Everyone was just talking about that wonderful photograph that Christopher Horner captured at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game last Saturday. A father's arm stops a baseball bat the instant before it would have hit the face of his son, who seems to have been distracted by his smart phone, and all the people around are flinching in various interesting ways. It's a wonderful composition, and I assume Horner used a camera that shot a burst of photos that made part of the art the choosing of the precise instant in which the various elements were, in his view, most meaningful and exciting.
Now, here's a fascinating frame shot by AP's Jacquelyn Martin, published in USAToday, documenting the state dinner last night in the White House, where the Obamas honored Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau:
My first thought was: This frame was chosen for the tilt of Michelle Obama's head and the expression on her face. Is there a Sophia Loren vibe?
It must be that we were intended to feel the lure of the age-old drama of sly/anxious woman-on-woman inspection. But no. I step back from that precipice. I'm not skiing down that slope.
I scan the whole frame. I think: This is a very odd picture, with President Obama exiting into the right margin, his face already out of the frame. The absence of the most important face might reinforce the idea that this frame is all about Michelle. She's the center of human drama. What's going on in her head?
But settle in. Calm down. Obama's striding off-screen is symbolic. The man is in the act of walking out of the Presidency. Once you notice that — ah! — you see it: Another face! Peeping over the shoulders of those military men. We've been talking about the photo frame, but within that frame there's another frame, like a window into the room, and in that window there's the face of a man, eyeing the interior, like he's watching and thinking about how to climb in. Of course, it's not really a window frame. It's a picture frame. But there's that face. The man who wants in.
UPDATE: The NYT has the same photo but with the complete figure of Obama in the frame (except for the end of his foot). So the picture we've been talking about was cropped, with Obama's face deliberately excluded. The full-width picture makes a very different impression, with Obama and Justin Trudeau striding forward, in step, each with one long leg extended.