Politics in Photography

Polipics: Clinton to the Rescue


I chose this photo this week because the story seemed to be more about President Clinton’s trip to see ailing Kim Jong Il (he has pancreatic cancer and had a stroke a year ago) than it was about returning the “convicted,” then pardoned journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee of Comment TV. Apparently months of backroom dealing at the White House made this all happen so easily as Clinton was the person the ill Il wanted—and needed—to give his friendless country a positive spin.

With no announcement, Clinton arrived in North Korean in an unmarked plane, yet is greeted with diplomacy and flowers, meets with Il, and brings the women home. (So many opportunities here for bad jokes, I’ll leave them to you.) But having a former president play Dudley Do-Right elevated this medium-hot story to another level.

Ling and Lee had been arrested for illegally entering the country, and convicted of it, but insiders on NPR and other news outlets say Korea never planned on really keeping them locked up, as all things are politics in Korea. This was not a raid on Entebbe. This was political maneuvering at the highest levels—Korea needs friends and we don’t take kindly to having our journalists or citizens jailed. Just what all the talk was about while Clinton visited, as the White House says he not there to negotiate government deals, is yet to be revealed. What do you think? Should Clinton have gone? Did Il get the attention he wanted? Is that ok?


Polipics: Race or Ridiculous?


Debbi K. Swanson Patrick


Associated Press

Where do you stand on this photo of Cambridge police arresting Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.in his own home. Is it black v. white? A misunderstanding? Over-reacting? Injustice? Defiance? Class and race clash? What does this say about race relations in America?

What strikes me is that while I’m sure Sgt. James Crowley was trying to do a thorough job, it’s hard for me to imagine how he or others on site did not recognize Gates, the man known as “the nation’s most famous black scholar,” or at least be aware of where he lives. According to Wikipedia, he’d been at Harvard since 1991, and among his notable achievements, Gates has been the recipient of nearly 50 honorary degrees and numerous academic and social action awards. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1981 and was listed in Time among its “25 Most Influential Americans” in 1997.

One of the most ironic elements of this story: To build Harvard’s visual, documentary, and literary archives of African-American texts, Gates arranged for the purchase of “The Image of the Black in Western Art,” a collection assembled by Dominique de Ménil in Houston, Texas.

Then it was Gates who ended up being the image of a black man—being arrested—in America. But all may have settled down rather quickly if it weren’t for the President saying the police acted “stupidly” to get the country riled up.

While Professor Gates said: “This could and should be a profound teaching moment in the history of race relations in America. I sincerely hope that the Cambridge police department will choose to work with me towards that goal,” Sgt. Crowley said, “Because, in the end, this is not about me at all; it is about the creation of a society in which ’equal justice before law’ is a lived reality.”

Thursday, all parties gather at the White House for a beer at President Obama’s invitation. A teaching moment, indeed.


Polipics: The Loss of Cronkite

Debbi K. Swanson Patrick


Last week was rough. We lost the great architectural photographer Julius Shulman and “America’s Anchor,” Walter Cronkite. Killer blows. And the U.S. now has a soldier, Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, in Taliban hands, and a video of him being shown all over the media. What impact will his image have on world events?


I might have focused on that this week, were it not for the loss of Cronkite on the horizon of the 40th anniversary of the United States landing on the moon. I can’t help but think he must have planned it. He had brilliant timing.



The politics involved in getting the U.S. to the moon was extraordinary. President Kennedy got the show on the road with his speech to congress (http://history.nasa.gov/moondec.html), and according to a spokesman from Jet Propulsion Laboratory who spoke at Caltech recently, we made the goal because a lot of the work was already completed.


Here are the shots that got the U.S. moving.



What’s that, you ask? The first pictures in orbit of the first satellite Sputnik, launched in 1957 by the Soviets, taken in South Pasadena. Here’s a more recognizable image of Sputnik:





Though the U.S. announced plans for a satellite first, we were beat. And JFK needed to get America back in the lead of the “space race.” What would the world be like if the U.S.S.R. had gotten to the moon first? Well, in fact, they did.




But with the crash of their ship, Luna 2, it was the U.S. that stepped foot first and planted that flag. This is the photo America wanted to see. And both the flag and footprint remain, even if our presence doesn’t. What kind of photograph, if any, would propel us back to the moon? We’re supposedly going by 2020, per President Bush, but there’s much debate about it. So, will we, or won’t we?



Did you think this was Neil Armstrong’s footprint like I did? It’s actually Buzz Aldrin’s.

Have you captured historic, political events? Please share.



Polipics: Politics in Photography

Thank Allah for Twitter & cell phones with cameras!
Posted by Trisha June 23, 09 12:01 AM

I saw this Twitter post, one of more than 2000, on the boston.com site when looking through coverage of the Iranian elections. It seems to sum up the power of a photograph, especially when taken during an attempted revolution. If politics is about power, then a photograph taken about the struggle for power, is at the very least an historical document. And it just may be powerful enough to change the course of history.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Images of Iran’s crackdown on street protests have “moved” President Obama, his spokesman said. What images have moved you lately? Especially images involving politics, freedom, personal expression, war? Photo sites are proliferating at an unprecedented pace. Are you overwhelmed? Excited? Can’t wait to have one of your own photos included in coverage of hot topics?


by Mario Tama (Getty Images)

What’s your definition of politics? There are five accepted definitions from Miriam-Webster, but 1 and 5 seem to be the intent of what this blog will feature:

1 a: the art or science of government

b: the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy

c: the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government
5 a: the total complex of relations between people living in society

b: relations or conduct in a particular area of experience especially as seen or dealt with from a political point of view.

We’ll talk about current and past images that represent some aspect of politics, how those images are being used, revisited, and transmitted, where they’re being sent to and seen, their impact, the process of taking them, plus give you the opportunity to post your own.

My photo of choice this week is a picture of other pictures—of Neda, the woman protestor killed in Iran—on display at an Amnesty International protest in New York. Doesn’t that capture the global nature of the power of photography?

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