we came to this discussion with the question:
Michelle Obama is an assertive, attractive, professional, African-American woman who is about to become America's first lady. This combination of qualities poses a unique challenge to the American visual media. How are they handling it? At this BAGnewsSALON, we will examine a series of images that have circulated in the visual media in the post-election period.
The conversation analyzed Michelle Obama as a supportive spouse to the president elect. Based on the images, discussants understood her to be a collaborator in keeping him politically strong, even if her confidence in the spotlight was at times questioned. Consistent attention to her fashion sense and figure often distracted from critique of the photographs, while at the same time emphasizing why Michelle is a refreshing change from other prominent women in politics. Close attention was paid to her facial expressions, alternately seen as signaling anger or attentiveness. Regardless of the situation depicted or Michelle’s relationship with the camera, Barack Obama was a constant presence, seen or unseen.
Photographer Scout Tufankjian offered insight about what Michelle Obama is like in person, allowing the academics and blog readers to size up assumptions made based on viewing the images alone. Discussants noted the consistent absence of images of Michelle working despite her robust career. The late publication of elegant, posed shots of Michelle left some wondering if the elections would have been a bad time to show an African-American woman appearing glamorous and empowered.
Cara F: We're getting "the real" Michelle, supposedly, but her arms are crossed, a kind of defensive posture...
Scout: I don't know how defensive the pose is. I would guess that the photographer just wants to show off her arms.
Karen H.: I always felt the arms could be intimidating to voters. White voters.
Catherine: She is cut--but it also puts here into the "strong black woman" posture to be showing the pipes AND be called his "rock".
zatopa: true, her arms do look strong.
futurebird: I think she looks guarded and a little shy or nervous.
Scout: I think the expression on her face in the portrait is quite blank, considering how engaged she usually is. The issue with the expression is that she is/was not yet a celebrity, in the sense that she is not used to being photographed.
loret: The pearls and the dress and all that.. very traditional and conservative. According to Scout, that is actually HER style. We interpret but we can only look so far if we use appearances only.. powerful, yes...
loret: Scout, do you think there has been an evolution in the ways she appears?
Scout: Sort of, I do think that she thinks about the camera more, although I think part of it is just an evolution in her personal style
Scout: I think photojournalism style portraits of her often work better. She has an incredible life to her that the staged portraits often don't capture
Lucaites: The B&W adds a degree of authenticity to the picture (ironically enough) ...
Cara F: I've often wondered if discussion of "the real" Michelle is related to a need toquenchquash/squelch discussions of her as a professional woman. I’m struck by how few images of her *working* we have seen. The black and white Newsweek cover suggests that side of Michelle a bit.
This election edition of the BAGnewsSALON, an on-line discussion series, included moderatorCara Finnegan; producer Ida Benedetto; host Michael Shaw; professors Paul Lester; Nathan Stormer and John Lucaites;photographers Alan Chin, Nina Berman and Aric Mayer, as well as members of the BAGnewsNotes readership. It took place onThursday evening, October 30th, from 5-6:30 p.m. PST, 8-9:30 p.m. EST.
“ The arc of my political coverage has been "demographic" -- in, who are the activists, the people who go to rallies? Most people, of course, are happy to watch it on TV. So who shows up?”-- Alan Chin
Considering the images above, we came to this discussion with the question:
While recent American elections have been governed by identity politics and moral concerns, Barack Obama's campaign has marked a notable shift toward an inclusive national project of change. As a result, do we read these photographs -- taken byBAGnewsNotescontributer Alan Chin in the final weeks of the '04 campaign -- in a different light than we did before?
Conversation about Alan Chin’s photographs from the 2004 election revealed shifting expectations about identity politics as well as continued concerns about enfranchisement and participation in the 2008 election. Discussants in this BAGnewsSalon often saw the visual landscape of the 2004 elections as awkwardly theatrical in comparison to the 2008 election. They commended the recent campaign for more nuanced treatment of issues like religion and socialism, even if others issues, such as gender, were disappointingly caricatured.
Alan Chin: what I liked about this image were the eyeglasses case and the ladies' handbag, obviously belonging to one of the older African-American congregates. ...It evoked for me, the older, civil-rights era, sense of religion being a politically progressive as opposed to right-wing dominated issue.
Cara Finnegan: Yes, especially in the context of 2004 you would think church=republican, but no.
Aric Mayer: I remember the 2004 election as giving a cartoon quality to religion in general. This time around there seems to be a much more diverse and nuanced conversation around faith.
Michael Shaw: Yes, in this election, we liberals wouldn't even think to make fun of the bible as a symbol.
Cara Finnegan: I keep thinking "failed youth vote?" even though my recollection of the numbers is that the youth vote was very high in 04.
Nathan: Her face has an energy to it. We will try again.
Cuban with Sign
Alan Chin: The guy holding the Communist sign is a Cuban-American, clearly part of a conservative community, but he's gone over the top.
Cara Finnegan: It/him/the sign is so coarse it seems silly, especially from 2008 perspective and obama/socialism stuff
Alan Chin: kind of like McCain calling Obama a socialist
Paul Lester: Socialism is the new communism!
Nathan Stormer: Even for 2004 this kind of stuff was just looney.
Cara Finnegan: gets at the question of identity, though: for whom is this an issue?
Alan Chin: in 04 it was looney. in 08 it's gone mainstream!
Early Voting In Car
Nathan Stormer: As a "demographic," the value of her vote is surely against Republicans. I see her voting as the front line in the struggle over effective suffrage right now.
Ida Benedetto: It's also possibly a literacy issue. The ability to read was a huge issue with who could vote in the 20's and 30's. Now it's technological literacy that's an issue.
Michael Shaw: I'm really proud of the Dems that I can't think of an '08 corollary for the MM image -- at least, not immediately.
Republican with Bush Signs
Cara Finnegan: Many folks are arguing the conservative coalition is cracking up, so maybe what we're seeing in this guy is the beginning of the end.
For a transcript of the full discussion, please drop us an email.
Thanks to everyone for being part of this evening's 90-minute edition of the BAGnewsSALON.
The "Visual Week In Review" is a discussion of selected images that have been featured on BAGnewsNotes over the past week or two. Besides many readers and special friends of BNN, the panel included:
John Lucaites, BAGnewsNotes contributer, as well as blogger and co-author of "No Caption Needed"; David Schonauer, Editor-In-Chief of (and blogger for) American Photo magazine; Loret Steinberg, professor of Photojournalism at RIT; Nathan Stormer, professor of Communications and Journalism at the U. of Maine (who is also well dialed-in to the progressive blogosphere); and Getty's fine staff photojournalist Mario Tama.
If you happened to have missed it, check out the transcript after the jump. We welcome your comments regarding the content of the discussion, the choice/selection of subject matter, the format, the SALON concept overall, as well as future discussions you'd like to see.
American soldier resting at bunker, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, 16 September
(all images open in separate windows)
Today at 4pm PST/7pm EST, BAGnewsNotes presents "Reading the Pictures: The View From Korengal Valley." This 90 minute discussion is the first meeting of the BAGnewsSALON, a real-time discussion forum dedicated to the singular analysis and discussion of social and political images.
We will be analyzing Tim Hetherington's 2008 World Press Award winning photo (top, above) along with several additional images from his series. The Korengal Valley, located in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar, is a key six-mile long pass where American troops have been fighting the Taliban, almost inch-by-inch, since 2005. The area has also seen heavy allied bombing, with high civilian casualties. American troops maintain a regular working relationship with local villagers who are well practiced at playing the Taliban and the American forces off one another.
The conversation -- using Meebo.com live chat software -- will be moderated by BAGnewsSALON producer, Denise Ofelia Mangen. Denise -- who is pursuing her doctorate of education at Columbia University's Teachers College in visual and media literacy, and human rights education -- has coordinated a number of significant documentary photo projects, and has worked closely with photographers such as Brenda Ann Kenneally and David Alan Harvey. As a first outing, we are experimenting with how well the blog environment will support a discussion of this type, so it's an adventure for all involved. We hope you can join us.
(images: Tim Hetherington. September-October 2007. Korengal Valley, Afghanistan)
>> UPDATE 5:47 PM PST -- The following is the transcript from this evening's chat. We look forward to your comments, either regarding the images or the discussion. And special thanks to BAGreaders who either participated or "tuned in."