The student blog for Drake University first year seminar entitled Visual Politics

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Obama Photo from August 31

 My first impression of this photo of Obama is something along the lines of why did they choose one with him talking? He looks like he’s trying to sing or something... But as I continue to look at this picture I realized that this is the kind of picture Americans want to see. If Obama had taken the time to pause to smile for the camera the country would see him as weak and assume he’s slacking off because he took 2 seconds out of his day to smile for the press. (Can you imagine the headlines we’d see the next day?) Americans are looking for a leader who is so busy running the country that he doesn’t have the time to smile for the camera. Looking at other pictures of the president, I noticed that this is a common theme. Most pictures of him are of him doing some sort of good for the country or spending time with his family. There are very few photos of him just posing for the camera. I personally would not be outraged if he posed for a picture sometimes because he’s human and everyone needs a break but the fact that he is running our country makes people forget that Obama is made of flesh and blood just like the rest of us, and while he should be held to high standards we should stop expecting the impossible.
Staying on the topic of pictures I will just take a minor detour to the subject of the photos in this particular picture. There are many frames on the table behind Obama and I’d like to point out a few things that stood out to me. First of all, everyone knows those pictures are placed there for a reason. Sure the president wants pictures of his family in his office, doesn’t every father? But we all know those photos are chosen by a White House employee in charge of making the president seem more approachable and friendly. He did a pretty good job though. Notice how Obama blocks one of the pictures? That makes it look a lot more natural than if they were just lined up on the sides of him so the country would see them. Another thing I noticed about these photos is the fact that they are all of his family. He has a wedding picture of him and his wife, some of his wife and children, some of his children, and some of the whole family. By having a variety of groupings the president is trying to appeal to a wide variety of people. Some couples will consider him sweet and sentimental because of his wedding picture, parents will think he’s grounded and a family guy because of the pictures of his children and family portraits, and still some will appreciate the fact that his wife is considered one of the most attractive first ladies and respect him for the sheer fact that his wife is hot. (Don’t judge a magazine it’s considered cold hard fact nowadays..) By trying to appeal to a large audience (by large I mean the insanely huge melting pot that is the United States plus the entire rest of the world’s population) Obama is showing that he realizes he is under a microscope and wants to please everyone.
To conclude this post I’ll just do a quick run through of the rest of this photograph. Being a graphic design major I’ve had to learn about composition of a photo and how certain compositions affect people. Kind of like when you go to McDonald’s you see a lot of red...that’s actually planned into the design of many restaurants because the color red makes people feel hungrier. By centering Obama in this composition it gives the impression that he is important and in charge. His desk is clean and empty which makes us feel like he is organized and not frazzled by his job which is supposed to give us faith in his abilities. I’ve already mentioned the pictures so I’ll skip those and move on to the flags. The American flag is a symbol of strength and unity for this country. It is an icon known around the world and is placed behind the president in these situations to give the impression that the country is behind him and supports through thick and thin. The scene is completed with those ugly curtains in the background. These add warmth to the scene making it seem more homey and comfortable. They are also a neutral color which puts emphasis on the other important items in the photo.
Lauren Oliver


  1. I'd like to make a comment on how you noticed that he was blocking photos, which I thought was good observation. It does give it a little more authenticity than if they were all just visible. -Lucas Oshman

  2. I agree with your view on this photo and you made some really good points. Also the part about how he is always doing something in photos stands out to me because I rarely see photos of him outside of the White House or a political event. Something else I noticed is the reflections on the desk. They seem almost calming like how trees reflect on water or something like that. They have kind of a mirror effect on the picture.
    Megan Fisher