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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Gatekeepers of the image

I read with interest "The image can be everything" by Siri Agrell in the National Post. The problem is, it's all a crock. From the article:

Mr. Nesbitt-Larkin believes the current PM has the advantage when it comes to photographs. As the most seasoned politician, he seems the most at ease in posing with children, flipping pancakes and striking the pose as a relaxed candidate.

This is simply not true, as everyone who has seen in the last few days a tired and cantankerous Martin caught by photogs in unguarded moments can attest. And anyone who has had access to the Canadian Press photo archive knows it, too. The CP photogs are some of the best in Canada, and they regularly shoot pics of the leaders in all kinds of situations and with a myriad of expressions.  They don't just catch them in the photo-ops after they've yelled, say cheese! When I was art director of the now-defunct Report Newsmagazine, I was constantly surprised at the number of funny and nasty photos of Jean Chrétien in that CP archive, and I wondered why no one chose to publish them. We of course would, being cantankerous right-whingers keeping ourselves amused. I recall choosing pics of Chrétien--one with his arm out, hand straight, looking for all the world like a Nazi salute (nearly fell off my chair laughing when I saw it) or clenching his fists like a maniac (put that one on the cover)--and people would write in, complimenting or accusing us of photoshopping the image. Not true I would protest in vain. Sure, we did some photoshop--I recall one great job, a cover image by my then-colleague Dave Stevens where he seamlessly mooshed the faces of Stockwell Day and Joe Clark together (boy we caught hell from the readers on that one). But most of the time, it was just a matter of picking photos straight out of the CP archive.

That picture of Stanfield fumbling the football mentioned at the end of Agrell's story? That was run over and over again. Recall the pictures of Chretien falling on his face playing basketball? No? Recall the picture of Duceppe in the hairnet? Yep.

It might be stating the obvious, but it's not a matter of who does a better photo-op during a campaign. It's who chooses the picture, and who decides to run it on the front page.

Posted by Kevin Steel on November 29, 2005 in Media | Permalink


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Perhaps one reason Nesbitt-Larkin has a glowing description of Martin's photographs is that his home-town London Free Press only uses pretty photos of Martin, incidentally, whom they editorially supported in the last election. That would be the devil they knew!

Posted by: Joseph molnar | 2005-11-29 9:25:15 AM

Martin's speech to his caucus after the government fell last night was cringe-making. He came across as forcing himself to exude optimism and energy that just wasn't there.

I find Harper's dourness more geniune than Martin's forced jocularity and fake indignation.

Posted by: Joan Tintor | 2005-11-29 10:14:50 AM

Stephen, Stephen, Stephen

In the media scrum outside Rideau Hall after the writ was signed, you had the first opportunity to set the tone, the image, the direction of your campaign.

As long as you are in control and working from a text that has been scripted (by whom nobody really knows)you seem to be fine. You have come a long way from the '88-'92 years but the motivation for the why of it all is seriously questionable.

You were asked a very direct, simple, and non-perjorative question by a member of the media - "Do you Love This Country."

I couldn't believe what I was NOT hearing/seeing. You had no way to prepare for such a question and probably didn't even see it coming (surely your handlers could have predicted something close). The response was there for all to see and it had to be the real you.

All morning we had been watching tributes to many of the politicians who have demonstrated a real passion for this country and who have given years, approaching decades to what they truly believe would help make this country a better place to be.

Your response to the above question was really very sad for someone who aspires to be the PM of Canada. In your facial expression, in your voice, in your words, in your hesitation, and in your choice of words there was absolutely no fire and passion to give anybody any clue about you - other than to suggest that what you are about is power and control.

Where you went with this - about how you have changed, how you have learned, how you brought together 3 splinter factions etc. is not even close to letting us see just how passionate you are about this country, what it means to YOU to see this country untied, etc., etc.

You did not/perhaps could not let your passion out so how do we know it is even there??????? As the writer ahead of me stated - in many ways it does become about image and not necessarily content.

One cannot convey pride and passion for country if it is not there - it can't be scripted by handlers - it cannot be an academic analysis thought out ahead of time and delivered in a cold, academic manner. It comes from within and a question such as this brings forth the fire and the passion ---- if it is there. It did not come from you and others will have to make up their own minds about what this is really saying.

If there are people out there who have the feeling that what you are truly about is power and control with little real, in depth burning passion for this country, its institutions, its people, or where you are as a person in terms of what you are trying to sell (issues, platform planks, etc)you shouldn't be surprised.

You have probably done little to disuade the non-converted and I'm sure there are those within the conservative party who are probably having the same thoughts as I am.

This was a wonderful oportunity to let yourself be out there. It was totally squandered

Posted by: calgary clipper | 2005-11-29 10:55:04 AM

I think the MSM is too crafty to use unflattering file photos of politicos during an election campaign itself, lest they provide more fodder for those who accuse them of bias. It is far more effective to use them from time to time between elections to subliminally enforce certain "traits", i.e. Chretien was "vigerous" (lots of golfing/water-skiing shots), Little Paul is "empathetic" (smiling & shaking hands with any interest group around), Harper is scary because of his hidden agenda (why else would anyone agree to wear that ridiculous "western" garb on last summer's "barbecues and breakfast" tour?).

The unfortunate answer to "are Canadians really so susceptible to media manipulation of political imagery" is yes.

Posted by: Great Walls of Fire | 2005-11-29 10:58:28 AM

I had Nesbitt-Larkin as my politics prof at western.

He's just another Liberal (as if anyone would be surprised.) It isn't a big revelation he would think that PMPM has all the advantages - mostly because the press and the university profs like him provide PMPM with all the advantages.

Posted by: Warwick | 2005-11-29 12:03:11 PM


The reason Harper is angry is because he DOES love this country, and he, as well as anyone who actually does care about Canada, is mighty pissed about what that arrogant gang of thieves and poseurs have done to our country in the last decade or two.

Berating Harper because he doesn't put on a false face, because he eschews Liberal boosterism, is just plain stupid and immature. We need grown-up politicians in this country, not Martin's brand of pathetic grins and palpable lies.


Posted by: Patrick B | 2005-11-29 12:15:20 PM

You know what Calgary Clipper, thats bullshit. Canadians, at least most that I know are not "hold your hand over your heart and shout aloud your love for Canada," types. We are much too cynical for that. You would have got the I love Canada boloney from Martin and everyone would have known straight out that he would have been bullshittin. Martin loves Power. Harper answered the way Harper should have answered. In fact what kind of stupid question was that to begin with?? You can see right from the start the liberal media trying to corner Harper, and in one case it backfired beautfully. When Julie Van Dusen ask Harper about his organized crime comment she must have been expecting him to backtrack. In fact he told her straight out that when people are passing envelopes with money back and forth in restaurants, that describes organized crime where he comes from. Back to you Julie.

Posted by: MikeP | 2005-11-29 12:25:30 PM

Calgary Clipper - I don't agree with this adolescent 'Love my Country' theme. Why?

Apart from the fact that one loves 'things' not amorphous ideals (unless one is a naive romanticist) - we have to acknowledge that Canada is a young country; it doesn't have a history that one could 'love' or much admire.

If I hear a politician start with the verbiage of 'Love my country' - I turn on the Mute Button. I can't stand that verbiage; it's empty propaganda. That's Paul Martin; that's Jack Layton. Both are used car salesmen.

Posted by: ET | 2005-11-29 3:01:12 PM

A couple of weeks ago when the election was looming and CBC's Eric Sorensen was banging on the "Canadians don't want an election/Martin just wants to govern/Harper is a Grinch" theme the editing and the visual images of the leaders that were presented were a wee bit different. Martin, beautifully lit in front of a big Canadian flag, looking very official and capable. But the first shot of Harper at his press conference had him pushed to the right, almost off the screen, standing alone, while on the left of the screen was a bare white wall with a socket, and a lone cameraman who was filming the assembled press and not Harper.

Such tactics aren't something you can stick on a scale and weigh, exactly, but they pile up over the years until their existence is undeniable, like a particularly pervasive bad smell. Of course, CBC/Bell Globe producers -- sorry, they're called "inside sources" now -- can just sniff the air and shrug.

Posted by: EBD | 2005-11-29 5:03:51 PM

Et; You and I are on the same page. I am so tired of the blubbering and drooling - esp over the 'this country' thingie and the first nations people. They hold both in contempt because they have made both look like helpless idiots. You can't 'love' someone or something that you do not know in your heart or mind.

Posted by: jema54j | 2005-11-29 8:37:41 PM

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