March 11, 2016

I assume we're dealing with burst photography, so the question is: Why choose this particular instant?

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.



Bill Clinton!

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.

45 comments:

Curious George said...

You should have stopped at the Sophia Loren vibe...

dreams said...

The old sexual pervert is lurking.

SayAahh said...

You have a wonderful eye and an impressive intellect.
You keep me in the vortex.

rehajm said...

I'd say that's over read. They needed a dynamic candid of the ladies amidst the batch of published formal style poses and this composition fit the bill.

It's more fun to look at the guests. I didn't know he/she was Canadian! Canadians infiltrate our culture better than any other nations corps of spies.

Hagar said...

Sophia was asked what she was thinking then and said she just was afraid Mansfield was about to have an embarrassing "wardrobe malfunction."

My first thought at seeing the photograph was, "Good grief! who picked those dresses? And what is with Michelle's hair? Is it a whig? And why?"

Original Mike said...

"Heeeeeeeeee's BACK!"

themightypuck said...

I thought it was the way Obama and Trudeau's hands lined up. The are holding hands representing the great friendship between two great countries.

surfed said...

Tits

Virgil Hilts said...

I have never found Michelle attractive, but IMHO she looks great in that dress.
Sophie looks like she is going to a costume party dressed as a unicorn but hasn't put on the headpiece yet.

pm317 said...

Good analysis, but over analysis. I think the AP person meant to highlight MO's expression. She just can't hide what she is thinking -- didn't learn that sophistication even after 8 years.

Meade said...

Something seems to have spilled on Sophie's blue dress. Poutine?

Curious George said...

Apparently the photo was taken because the two first ladies were both wearing dresses by Canadian designers.

David Begley said...

The Obamas are the most famous and glamorous celebrities in the world! So cool. Great clothes. So smart. Perfect in every way. The black Kennedys for his century.

And with the exception of Washington and Lincoln (maybe), we have never had a better President than Barack. Got the economy out of the ditch. Four percent growth over seven years. Rising incomes. Won two wars. Crushed ISIS. Stopped global warming. Stopped Iran's nuke program. Racial harmony. Complete peace in the Middle East. Great jump shot. Awesome on the links. Simply the best.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Michelle's gaze is directed at Sophie's train not her bodice. But where is Sophie's gaze directed? Is that her husband's ass she's checking out or our President's?

David Begley said...

And closed Gitmo to the acclaim of the world. World reputation restored.

MisterBuddwing said...

Perhaps a useful reminder that still photos can be (unintentionally) misleading. Remember that picture of the president in which he appeared to be ogling a young woman's ass?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoDMlZvlWGY

dreams said...

"And with the exception of Washington and Lincoln (maybe), we have never had a better President than Barack. Got the economy out of the ditch. Four percent growth over seven years. Rising incomes. Won two wars. Crushed ISIS. Stopped global warming. Stopped Iran's nuke program. Racial harmony. Complete peace in the Middle East. Great jump shot. Awesome on the links. Simply the best."

And not to forget Gitmo, Obama is closing it and letting the terrorists free, free to be themselves.

MadisonMan said...

I think Michelle is looking at Sophie's shoes.

Well done in spotting Clinton though!

Birkel said...

That is a photo of Resting Bitch Face.

Roughcoat said...

And what is with Michelle's hair? Is it a whig? And why?"

It is a wig ... and/or hair extensions. Why? Because that's what upscale black women do with their hair nowadays.

Ask me how I know this. Go ahead, I dare you.

Michael said...

God, but the Canadians are swooning over this state dinner. A first! Their snowboarding PM and our snowing President. Quite the pair. Plus young wives.

Mrs. Obama cannot disguise her gigantic ass.

Michael said...

Roughtcoat:

But isn't the hair cultural appropriation? Thought we had settled there would be no more of that.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Does Mrs. Obama's hairstyle seems oddly informal for the event/her outfit, or does it just appear that way only from this one pic?

mikee said...

Sure, Bill and his voracious appetites allow him to intrude into events in the White House even so long after he left it, but Althouse completely missed the other, other person in the other, other frame. Back in the dark of the stairwell is a second portrait.

I can't enlarge the image enough to be sure, but I think it is the official portrait of Truman. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e6/HarryTruman.jpg

So Clinton is hung where he gets more attention than he probably deserves, while Truman is relegated to the dark, lonely stairwell, ignored even in this detailed analysis of frames and faces by Althouse.

I, for one, think this encapsulates pretty well the problems with the country today.

traditionalguy said...

As a photographer you just click away like mad and are surprised yourself at the action photos after they have been developed stilled into a moment. I once was the sports Editor on the Annual Staff, and the shots amazed me. Writing the captions was the creative part.

Owen said...

Ms. Trudeau wins the Worst Dress Ever prize. That is just totally not flattering.

But it helps to explain Ms. Obama's expression. Her internal monologue must be "Jesus, that dress is a trainwreck. It hurts to look at it. Sure glad she's wearing it, though: makes me look almost good by comparison."

Ann Althouse said...

"So Clinton is hung where he gets more attention than he probably deserves, while Truman is relegated to the dark, lonely stairwell, ignored even in this detailed analysis of frames and faces by Althouse."

Hmm. Thanks. You're right. I didn't look long enough for that to pop into play. Yes, the stairway is very meaningful in this highly symbolic happenstance picture.

Henry said...

The "after" bat picture is worth a look.

Darrell said...

The only time you saw Michelle without a wig was when she appeared on Jeopardy--and the Press lied about it and said she only had her "hair" pulled back. Michelle's hair is only a half-inch long or so. And has been that way for at least fifteen years. You can find her natural appearance in Google images, but you have to look hard. Google tries to hide the evidence.

William said...

I'm not sure if the symbolism of the photo owes more to the literacy of your analysis than to the intention of the photographer, but in any event your analysis is valid and interesting........I think Michelle looks striking and beautiful in that photo. Trudeau's wife looks deferential and dowdy. That was my immediate reaction. It won't go into Trudeau's photo album, but perhaps it will be Michelle's all time favorite photo......Trudeau's wife is nowhere near as photogenic as her husband. That must be a downer for her..

Hagar said...

Toenail fungus?

gadfly said...

Sophia Loren vibe? Looks to me like the Italian actress disapprove=s of Jayne Mansfield's costume malfunction or maybe she has never before seen breasts bigger than her own.

Bob Ellison said...

There is a trait among men. Some men try to look beautiful.

It's not something we're supposed to talk about, especially in 2016.

But some men are more careful about their own looks than others.

It's not a common trait among men. Most men go around looking and smelling like crap all the time. It's not graceful or pretty.

Make the conclusion that you like.

Titus said...

Love the Trudeau couple-fab!

Think of Canada as an extension of New England or vice versa.

Love Canada too-so fab.

Roughcoat said...

So Clinton is hung where he gets more attention than he probably deserves...

That's what she said.

dreams said...

"But some men are more careful about their own looks than others.

It's not a common trait among men. Most men go around looking and smelling like crap all the time. It's not graceful or pretty."

You've got your real men and your pretty boys and some men somewhere in between. As an example, Rubio is a pretty boy and Trump is somewhere in between it seems to me.

dreams said...

"Ms. Trudeau wins the Worst Dress Ever prize. That is just totally not flattering."

I think she looks good.

mikee said...

Roughcoat: Clinton is the only president who has an accurate, detailed description of his penis as part of the testimony for his impeachment in the House, and for a sexual harassment lawsuit that he lost. So he has that going for him, which is nice.

That's what she really said.

chickelit said...

The photo is also profound in the way it connects us to the artist.

We all know of the recursive effect: the photo of a photo in photo...

I perceive several interfaces: (1) you and I looking at (2) a flat screen depicting (3) the point of view of the photographer focussed on (4) people being observed by (5) a flat portrait of Clinton which was painted by (6) a living artist.

It's an art sandwich with our screen and the canvass being the bread.

BTW, who did paint that portrait?

n.n said...

Mother Nature is notorious for disparate outcomes.

Mary Beth said...

Is it a whig?

No, wrong party.

President Obama looks hunched over in the full shot, especially compared to Trudeau.

tim in vermont said...

Why not use other first lady's indulging in a little Sophia Loren eye dynamics.

chickelit said...

@tim in VT: Probably because that plays to a stereotype.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

So the NYT picture shows the two MALE leaders striding forward while their brightly-attired FEMALE wives trail behind them??
Troubling.

David said...

I love the photos of Michelle Obama at state dinners, especially with her vertically challenged guests. She towers over some of them, though not Prime Minister Trudeau. Michelle's new long-and-curly hair style becomes her. She has an unfortunate scowl, but when she looks good and smiles she is dazzlingly beautiful.

I watched a considerable part of the Nancy reagan Funeral tonight. Quite a bit on how Nancy was Ronnie's closest and most important advisor, and how close they were as a couple. They showed several shots of Michelle during those moments. She was appropriately calm and serious but I wonder how that account affects her. My guess is she will be very glad to leave the White House. She was seated next to George W. Bush but their auras did not seem to blend.