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Oct 17, 2008

Sedona 2000


If "The Phoenix" goes down on November 4th, we can look back at McCain's presidential run as not just two-year odyssey but a ten-year one.  The significance of this scene, with its aspiration as huge as the West, is that it marks the first day of John and Cindy McCain's 2008 campaign.

Here is the accompanying text to Pulitzer prize winning photographer David Hume Kennerly's image up for auction for the benefit of the International Center For Journalists.  (The on-line bidding closes November 10th, and the exhibition runs through November 1st at the Paley Center for Media in New York.) 

"If Ansel Adams did political photography, this shot would be it," says Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist David Hume Kennerly.  "It truly shows what I believe is the showmanship of politics."  In a midmorning press conference on March 9, 2000, John McCain announced that he was bringing his U.S. presidential campaign to a halt.  Kennerly captured the "steadfast, not dejected" McCain, with his wife, Cindy, by his side, as he ended his fight with George W. Bush for the Republican Party's nomination.

"To me, this announcement was for the press, not the people," says Kennerly.  "It was a well-timed conference, and McCain was very matter-of-fact.  The best part was the announcement in front of the majestic Sedona landscape."  Kennerly places McCain in the center of the photo to contrast the smallness of the candidate with the vastness of his surroundings.  "Sometimes I refer to this image as Phoenix rising," says Kennerly. "It was the end of his run in 2000, but obviously not the end of his presidential quest."


It has more of a "Custer's Last Stand" feel to me, and would be entirely appropriate for this year's campaign.

Back in my hippie days in the late sixties/early seventies I spent a good bit of time around Flagstaff and Sedona. How beautiful is it there? I once met a hippie who, while working at a New York city printer, seen a postcard photo of the red rocks of Sedona and quit his job and moved there. He lived in a tent near Oak Creek canyon. We talked about this while eating Peyote sitting around a campfire. Ahhhh, those were the days. Now it's all wealthy people and new age practitioners..

I found some nice pix here:

I grew up in Arizona, used to go up to slide rock and enjoy all the beauty of the Sedona area, too. Now, I can't stand to go near the place, and slide rock and our old swimming holes are paid tourist attractions. What a farce it has become, just like McCain.

Sometimes I just wish humanity would go away and leave the beautiful parts of the world alone. Or at least keep all those with money away from it.

Kennerly : "It truly shows what I believe is the showmanship of politics."


Mr. Kennerly : What the image truly shows is the perversion of political media.

ref : “ announcement... was for the press, not the people


=> meaning, the press are Now no longer by, for, or ‘of the people’, being.

ref : “ image... (hell, the press, itself!) [being sold] for the benefit of the International Center For Journalists


The self-serving, thus conceit of [the image, and] the photographer is that he sees only the two tiny figures in image centre-space, whilst failing to see, or question that presence, "the press", pressing ~ or to even recognize himself as being a part and parcel within that body politic, being thereof.

And Now For Something Completely Different

And Now [The Press Are] For Something Completely Different : themselves.

So, let's imagine the image as cultural artifact; ie., you don't recognize Mr. and Mrs. McCain (for who they are, in historical context is irrelevant; they are essentially nothing more than cet obscur objet du désir, of this moment in time, apparent).

The Media Historian may cynically say: "Is this something NEW?" ...or has the press always been this way, only we are more aware of this being the scheme of things, today?

imho, what is new today, that was not so apparent, way back then is how The Press presses itself. That is to say, they are literally, and rhetorically speaking Talking Heads, talking to themselves: is it OUR ‘Conversation’ of which they report as "news" to us, or is it THEIR ‘Conversation’, that they narrate: we, too should be having?

I submit what is "new" now, is that : WE Report, but THEY Decide, n'est-ce pas?

In recent weeks we've had many more examples of the 'smallness of the candidate', thank you very much. This photo, if it has any lasting value, will only serve as an epitaph of a man finally, permanently, diminished by his overweening ambition. The man couldn't live up to the myth, no matter how hard his real constituency, the lovestruck press, tried to keep it alive.

Ansel Adams would have been repulsed by this image.

I submit what is "new" now, is that : WE Report, but THEY Decide, n'est-ce pas?

Certainement M Gonzo the role of the American Press has (d)evolved, especially this century. It has reached a point where it seems they've given up keeping us informed (with facts!) and taken to just telling us what to believe — THEY Decide.

I suspect the economics of the press room is a factor here, fewer hands make more work for the skeleton crew. Face it, conjuring an opinion is much much easier than developing facts. The Modern Republican Party has gamed this trend quite effectively counting on diminished press hands on deck to aid in counterfeiting the foundations of their arguments and "talking points". Joe (real name Sam) the (not licensed) Plumber stands to realize more financial benefit from the Obama Tax Plan than the McCain Tax Plan. Etc.

As to this stunning photograph: the natural beauty of the Sedona area is the real star. The configuration of humans, gathered outdoors away from the bustle of life but still dressed for the office, circled a respectful distance from a pulpit; this could easily be a funeral.

IMHO this image captures the raison d'être, the élan vital (you've awakened my inner college French student M Gonzo!) of the McCain candidacies — John Sidney McCain III, center of everyone's attention.

That is a gorgeous, dramatic photo, no matter the subject. Look at the shape of the cloud echoing the shape of the mountain centered right over McCain's head, as if Heaven Itself is conferring power and authority to him. To me, without knowing who it was, the way the scene is portrayed, it evokes a speaker at a graveside service.

My, how things have changed since 2000! Look carefully at the assembled press. Nobody brought donuts with sprinkles!

To me, this photo is McCain's legacy, not just for itself, but for its original interpretation, and what has happened since. This photograph captures at once the smallness of defeat, the sense of determination and concrete, though far-off, hope, and the fact that in the end, now as before, he is very, very much alone. It swirls with were-nots and with might-have-beens.

I'm struck by McCain's clothing. Doesn't that look like a clerical collar?

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