Photo Kremlinology

One thing that’s struck me about the NY Times for well over a decade is the extent to which they manipulate the sorts of photos they run of people. When they like someone, they run flattering pix; when they don’t like someone, they pick photos that make the person look bad. And there are so many ways to do it, too.

A particularly striking example of the genre appears on both the front page and page A18 of today’s paper, in which GOP Senate candidate Katherine Harris is portrayed as even dopier-looking than normal.


NYT Caption: Representatives Katherine Harris and Adam H. Putnam, both Florida Republicans, with Governor Bush at MacDill Air Force Base.

Admittedly, I too think she’s awful, but I’m sure that the paper wouldn’t permit such overt editorializing in a news story. And yes, I do get the argument that since the picture is factual, it actually happened, it’s not editorializing. I just don’t buy it.

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8 Responses to Photo Kremlinology

  1. Christy says:

    Actually, looking at the picture I had just the opposite thought. This photo highlights all of Harris’s visual strengths – she appears young, thin and good looking. Unlike the unflattering photos we all remember from the ballot-counting fiasco a few years ago, the photo does not emphasize her face and overblown make-up. Her face often looks remarkably old, but when shot from a distance, she appears much younger. Here, with the white dress and care-free demeanor, she looks quite young and attractive.

  2. Michael says:

    In case you are not familiar with it — you might be interested in the BagnewsNotes blog, http://bagnewsnotes.typepad.com/bagnews/. It is described as “a progressive blog dedicated to the discussion and analysis of news images.” This is the kind of photo it would take up.

  3. Required reading: Barthes’ “The Photographic Message” and “Rhetoric of the Image”

  4. phred says:

    I had a similar thought to Christy. My impression of Harris (I’m nowhere near FL, though) is not that she’s too dopey, but that she’s a party loyalist, and possibly corrupt; i.e., BAD. This picture is really pretty endearing, in the same way that Al Gore’s photos and vids with his kids are endearing. I actually had the thought that NYT was allowing in a very helpful photo, and it irritated me.

  5. Sue Ann Campbell says:

    Egad, she does look like she’s still running for “Miss America” or “Miss USA” or whatever other beauty competition she once participated in. That same simple yet insincere smile and the oh so posed photo op but hey, isn’t that what politics is all about? Appearance?

  6. anon says:

    Maybe this was the best picture they could find of her

  7. Ann Bartow says:

    She doesn’t look like a serious political candidate in the photo, that’s for sure. On the other hand, presumably she chose the outfit, which is part of what keeps her from looking “Senatorial” here.

  8. de Selby says:

    The little story I see in the picture is that Putnam and Bush appear to be sharing a private joke at her expense, in her presence, without her noticing. Yeah, she looks youthful and slim – and oblivious.

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