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Sunday, January 3, 2010
By Steven L. Taylor

InstaPundit decides (for reasons that are unclear to me) to highlight the following photo that was found on the White House’s Flickr page:

What I find interesting about Glenn Reynolds’ post on the subject is that he seems to inferring some great insight from the shot (“OBAMA AND BIDEN: Analyze the body language”) and quotes a reader in an update:  “If I really wanted to set my dad off, all I’d have to do is send him this photo. The amazing thing is, that it is found on the WH’s flickr page. Proving that they don’t see what we see” (and no, I have no idea what about the photo would necessarily set someone off).  Of course, if one looks at the comments at Flickr, different people see different things.

But the thing is this, there is absolutely no way to know at what (or to whom) Obama’s body language and facial expression are directed.  It may be directed at Biden, it may be directed to someone to whom Obama had just been talking or had just spotted.  It may be that Obama is venting to Biden about the object of his ire.  Maybe, as Ann Althouse thinks, Obama is just tired.   Perhaps there is some explanation that no one has considered.

Trust me, as someone who takes thousands of photos every year, it is far harder to divine exactly what was going on before and after the given slice of time captured on a given photo than Reynolds, et al., are making it out to be.  I take photos that do seem to convey an obvious (yet still incorrect) presentation of events.  Of course, the only way I know if a photo truly represents what it appears to represent is to have been a witness to the events before and after the given shot.

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Filed under: Photography, US Politics | |
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

4 Responses to “A Picture May be Worth 1,000 Words, But…”

  1. Ratoe Says:

    What I find interesting about Glenn Reynolds’ post on the subject is that he seems to inferring some great insight from the shot (“OBAMA AND BIDEN: Analyze the body language”) and quotes a reader in an update: “If I really wanted to set my dad off, all I’d have to do is send him this photo. The amazing thing is, that it is found on the WH’s flickr page. Proving that they don’t see what we see” (and no, I have no idea what about the photo would necessarily set someone off).

    It seems pretty clear to me: an uppity black man looking sternly at a white man.

    The conspiratorial response by the commenter seems pretty much in line with the Beck-Palin-Birther “critique” of Obama.

  2. From the Dept. of Socialist Democrat Reactionary Politics | Political Byline Says:

    [...] Althouse, Hot Air, Pajamas Media, Another Black Conservative, Nice Deb, PoliBlog and American Power SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: “From the Dept. of Socialist Democrat Reactionary [...]

  3. B. Minich Says:

    *Shrug*

    He looks like a cool guy? I dunno, this would be a GREAT poster for a secret agent movie.

  4. Jim Henley Says:

    Excuse me, Stewardess: I speak improv.

    There’s a complete lack of tension in Biden’s body, and an arguable lack of tension in Obama’s. (His posture is less definitive, but check out that leg.) One and very likely both of them is relaxed in the other’s presence.

    Also interestingly for anyone who has read Keith Johnstone, the tableau is an object lesson in conveying status. While Biden looks relaxed, his posture is also deferential. He’s the one turned aside; his is the gaze aimed below the other man’s; his are the shoulders sloping down rather than up. Obama has the higher shoulders; his face points more up than down. At the same time he’s not overbearing about it. He’s not in Biden’s face. It’s a pretty straightforward subordinate:superior pairing, with no outward indication of contest about it.

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