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Nov 09, 2006

Giving You The Creeps




My dream, immediately following the election, was that I would never have to mention George Bush again.

...Then I woke up.

The thing is, if Bush thought he was showing badly last week, he'd better strap himself in.  Yeah, he built a tiny little buffer by offing Rumsfeld, and yeah, he and Rove are working frantically to appear calm while, at the same time, double-sealing every act and statement in the unfamiliar, distasteful and gushy lubricant of bipartisanship.

But, what I'm not sure he understands is that he's never going to be not seen again.

For both preview and example of what I'm talking about, consider the much discussed Vanity Fair article, Neo Culpa, that came out just before the election.  Almost every word of text has already been profusely cited in the 'sphere for the fact that several neocons, like rats leaping for life boats, unloaded on the Administration just before the roof caved in.

About the only aspect of the article I didn't see mentioned, in fact, were the photos by Annie Leibovitz.

Not until recently -- not until it was practically even money that the wheels might come off -- did the visual media even venture a less intimidated look at the Bush/Cheney, Cheney/Bush cabal.  And then, what we were mostly fed were images framing embarrassing moments (like Bush's note to Rice at the U.N. asking to use the bathroom), or pics that made Bush look goofy, the examples of which are too numerous to mention.

With the Administration's trashing on Tuesday, however, the visual media acquired not just the license, but the bursting requirement to see these people for who they are.  (Not to mention, who they have been all along.)

For six years, "the bubble" was the appropriate metaphor to describe the hermetic isolation of an Administration that refused to be seen.  Its revision -- and a taste of the ensuing candor -- comes from these shots through the fish eye.

Thankfully and, yes, mercifully, it was the electorate that finally stripped (also striped?) the Administration for its incompetence.  Complementing the act,  the fish eye view signifies the fish bowl -- which is exactly where Bush, Cheney, Rice and the others will be living for the next two years.  (Notice how Dick got the most extreme treatment, being the one who needs the most catching up.)

If, over these past six years, there had been more reality, more courage (and less corporatism), more opposition, more collective incentive to look, there wouldn't have grown such a gap between who we've been looking at and who we see above.  What is so convulsive and breathtaking about this election however, is how instantaneously it closed that gap.

It's in the readjustment that the exaggeration occurs, as if Vanity Fair had the thought to morph Annie Leibovitz with Diane Arbus.  In the process, it's not that that the "folks" in control of your government have been turned into freaks.  It's only that they have been exposed as creeps.

Powerful political images -- especially in changing times -- offer a kaleidoscope of meaning.  As always, I welcome the readership -- new, recent and well-at-home -- to weigh in on these fascinating shots.

(images: Annie Leibovitz/Vanity Fair. November 3, 2006.


George and Dick both have that "I dare you to come after me" look. Condi just looks dour like she always does; personally I think it's because she has a job that she knows deep down inside she isn't qualified for. Cheney definitely looks cockier than usual, perhaps because of this.

I can never figure out what it is that makes Condi look so dour -- a good word, Tony, though I usually think mean. She doesn't seem to be actually frowning here -- no crease between the eyebrows for example -- and yet the general effect is of a frowning face, a defensive, aggressive look.

What is it?

When Bush was first elected in 2000. I promised myself that I would never mention his name outloud for the entire time he was president. I would just ignore politics till his term was over. I went many months before I did mention his name aloud. Only when my kids started talking politics with me did I mention his name. I really don't think I mentioned his name aloud outside my family until after 9/11. At that point of course I could not ignore politics any longer. People say why do you hate Bush so? I hated Bush before he was president. I really didn't know much about him, but I just knew he had to be what he has proven himself to be. The spoiled, little rich frat boy who doesn't have a clue. I knew his presidency would be all show and no go. Reagans presidency was a show performed by a "B" actor. Bush's presidency is a show of a "B" actors presidential show performed by amateurs. Now after 6 years 60 to almost 70 percent of Americans are starting to see Bush not for what he is, but for what he has proven himself NOT to be, and that is a worthy president of the U.S.A.

Wasn't it observed that liars often glance to their left as they're telling a lie?

And Bart, doesn't it just kill you to know that it took the rest of the country 6 years to realize what you knew all along? It kills me.

The BAG said: "Not until recently -- not until it was practically even money that the wheels might come off -- did the visual media even venture a less intimidated look at the Bush/Cheney, Cheney/Bush cabal.  And then, what we were mostly fed were images framing embarrassing moments (like Bush's note to Rice at the U.N. asking to use the bathroom), or pics that made Bush look goofy, the examples of which are too numerous to mention."

It wasn't *intimidation* that prevented the mainstream media from showing Bush in a disrespectful light. The MSM itself *bought into* the neocon fantasy, exactly as David Rose admits in his Vanity Fair piece: "I am particularly interested in finding out because I interviewed many neocons before the invasion and, like many people, found much to admire in their vision of spreading democracy in the Middle East."

"Like many people"? Then WHO WERE ALL THOSE PEOPLE who took to the streets worldwide to PROTEST the invasion of Iraq?

"Much to admire"? What was there EVER to admire about the neocon vision for the Middle East? There was never a *realistic* analysis of the Middle East to admire. There was only a *fantasy* world, which I often liken to a comic-book vision in my comments on this site: a world of clear-cut good guys and bad guys, damsels in distress, idealistic notions rewarded (and all other more-complicated notions punished).

And still the neocons interviewed for the VF piece INSIST they were right, INSIST it could have worked if only the right people had executed it. Sorry, neocons, but you chose the people to execute it. And from the photos above, they do not look too fucking bright, do they? The Diane Arbus treatment is dead-on: these people have distorting deficiencies. They are, after all, *dim*wits.

The media is governed *first* by words, then by images to support the words. The editors determine the parameters of the visuals. They *buy* the images they want to illustrate *their* stories. Sometimes they buy a name, like Annie Leibovitz, and sometimes the Annie Leibovitzes manage to slip their own interpretation under the radar. It takes a subversive talent to do that.

Another appropriate visual treatment of the Bush/Cheney cabal could place a comic-book illustration-style overlay onto their mugs to accentuate their two-dimensionality. Not as subtle as Annie Leibovitz, but in the right hands, just as accurate.

I'm not always a fan, but Annie took some AMAZING portraits there. This is how they will be remembered.

The shot of George W. Bush is of particular interest because of the composition of the photo...he is framed so that you can see his white collar, but not his tie (unlike the photograph of Cheney). The religious undertones are clear.

These are tremendously strong photographs. I can't stand to look at them, I mean literally I can't do it for long. My physiological instinct to back away is so insistent that I can not keep keep looking. They're just too close. Even on the computer screen, at just a few inches across, from as far as I can back away from the screen and still reach the keyboard, they are just too in your face. Make them go away!

After many photos of Richard Pearle aka 'The Prince of Darkness' I'm overjoyed with Nigel Parry's portrait of this scoundrel, shown in your Vanity Fair link. It's *a keeper* for my rogues gallery collection.

They look like mug shots to me. I hope we get to see real ones soon.

Oh those photographers. You can't let down your guard for a moment. They're saying, "I'm just about ready, and I'm just going to take a few warm-up shots to get the exposure right, and then we'll get down to business." And, all the time, they are manipulating their subjects, like the famous phototgrapher-portraitist, Karsh who got that famous picture of Churchill scowling simply by waiting and clicking and waiting and clicking and making impertinent remarks. The truth is always visible when you know what you're looking for.

These are some great photos. I'm not sure exactly why, but when I first saw that one of Condi a few days ago, I was immediately reminded of Lynndie England.

Karsh didn't get that photo of Churchill just by waiting. He actually snatched Churchill's cigar and then clicked.

To me Condi looks like she's evaluating a potential threat. The thought bubble might be "What's he telling George about me?"

And I don't think Cheney's facade was cracked with that photo. That's the face he wants to show the public, the ass kicker. A Churchill wannabe, if you will.

Let's face it, distorted pictures can make even handsome and pretty people look unattractive. After taking a distasteful thing...ugly war, to their full advantage, the Dems have the majority again. Now let's hear their plans which we've heard little about from them during the Republican majority years. Finally, after mostly complaining in their minority years, perhaps they will work with our President. I hope the new majority truly does practice bipartisanship. The bickering only helps the enemy. Cooperation, working together for the greater good of all America, is so long overdue. Republicans and Democrats worked together and achieved in Texas, according to Democrats and Republicans from there...I've always believed it can work for all Americans in our federal government. Hopefully it will now!

interesting to cover left or right half; the asymmetry apparent revealing entirely different expressions of character, thus.

DoctorJay: "He actually snatched Churchill's cigar and then clicked" is the very definition of manipulation. Imagine the outrage of a powerful political figure being "violated" in that way! Great shot, Karsh, and, for Annie Leibovitz, who has had many mediocre moments as a photographer, did herself proud by portraying the banality and emptiness of soul in these three faces. These are not people of Churchill's rank as state leaders; they are the people who run your local chamber of commerce, just richer and more famous, and more crooked.

rtbag, that was fucking brilliant.

ummabdulla, a Condi look that says, "I'm just doing what I was told to do" your Lynndie England association is right on.

Lightkeeper, I second your astute observation

I picked up on the asymmetry that M.Gonzo mentioned. Bush's father's face usually appeared to be lopsided, something George W. didn't suffer as badly. But this close-up reveals his lips as both thin and slanted. Cheney's lips are very much the same, with the same tilt as Bush's. These are not faces that you immediately trust. Condi's lips are not at all thin, or slanted, but with her head tilted to her right and her gaze to the left, she seems very wary.

Interesting; somebody mentioned distortion of the faces, that got me thinking about how this administration has been adept at distorting the truth and applying their own "lens" to foreign affairs for so long. Now Liebowitz gets to show how SHE sees these people, and I'm sure it's not how they want to be seen. At the same time, these are well done studio portraits and are easy to look at because of the technical expertice.

Also, I think most press photographers don't get opportunities to get that close to these folks to take photos. But Liebowitz is known for her ability to expose the obscured sides of famous people, she is definitely good at getting close. Maybe she got so close because of the distance this administration keeps between everybody?

Bush looks like he's waiting for some unsuspecting dupe to sit on the whoopie cushion he just planted on their chair.

Is Cheney's left eyeball bleeding? Or did the editors put the glint there?

Condi just looks eternally pissed. I'll be NOTHING makes her happy.

Hey! George Allen is just now going on TV to concede!!!! WhooooooooooooooTTTTTTT!!!!

DoctorJay: "He actually snatched Churchill's cigar and then clicked" is the very definition of manipulation.

I couldn't agree more, Margaret, that's why I added the detail. That story was my first exposure to the concept.

For a taste of Dorian Gray, look at just the left side of Bush's face and contrast it with the right side.

The right side (the side under the control of the structured left hemisphere) is lined, aged, tense. The left side (under the control of the emotional right hemisphere) is boyish, collegiate.

Cheney's face, otoh...the left side is totally bland, but the right side appears to be enjoying a private joke.

What now?
Are they facing the big question, with an apprehension in their faces?
I don't see the apprehension, in
#1 I see more of a lost look in illusions and visionary lunacy.
#2 Deadly serious and cold look. The blood-lined bottom of one eye brings in the danger point of the hidden power. Not unmasked yet?
#3 Suspicious look and hint of insensitivity, evil and coldness.
The question: What now?
Will the democrats cave in?
Will their speeches sound like invitation to "work together?" with not much of a change in the course?
What role will the MSM play? Can we expect real change or is it after all back to business of politics?
Sure there is hope, only time will show if there is courage in the Congress to stand up!
Will there be next time to be fired up to vote for the one of the two parties? Is there an alternative?

Wow, these portraits are a great example of why one should not use a short focal length lens for close facial shots.  At least, not if one wishes to flatter the subject of the portrait.

color! I'm surprised no one is mentioning the color!

Look, especially at amBUSHed, see the 50s style coloring in the photo. They're cementing this photo into the past.

I look at Cheney and all I can think of is...

"Is it safe?"

"Is it safe?"

I look at Cheney and all I can think of is...

"Is it safe?"

"Is it safe?"

Oh Man! You are so right - it's him!!

Wwwhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!!

good call

The Perle photo reminds me immediately of a photo of (I think) Goebbels. Have to check out Google Images to see if it's there. If you've seen that photo, we may make the same instant identification on Perle's.


"Sometimes the things we have to do are objectionable in the eyes of others" - Richard Pearle. (M.A. political science)
This precious pearl would have charmed the more formally educated Joseph Goebbels, (Ph.D. in philosophy)

Exhibit # 1, pretend Richard Perle had served in the military.

Exhibit # 2, imagine Richard as a younger gentleman

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