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Feb 28, 2005

Your Turn: "What Dean Means"


Here's the photo that accompanied Matt Bai's piece in last Sunday's NYT Magazine ("What Dean Means" -- link) on the new chairman of the Democratic party.

With profile pieces, the tendency is to "read" the image in terms of the article. 

In the profile, Bai sketches a more important and ennobled Dean, one who could actually be effective in sparsely populated states and counties.  He suggests that Dean might function as more of a centrist, but concludes that Dean might also turn out be that guy who excoriates his rivals -- which might be just what the party needs.

Do you see all that in the image?  Beyond the sparsely populated setting, I guess you could say the photo picks up the "centrist" point, as well as Dean's new importance.

I think there's a lot more going on in this shot, however, and I'd be happy if you would lend your analysis.  Loyal BAG followers, don't hold back.

(image: David Burnett/Contact Press Images in NYT Magazine)


Why, it is apparent that the Gov has a banana in his ear (Hey, you'd scream too).

Or perhaps he is hearing voices, calling him to save France.

At any rate, there is no mysterious lump on his back.

Robert in DC

It is interesting how Dean seems to be standing up straight, while the horizon seems to slope down to the left of the frame. It isn't clear if the hand reaching in from the left wants to pull him down the slope or is reaching out for help, to pull her back from the depths.

I love this picture. The combination of the burned masking around the bottom of the frame and the echo of that masking 2/3's (more burning around the edges of the clouds) of the way up combine to focus the picture on the light just above Dean's head (halo-esque dodging.)

The first glance suggests a tall, straight, confident central figure, but the second look brings out the quizzical look on his face. Combine that with the off-balance horizon and now the central character is less secure. The arm entering from the left, holding out a watch suggests that other pressures await.

Two themes interweave here, the capable figure of power (notice the upward angle of the shot,) balanced against a harried man with his head in the clouds.

This picture wouldn't have worked in color. The photographer worked the exposure to compose a great piece of chiaroscuro that has wonderful editorial content.

The image does appear to be heavily photoshopped.. the dark is surrounding him!! the hand coming out from the darkness is reaching for him.

Maybe the editor just saw Constantine..

i tend to see it as dean standing in a ray of light (democratic salvation) in a gathering storm (that damnable republican hegemony).

it's moody. i like it. but what's with the disembodied hand at the left?

At the same time he seems to be in the middle of nowhere but in a whirlwind of activity (the outstretched arm showing him how late he is). He obviously has an ear wax problem, but doesn't know that his jacket won't really get into the spot that needs to be cleaned. His shirt suggests he slept in it, and that conjures up all sorts of thoughts about where he spent the night. The look on his face is also quite remarkable - what has come into his mind (assuming that he is cleaning his ear and not talking on a Is it bad news, or the very last line of a terribly funny but complex joke? But then I'm an expat living in France, and I've been brainwashed to think Americans are never what they seem.

The world is on a see-saw of economics. The Right is elevated and in power. The Left is reaching out to the lonely citizen working man politician Dean. He is listening to those speaking up. There are shades of gray to his political world, but it is still mostly Black and White...right and wrong.

What this picture says about Dean: He's serious, busy, on the move, businesslike but casual, listening and thinking.

It's a flattering and non-trivializing image -- a big departure from the coverage of Dean in the past year.

Now click my link, dammit.

The photo looks as if it's taken on a ship in a stormy sea. What the captain is doing at this moment of peril is up for debate.

He looks a little befuddled, actually.
The wag in me thinks he's wondering how he wandered into Metallica's "Unforgiven" video.

The wrinkled shirt casts him in a different light than other Dems and Repubs who look like they just stepped out of an Armani suit shop.

This "tilted horizon" schtick is very prevalent in commerical photography right now. Part of the "edgy" trend. You even see it in cases where the "horizon" is as close as a sofa in an enclosed room.

(I see a lot of this while photo-searching illustrations for the decidly unedgy brochures I work on)

I like the photo, though. Dean looks like a man who can concentrate while storm-clouds gather and Woman beckons.

Dean looks in the middle of a pre-apocalyptic feat(is that a Tsunami brewing at the horizon?) and not aware of it (but does he cares?..) ...the black/white adds to the "irreality" of "his" world. He seems to receive, to say the least, worrysome news from the banana......hmmmm, wonder what he's doing on a boardwalk in the middle of the day like an accidental tourist...the young female seems to be enjoying herself (she's not reaching out for him but seems rather in a skateboarding/rollerblading position)........

With the effects of chiaroscuro (most likely photoshopped, but who knows?) the picture seems both dramatic and extremely heavy handed. The only thing missing is the booming voice of God saying, "hear ye, him." Then again, maybe it's God on the phone...

The black fabric spilling from the phone, joining together his dark pants with the surrounding environment. A man who is connected through his voice to a solid foundation. His hand dissapears into his pants while another disembodied hand appears. He does not seem to notiice this other hand. It might be a fist aiming for his fragile center. It also may have just been released from holding on to him, contributing to his rumpled appearance.

although interesting, it's an ugly picture, and not one i would choose if i was dean's pr manager. dean appear small and static. the coat hanging from the cell phone is ugly, awkward, and unprofessional. the look on his face does not suggest success. the "airplane window look", real or photoshoped, removes the viewer from the subject. the "intimate glimpse" style suggests the kennedy era, and the woman's hand reaching for his pants (and answering bulge in his jacket) are meant to suggest the clinton era.

Throw out the recognition factor, and this man still looks: unbalanced; isolated; ignorant of immediate needs (the woman reaching out) and the reader ("Can't you see I'm on the phone?"); tired; troubled; uncomfortable (either wear the suit, or don't); and on his way out (we're at the airport, yes?).

I love good black and white photography, and have nothing against Dean, but this is an unflattering image of both.

For your information, this image was taken by David
Burnett on a 4x5 Speed Graphic during the Democratic primaries.

For your information, this image was taken by David Burnett on a 4x5 Speed Graphic during the Democratic primaries.

That makes sense. That slept-in-his-suit-on-an-airplane look should make that clear. But I like that look because it suggests committment and hard work which is what the party needs bigtime.

The picture looks as if it was shot on a green screen or perhaps the original background was erased then the figure of Dean pasted on the 45-degree skewed snap of a day at the beach with good clouds...and the arm. It reads to me that this man has been chosen by a master that can paste Dean where he pleases. The photo looks cooked-up and indicates a process that is becoming more suspicious, namely, voting. This fellow has been appointed to lose to the most powerful and autocratic White House in living memory. This photo predicts that result.

it's clearly an airport background, but what is that large lettering in the background above him? i can't make out the words right now, but there's something there, is it from the press office then, or the artists' watermark?

anyway, he's just gotten a phone call, he hasn't had time or attention to switch the jacket to his other hand (which is self-consciously non-chalant?). but the call is not good, there's a weird problem, in fact everything is kind of weird right now, yet his hair stays neat.

what are the bottom dark corners? were there people in the way? did the photographer sneak this shot in?

Interesting image, and as a first timer, let me say - great website! Fun!

I digress... there is definately an apocalyptic air, no doubt, but that hand is great. Is it reaching back for help? a dead arm reaching up from the grave? Innocense? The People? Freedom? lost? Or is it pulling Dean along? Maybe its Dean's ideals pulling him into dark territory which is where you always go in American Idealism.

And blast it, who is he on the phone with? Is he checking in with the office to see if any patients have called? Get off the phone! There is serious business to take care of out here in Oaklahoma! (Dean looks like he just stepped out of a Steinbeck novel)

It seems like it is the wrong picture for Dean. He has big things on his mind for sure. But he does not seem to be one sidetracked by escapism in the middle of a fury. That would be reserved for someone like Al Gore maybe.

Thanks this was fun!

This shot is typical of my Holga camera (old medium format camera) and perhaps the Speedgraphic gives the same look. ALL of my shots are vignetted like that, no photoshop involved.

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