4 November, 2006
I’d post about politics — I’m talking about it a lot more lately — but am trying not to get too sucked in. Anyway, in a lot of ways I said everything I wanted to say in my first-ever blog post back on Not a Stripper. (Which I still think was a great name for a blog.)
No, I log in tonight to talk about this Vanity Fair article. Pieces of it remind me of a story from some friends who had taught at a preschool right after college. Two kids came to them, #1 complaining that #2 had called (him? her?) a monkey. My friends told kid #2 to apologize. #2 turned to #1 and said “I’m sorry you’re a monkey.” You see, in the article, Dicky Perle, Kenny Adelman, and Davey Frum are shocked — shocked! — to find that the Bushies were incompetent all along. Except I think they actually ARE shocked. Sigh. I will never understand this. I can’t see that a one of them quoted in the article takes a lick of responsibility. If you give a baby a candle — let’s name this baby G — and G ends up burning the house down, it is a TEENSY BIT YOUR FAULT. “But” –abababpt! No buts! Giving someone power you know they are not capable of managing is IRRESPONSIBLE. “But I didn’t know G would drop the candle! He had a real good grip on it when I gave it to him.” Yep. They’re all reeeal sorry that George Bush was a monkey.
Anyway! Not what this post is about. I’m here to discuss with you the photos in the article. From Nigel Parry, Perle:
And the rest from Annie Liebovitz:
Boy are there a lot of things I want to know about these images. A few things are clear. For three of the four ringleaders, Liebovitz shot close-up every-blemish-visible portraits, with what appears to be a wide angle lens. I am not too experienced and it may be that she got up in their faces with a non-wide lens, but either way, the intent was to subtly distort. It’s a truism that portraits with such lenses are unflattering, and a look at Bush’s nose illustrates why. To shoot these people with distortion and unflatteringly fits so perfectly with the aesthetic of the moment that I wonder if the images were recently made or if she took the opportunity at some point in the “greeted as liberators” past to get these, and lay them in for a time when they’d be out of favor. On the other hand, nobody looks AWFUL. Condi even looks sorta cute. I wonder how these look to a non-photographer. Do I find them unflattering because of what they look like, or because I know that Liebovitz knows the truism and that her choice to subvert it has potential political meaning?
Perry also chooses a distorting wide lens to freakify Perle (to great effect IMO, it’s a really creepy image, and started me thinking about the portraits in this article in general.) Did he know of the similar concept in the other shots, or was it just his solution to the “gotta take a creepy picture of Perle” assignment? Due to the truism, it would be a natural choice for such an assignment. And if that was how the decision was made, how was that communicated? “Shoot this guy so he looks evil”?
Lastly, we have our outlier. Don didn’t show up for Annie’s shoot that day, it seems; his photo is different in every way: focal length, composition, distance, color. I’d bet that it was taken in a completely different context — flatteringly-wise, it looks like it could be from a time like May 2003. This is really why I am so curious about these images and how — and when — they were made. Did Rummy veto his close-up, forcing them to go with an earlier shot? Did he even sit for one? Rumor has it he’s wicked smart (in a certain sense, anyway). Did he suspect at some level what the game would be, did he think in terms of controlling his image, did he see the other shots first and realize what he was in for? Or is the choice intended to have journalistic meaning, set Rumsfeld apart? If so, why does he get the kind treatment
while everyone else gets the funhouse mirror?